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**Clamped Multilevel Inverters
**

B. P. McGrath and D.G. Holmes

Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering,

Monash University

Wellington Road, Clayton, 3168, AUSTRALIA

Abstract -- Analytical solutions of Pulse Width Modulation

(PWM) strategies for multilevel Neutral Point Clamped (NPC)

and Cascaded inverters are presented. These solutions show

that the Alternative Phase Opposition Disposition (APOD)

PWM strategy for NPC inverters produces the same spectral

components as the Phase Shifted Carrier PWM (PSCPWM)

strategy for Cascaded inverters, when the carrier frequencies

are adjusted to achieve the same number of total switch

transitions for each inverter over one fundamental cycle. From

this understanding, a method is proposed to apply the

harmonically superior Phase Disposition (PD) PWM strategy

for NPC inverters to Cascaded inverters, to achieve improved

harmonic performance for the modulation of cascaded

inverters. Both theoretical and experimental results confirming

this understanding are presented.

I. INTRODUCTION

Multilevel inverter structures are becoming increasingly

popular for high power applications, because their switched

output voltage harmonics can be considerably reduced by

using several voltage levels while still switching at the same

frequency. As well, higher input DC voltages can be used

since semiconductors are connected in series for multilevel

inverter structures, and this reduces the DC voltage each

device must withstand.

Two common multilevel inverter structures are the Neutral

Point Clamped (NPC) inverter, and the Cascaded inverter.

The NPC inverter uses one DC bus subdivided into a number

of voltage levels by a series string of capacitors [1]. The

Cascaded inverter is made up from series connected single

phase full bridge inverters, each with their own isolated DC

bus [2]. Figures 1(a) and 1(b) illustrate 5 level NPC and

Cascaded inverter topologies respectively.

For the NPC inverter, most carrier based PWM schemes

that have been investigated derive from the carrier

disposition strategies originally proposed by Carrara et al [3],

i.e. for an NPC inverter with N levels, N-1 triangular carriers

with the same frequency and amplitude are arranged so that

they fully occupy contiguous bands in the range of +V

DC

and

-V

DC

. A sinusoidal reference centered in the middle of the

carrier set is then compared with each carrier to determine

the voltage level that the converter should switch to. Three

alternative PWM strategies with differing phase relationships

between the carriers are commonly referenced, viz:

(i) Alternative Phase Opposition Disposition (APOD),

where each carrier is phase shifted by 180

0

from its

adjacent carriers.

(ii) Phase Opposition Disposition (POD) where the carriers

above the reference zero point are out of phase with

those below the zero point by 180

0

.

(iii) Phase Disposition (PD) where all carriers are in phase.

It is generally accepted that the PD strategy gives rise to the

lowest harmonic distortion for the line-to-line voltage [3][4].

Note that for three level converters the APOD and POD

strategies are equivalent. Figure 2(a) illustrates the carrier

and reference arrangement for five level APOD modulation.

For the Cascaded inverter, Phase Shifted Carrier PWM

(PSCPWM) is the standard modulation strategy. For this

technique the modulation of the full bridge inverters in each

C1

C2

C3

C4

SA1

SA2

SA3

SA4

S'A1

S'A2

S'A3

S'A4

SB1

SB2

SB3

SB4

S'B1

S'B2

S'B3

S'B4

SC1

SC2

SC3

SC4

S'C1

S'C2

S'C3

S'C4

+V

DC

-V

DC

DA1

DA2

DA3

DA3

DA2

DA1

DB1

DB2

DB3

DB3

DB2

DB1

DC1

DC2

DC3

DC3

DC2

DC1

V

A

V

B

V

C

(a)

+

VD C

+

V DC

+

VD C

+

V D C

+

VD C

+

V D C

C

A1

C

A2

C

B1

C

B2

C

C1

C

C2

V

A V

C

V

B

S

A1

S'

A2 S'

A1

S

A2

S

A3

S'

A4 S'

A3

S

A4

S

B1

S'

B2 S'

B1

S

B2

S

B3

S'

B4 S'

B3

S

B4

S

C1

S'

C2 S'

C1

S

C2

S

C3

S'

C4 S'

C3

S

C4

V

N

V

A1

V

A2

V

B1

V

B2

V

C1

V

C2

(b)

Figure 1 : Structure of (a) Neutral Point Clamped (NPC) Multilevel Inverter and (b) Cascaded Full Bridge Multilevel Inverter .

