Deisch Bell Laboratories Naperville, Illinois

ABSTRACT A switching converter with an LC output filter behaves as a loose-tolerance voltage-controlled current source if each switch closure is ended when switch current reaches an adjustable threshold. This converter is then combined with an external feedback to produce a precise output voltage. By generating a fixed voltage with a current source in this manner, the converter has many advantages including continuous protection of the switches, stable and equal load sharing when several converters are operated in parallel, inherent overload protection, automatic switch symmetry correction, and fast system response. INTRODUCTION New designs, improved control circuit techniques, and better components have all greatly improved the switching converter's reliability, electrical performance and cost effectiveness over what they were just several years ago. However, some converter designs still have problems in the following areas: 1) poor reliability of the main switches because they are inadequately protected, 2) degraded reliability, stability, or performance when several converters in parallel supply one load, 3) complex and often inefficient methods of keeping the main transformer of a push-pull converter operating in the center of its linear region, and 4) a slow system response time which may be several tens of switching cycles. A new switching control circuit is described which causes a switching converter to behave as a loose-tolerance fast-acting current source. Although it can be used directly as a current source, the intended use is in highly-accurate constant voltage applications with an appropriate external feedback circuit around it. A push-pull converter incorporating this simple control circuit gives excellent performance without any of the four problems listed above. 300

Additional design features are described which give this converter the extra benefits of unusually high power conversion efficiency and very low EMI radiation and susceptibility. GENERAL OPERATION AND PERFORMANCE This new control method causes a power converter to behave as a controlled current source. For a fixed control voltage, the output current is nearly independent of input and output voltages.




The output current responds very quickly to changes in control voltage. Small signal response generally reaches steady state in ½ to 1 period of the switching frequency (one to two closures) while no load to full load response time is only 5 to 8 periods. The ratio between the control voltage and the output current is not designed to be highly accurate; if the same control voltage is applied to several converters, their output currents may vary typically by 5%. Although this converter is a loose-tolerance constant current source, it is used in a highlyaccurate constant voltage (3 volts) application by using an external feedback circuit and voltage reference.


[3]) or optimal state variable control schemes. Improved Transient Response A typical pulsewidth-controlled constant-voltage converter with an LC output filter is a second order system (2 poles). The overall transient response is greatly improved because of the single pole and because the converter response to a change of the control voltage approaches one switch cycle. It puts a fixed current into the load so input transients do not have to be corrected by external feedback. This problem can be magnified in a paralleled arrangement when a momentary load change causes one of the converters to come out of current limit and enter the voltage regulation region. [2]. so there is near equal load sharing. The inductor in the output filter of the new current source converter is in series with a current source. BENEFITS OF CURRENT SOURCE CONVERTER When used in a constant-voltage application. all others are in current limit. so the inductor drops out of the picture and the converter becomes a first order system. it is less costly than a converter with built-in voltage regulation. the current source converter with external feedback has the excellent performance of other “twoloop” feedback ([1]. This type converter is usually regulated by single-loop feedback of the output voltage error. . There may be instabilities as more than one converter tries to regulate the output voltage. It is much easier to design a feedback circuit around a first order system. it is usually allowed to propagate all the way to the output before it is compensated by the slow feedback path. but the overall response time is very slow because of the variability of the low frequency poles of the output filter. and transient response is not degraded. they all receive the same control voltage. There is only one external feedback circuit to regulate the voltage of the paralleled converters. since each converter is a loose-tolerance current source with no precision components. Except for one 301 converter which is regulating the voltage. The one voltage regulating converter may be operating at only a fraction of its capacity while the others are at full load. But the output of the constant current converter is nearly independent of the input. Consequently. Still another problem with many converter designs is that when they are in current limit. but a more frequent problem is unequal load sharing. All converters are in their linear region. Paralleled Converters The problems of paralleling the outputs of several converters are well known. Output Immunity to Input Noise If a transient occurs on the input supply voltage of a single-loop.This external feedback is of conventional design and simply adjusts the control voltage such that the converter forces the correct amount of current into the load to cause the voltage at the load to be 3 volts. the ease of paralleling current sources makes it easy to design for growth. when they come out of current limit. The overall reliability and energy efficiency is generally lower than if all converters share the load equally. their internal voltage regulation circuit is sitting far outside its normal operating region. It may be cheaper to design power systems with several small current-source converters with high production volumes. pulse-width controlled converter. A converter with this new control circuit has additional good properties which many other converters lack. they are stable. than with a single large voltage-source converter. At the very least. they often generate large and slowly decaying transients. INPUT + − CURRENT-SOURCE CONVERTER OUTPUT + − CURRENT-SOURCE CONVERTER CURRENT-SOURCE CONVERTER − + REFERENCE Further. The constant current converter avoids all these problems.

Instead. but mostly by the ripple current in the output inductor. that is. Any magnetizing current unbalance automatically causes the switch timing to cancel the unbalance and there is near zero DC in the transformer primary. Constant Current Feature Since the amplitude of the switch current is fixed by the threshold. Although the converter behaves as a current source.Self-Protection Against Overload This converter needs no short-circuit protection because it is a current source. which implies very stiff coupling. low winding resistance and leakage inductance. This feature improves reliability by protecting the switches during startup. but the turn-off pulse is generated when the current through that switch reaches a predetermined threshold. The figure below shows the basic circuit and switch current waveform. overloads. the switch is automatically turned off by another signal from the clock. but their duty factor is not directly controlled. This threshold is set by the control voltage lead on the converter. the two main switches are alternately activated. nearly independent of input supply voltage and output voltage. The maximum output voltage is limited by the transformer turns ratio. this fixed secondary current causes the direct-current output of the converter to be constant. THE CURRENT THRESHOLD CONTROL CIRCUIT Although the basic control scheme can be applied to many converter forms. the same as a conventional voltage converter. so under all conditions. and ether potentially damaging transients. The sloping tops of the current pulses are caused partly by magnetizing current in the main transformer