0-7803-5695-0/00/$10.00 (c) 2000 IEEE

multilevel phase leg is modular. Recent work has shown that

better results for a Cascaded inverter occur when each full

bridge inverter is controlled using three level modulation [5].

With this approach, the sinusoidal reference waveforms for

the two phase legs of each full bridge inverter are phase

shifted by 180

0

, while the carriers between the full bridge

inverters are phase shifted by 180

0

/N’ (N’ is the number of

full bridge inverters in a multilevel phase leg). This strategy

leads to cancellation of all carrier and associated sideband

harmonics up to the 2N’

th

carrier group. Figure 2(b)

illustrates the carrier and reference arrangements for a single

multilevel phase leg of a five level cascaded structure.

To date only a few attempts have been made to link

together the modulation processes for the above two

multilevel converter topologies [4], with limited success. In

this paper, modulation strategies for the two converter

topologies are directly compared by considering harmonics

identified from analytic solutions based on a Double Fourier

Series analysis of the switched waveforms. This comparison

shows that the APOD strategy for the NPC topology and the

PSCPWM strategy for cascaded inverters give rise to the

same harmonic profile for the same number of total switch

transitions. Such a result leads to the idea that any NPC

inverter modulation strategy should be able to be applied to a

Cascaded inverter, and since the PD strategy is known to be

superior for NPC inverters, an equivalent strategy for a

Cascaded inverter would probably be equally superior. This

paper explains how this can be achieved, with results

presented for five level cascaded inverters.

II. SPECTRAL ANALYSIS OF NPC PWM STRATEGIES.

In principle any time varying waveform can be described

by an infinite series of harmonic components, but in practice

the non periodic nature of a PWM switched waveform makes

the determination of these components difficult. This

problem was first solved for communications theory and then

adapted for use with power converter systems by Bowes [6],

by representing the switched waveform as a two dimensional

function of the carrier and reference waveforms. The

function is periodic in both dimensions even if the switched

waveform is not periodic, and hence can be expressed in

general harmonic form as a Double Fourier series (1). The

harmonic coefficients of (1) are obtained by evaluating the

double integration of (2) for a particular PWM strategy.

Solutions to (2) for the three multilevel PWM carrier

disposition strategies identified above were first obtained by

Carrara et al. [3]. However these solutions are complex and

difficult to apply because the integral in (2) was evaluated

using decomposition of the region of integration into areas of

symmetry (referred to as "bases" by the authors). This

approach allows the development of solutions for NPC

converters of any level and for modulation depths exceeding

unity, but the use of the base concept obscures identification

of similarities which might exist between these solutions and

modulation processes for other converter topologies.

For this paper a different analysis approach is used that

leads to a simpler form of the analytical solution. This new

form also better facilitates a theoretical comparison with the

modulation processes of Cascaded inverters.

To evaluate (2), the function F(x,y) must be defined in the

(x,y) plane. This is done by comparing the reference

waveform in the “y” dimension against the carrier

waveform(s) in the “x” dimension according to the rules of

the particular modulation strategy to be solved, to create

regions in the (x,y) space within which F(x,y) is constant.

This is illustrated in Figure 3 for the 5 level APOD strategy.

With the region of integration now precisely defined

equation (2) can be evaluated. (The evaluation requires

0

VDC

π/3 2π/3 π 4π/3 0 5π/3 2π

ω0t

MVDC

-VDC

-MVDC

(a)

0

VDC

π/3 2π/3 π 4π/3 0 5π/3 2π

ω0t

MVDC

-VDC

-MVDC

(b)

Figure 2 : Carrier and Reference waveform arrangements for:

(a) 5 Level APOD system for NPC inverter (b) 5 Level Phase Shifted Carrier PWM (PSCPWM) strategy for Cascaded inverter.

( )

( )

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;

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00

sin

cos

sin

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cos

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m

n

n o c mn

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t n t m B

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(2)

0-7803-5695-0/00/$10.00 (c) 2000 IEEE

significant algebra to reduce (2) to a tractable form, and is

not presented in this paper because of space limitations.)

Equations (3) and (4) present solutions to (2) for the NPC

5 level APOD and PD modulation strategies respectively.

Figures 6 and 7 present their corresponding spectra.

From these solutions it can be seen why the PD strategy

achieves superior line-to-line harmonic performance. Figure

7(a) shows the harmonic spectra for one phase leg of a NPC

inverter under PD modulation, where the most significant

harmonic is the first carrier component. This is in sharp

contrast to APOD modulation which only generates carrier

sideband components, as shown in Figure 6(a). Clearly, PD

modulation places significant harmonic energy into a carrier

component for each phase leg, and relies on common mode

cancellation between the inverter phase legs to eliminate this

carrier from the final line-to-line output voltage, as shown in

Figure 7(b). Consequently, the harmonic sidebands (which

do not fully cancel between phases) have less energy. This

explains the improved performance of the PD strategy

compared to the APOD strategy.

It is noted in passing that the APOD strategy is in turn

better than the POD strategy because it puts more harmonic

energy into triplen sideband harmonics, which also cancel on

a line-to-line basis [5, 7]. This is not explored further here.

III. CASCADED INVERTER PSCPWM ANALYTIC SOLUTION .

Recent work [5] has shown how the general solutions for

two level modulation [7] can be extended to obtain an

analytic solution for PSCPWM applied to Cascaded inverters.

For the 5 level case the analytic solution for the phase

voltage and line to line voltages are given in (5a) and (5b)

respectively.

Comparing equations (3) and (5), the only significant

difference is that for APOD, the first set of sideband

harmonics are centered about the carrier frequency, while for

PSCPWM the first set of sideband harmonics are centered

about the fourth multiple of the carrier frequency. However,

since the total number of switch transitions for PSCPWM is

exactly four times the number of switch transitions for

APOD, when the carrier frequency is adjusted to achieve the

same number of overall switch transitions, the frequencies of

the harmonic components become the same.

Figures 8 and 6 compare the harmonic spectra for

PSCPWM of a Cascaded inverter against APOD modulation

of a NPC, with carrier frequencies adjusted to achieve the

same number of switch transitions over a fundamental cycle.

The results are identical for all major harmonics. (A similar

result is in fact obtained for any odd level converter system.)

The two solutions also have a minor difference in the

“cos(kπ)” terms which determine the sign of the harmonic

components. This difference results from different placement

of the active switch states within the carrier interval for each

modulation strategy. Theoretically this difference could

affect sideband interactions between carrier sets, but the

practical effect is negligible for pulse ratios greater than 10.

IV. PHASE DISPOSITION (PD) MODULATION FOR CASCADED

INVERTERS.

The conclusion from Section III is that APOD modulation

of a NPC and PSCPWM of a Cascaded inverter essentially

produce the same switched output voltages. From a state

machine perspective this is reasonable because the two

converter topologies have the same number of switches, the

same number of voltage levels in a phase leg, and the same

possible space vector states. So given that the PD strategy for

NPC inverters is known to produce a better harmonic

performance, the question then becomes how to implement a

PD equivalent modulation strategy for Cascaded inverters.

In Section II it was identified that the PD strategy achieves

its better performance by placing harmonic energy into a

carrier component in each phase voltage and relying upon the

π -π -π/2 π/2

y = ω0t

x = ωCt

F(x,y) = +VDC

F(x,y) =

-VDC

F(x,y) =

-VDC

F(x,y) = 0 F(x,y) = 0

F(x,y) = +VDC/2

F(x,y) = +VDC/2

F(x,y) = -VDC/2

F(x,y) = -VDC/2

F(x,y) = -VDC/2

F(x,y) = -VDC/2

φ -φ π-φ -π+φ

Figure 3: Contour plot of F(x,y) for five level APOD.

( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )

∑ ∑

∞

·

∞

·

−∞ ·

−

− + + + + ·

1

0

0 1 2 0 _

1 2 cos 1 cos 2

1

cos

m

n

n

C n

DC

DC AN APOD

t n t m n m M m J

m

V

t MV t V ω ω π π

π

ω

(3a)

( )

( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )

∑ ∑

∞

·

∞

·

−∞ ·

−

¹

¹

¹

;

¹

¹

¹

¹

'

¹

,

_

¸

¸

,

_

¸

¸

− − +

,

_

¸

¸

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_

¸

¸

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1

0

0 1 2

0 _

3

1 2 sin

3

1 2 sin cos 2

1 2

6

cos 3

m

n

n

C n

DC

DC AB APOD

t n t m n n m M m J

m

V

t MV t V

π

ω ω

π

π π

π

π

ω

(3b)

Analytical Solution for a 5 Level NPC inverter under APOD PWM strategy - 3(a) Phase Voltage 3(b) Line to Line Voltage

0-7803-5695-0/00/$10.00 (c) 2000 IEEE

cancellation of this component when the line-to-line voltages

are formed. For a Cascaded inverter, exactly the same effect

can be achieved by using discontinuous PWM with phase

shifted carriers for each full bridge in each multilevel phase

leg. (This strategy retains a three level switched output

without eliminating the carrier from the full bridge output.)

Figure 4 shows the reference and carrier waveform

arrangements required to achieve this form of modulation for

three level and five level systems. Note that the individual

phase legs of each full bridge inverter no longer necessarily

switch at every carrier cycle, much in the same way a NPC

inverter operates under PD modulation. Of course, this also

means that the carrier frequency must be doubled to maintain

the same overall number of switch transitions, but this is a

normal adjustment for discontinuous modulation.

Note that continuous PWM cannot achieve the same result

because a 180

0

phase shifted carrier is required to retain the

carrier within each full bridge inverter, and this leads to two

level modulation which is known to be inferior. [7].

V. EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS.

The experimental system used to confirm this investigation

comprised a series of cascaded full bridge inverters, with

each inverter modulated by a separate TMS320C240 DSP

based controller. Figure 5 shows the experimental switched

voltage and filtered load currents obtained for a three and a

five level inverter. Figure 9 shows the experimental voltage

spectra for the five level Cascaded inverter. Figure 9(a)

shows the carrier component clearly in the phase voltage

spectrum while Figure 9(b) shows the improvement in the

( ) ( )

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( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )

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∑∑

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∑ ∑

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·

∞

≠

−∞ ·

∞

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+

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·

∞

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−∞ ·

−

∞

·

∞

·

+

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¹

¹

;

¹

¹

¹

¹

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×

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+ +

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− + − +

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;

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¹

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¹

+

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;

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+ −

+

+

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·

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0 0

0

2 2

1 2

2

1

0

0 1 2

0 0

1 2

2

0 _

2 1 2 cos

1 2 cos 2 sin cos 4

1 2 sin 2 cos 1 cos 2 cos 1 2

4 1 2

1 2 2

1 2

1

4

1 2 2 cos 1 cos 4

2

1

1 2 cos 1 2 sin cos 2 1

1 2

1 2 2

1 2

1 4

cos

m

n

n

C

k

k

DC

m

n

n

C n

DC

m

C

k

k DC

DC AN PD

t n t m

k n k n

k n k n k

n k

M m J

m

V

t n t m n M m J

m

V

t m k k

k

M m J

m

V

t MV t V

ω ω

φ φ π

φ φ π π π

π

ω ω π π

π

ω φ π

π

π

ω

(4a)

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≠

−∞ ·

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+

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∞

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−∞ ·

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¹

¹

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2

1

0

0 1 2

0 _

3

2 1 2 sin

1 2 cos 2 sin cos 4

1 2 sin 2 cos 1 cos 2

cos

1 2

1 2 4

1 2 2

1 2

3

2 sin

8

3

1 2 2 sin

3

1 2 sin cos 4

2

1 2

6

cos 3

m

n

n

C

k

k

DC

m

n

n

C n

DC

DC AB PD

t n t m

k n k n

k n k

n

k

k n

M m J

m

n

V

t n t m n n M m J

m

V

t MV t V

π

ω ω

φ φ π

φ φ π

π

π

π

π

π

ω ω

π

π π

π

π

ω

(4b)

where:

4

0

2

1

cos

1

π

φ φ ≤ ≤

,

_

¸

¸

·

−

M

Analytical Solution for a 5 Level NPC inverter under PD PWM - 4(a) Phase Voltage 4(b) Line to Line Voltage

( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )

∑ ∑

∞

·

∞

·

−∞ ·

−

¹

;

¹

¹

'

¹

− + + + ·

1

0

0 1 2 0 _

1 2 4 cos 1 cos 2

1 4

cos 4

m

n

n

C n

DC

DC AN PS

t n t m n M m J

m

V

t MV t V ω ω π π

π

ω (5a)

( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )

∑ ∑

∞

·

∞

·

−∞ ·

−

¹

¹

¹

;

¹

¹

¹

¹

'

¹

,

_

¸

¸

,

_

¸

¸

− − +

,

_

¸

¸

− +

,

_

¸

¸

+ ·

1

0

0 1 2 0 _

3

1 2 4 sin

3

1 2 sin cos 2

1 8

6

cos 3 4

m

n

n

C n

DC

DC AB PS

t n t m n n M m J

m

V

t MV t V

π

ω ω

π

π π

π

π

ω

(5b)

Analytical Solutions for 5 level Cascaded Inverter under PSCPWM - 5(a) Phase Voltage 5(b) Line to Line Voltage.

0-7803-5695-0/00/$10.00 (c) 2000 IEEE

line-to-line voltage spectra because of the common mode

carrier cancellation across the phases. A comparison of these

spectra with those of Figure 7 confirms that the spectra

produced by the bipolar discontinuous PWM strategy for

Cascaded inverters is equivalent to the PD strategy for NPC

inverters. (It should be noted that this form of modulation

can be extended to any level of Cascaded inverter by using

appropriate discontinuous references.)

VI. SUMMARY.

Analytic solutions have been developed using Double

Fourier Analysis for carrier disposition modulation of NPC

multilevel inverters. These solutions have been compared

with analytic solutions for PSCPWM modulation of

Cascaded inverters, and the APOD strategy has been shown

to be the same as the PSCPWM strategy when the carrier

frequencies are adjusted to achieve the same number of total

switch transitions over a fundamental cycle. From this

understanding, an equivalent PD modulation strategy has

been developed for Cascaded inverters using discontinuous

PWM with phase shifted carriers within each bridge of the

Cascaded inverter. The new modulation strategy gives a

similar improved harmonic performance for Cascaded

inverters as PD modulation achieves for NPC inverters.

VII. REFERENCES.

[1] Nabae, H. Akagi and I. Takahashi, “A New Neutral-Point-Clamped

PWM Inverter”, IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications, Vol. IA-

17, NO. 5, September/October 1981, pp.518-523.

[2] Y. Liang and C. Nwankpa, “A New Type of Statcom Based on

Cascading Voltage Source Inverters with Phase-Shifted Unipolar

SPWM”, in Conf. Rec. 1998 IEEE/IAS Annual Meeting, pp. 1447-

1453.

[3] G. Carrara, S. Gardella, M. Marchesoni, R. Salutari and G. Sciutto, “A

New Multilevel PWM Method: A Theoretical Analysis”, IEEE

Transactions on Power Electronics, Vol. 7, NO. 3, July 1992, pp.497-

505.

[4] Agelidis and M. Calais, “Application Specific Harmonic Performance

Evaluation of Multicarrier PWM Techniques”, in Conf. Rec. 1998

IEEE Power Electronics Specialists Conference, pp. 172-178.

[5] D. G. Holmes and B. P. McGrath, "Opportunities for Harmonic

Cancellation with Carrier Based PWM for Two-Level and Multi-Level

Cascaded Inverters", in Conf. Rec. IEEE/IAS Annual Meeting, 1999,

(in press).

[6] S.R Bowes, “New Sinusoidal Pulse-Width Modulated Inverter”, IEE

Proceedings, Vol.122, No. 11, pp. 1279-1285, November, 1975.

[7] D. G. Holmes, “A General Analytical Method for Determining the

Theoretical Harmonic Components of Carrier Based PWM Strategies”,

in Conf. Rec. IEEE/IAS Annual Meeting, 1998, pp. 1207-1214.

π/3 2π/3 π 4π/3 0 5π/3 2π

ω0t

V

DC

-V

DC

V

DC

-V

DC

V

DC

-V

DC

π/3 2π/3 π 4π/3 0 5π/3 2π

ω0t

V

DC

-V

DC

V

DC

-V

DC

V

DC

-V

DC

V

DC

-V

DC

V

DC

-V

DC

Figure 4 : Reference and Carrier waveforms required for PD modulation of (a) Three level and (b) Five Level Cascaded Inverters.

300V

-300V

150V

-150V

5A

-5A

Load

Current

Phase

Voltage

0 10 20 30 40 50

Time (mSec)

Asymmetrical Regular Sampled 3 Level Cascaded Inverter

Waveforms – Discontinuous PWM

Mod Depth = 0.8

FC = 2.1kHz

F0 = 50Hz

Line

Voltage

600V

-600V

300V

-300V

5A

-5A

Load

Current

Phase

Voltage

0 10 20 30 40 50

Time (mSec)

Asymmetrical Regular Sampled 5 Level Cascaded Inverter

Waveforms – Continuous PWM

Mod Depth = 0.9

FC = 2.1 kHz

F0 = 50Hz

Line

Voltage

(a) Three Level System (b) Five Level System.

Figure 5: Cascaded Inverter, Discontinuous Bipolar PWM – Experimental Switched Voltages and Filtered Load Currents

0-7803-5695-0/00/$10.00 (c) 2000 IEEE

0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000

Frequency (Hz)

10

-1

10

-3

10

-5

10

-4

10

0

10

-2

Mod Depth = 0.9

F

C

= 2100Hz, F

0

= 50Hz

THD(120th Harmonic) = 30.2%

6(a) Phase Leg Voltage – Analytical Spectrum

0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000

Frequency (Hz)

10

-1

10

-3

10

-5

10

-4

10

0

10

-2

Mod Depth = 0.9

F

C

= 2100Hz, F

0

= 50Hz

THD(120th Harmonic) = 26.3%

6(b) Line-to-Line Voltage - Analytical Spectrum

Figure 6: Five Level NPC Inverter, APOD PWM

0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000

Frequency (Hz)

10

-1

10

-3

10

-5

10

-4

10

0

10

-2

Mod Depth = 0.9

F

C

= 2100Hz, F

0

= 50Hz

THD(120th Harmonic) = 30.2%

7(a) Phase Leg Voltage - Analytical Spectrum

0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000

Frequency (Hz)

10

-1

10

-3

10

-5

10

-4

10

0

10

-2

Mod Depth = 0.9

F

C

= 2100Hz, F

0

= 50Hz

THD(120th Harmonic) = 13.0%

7(b) Line-to-Line Voltage – Analytical Spectrum

Figure 7: Five Level NPC Inverter, PD PWM strategy

0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000

Frequency (Hz)

10

-1

10

-3

10

-5

10

-4

10

0

10

-2

Mod Depth = 0.9

F

C

= 525Hz, F

0

= 50Hz

THD(120th Harmonic) = 30.2%

8(a) Phase Leg Voltage – Analytical Spectrum

0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000

Frequency (Hz)

10

-1

10

-3

10

-5

10

-4

10

0

10

-2

Mod Depth = 0.9

F

C

= 525Hz, F

0

= 50Hz

THD(120th Harmonic) = 26.3%

8(b) Line-to-Line Voltage – Analytical Spectrum

Figure 8: Five Level Cascaded Inverter, PSCPWM

0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000

Frequency (Hz)

10

-1

10

-3

10

-5

10

-4

10

0

10

-2

Mod Depth = 0.9

F

C

= 2100Hz, F

0

= 50Hz

THD(120th Harmonic) = 29.9%

9(a) Phase Leg Voltage – Experimental Spectrum

0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000

Frequency (Hz)

10

-1

10

-3

10

-5

10

-4

10

0

10

-2

Mod Depth = 0.9

F

C

= 2100Hz, F

0

= 50Hz

THD(120th Harmonic) = 12.9%

9(b) Line-to-Line Voltage - Experimental Spectrum

Figure 9: Five Level Cascaded Inverter, Discontinuous Bipolar PWM

0-7803-5695-0/00/$10.00 (c) 2000 IEEE

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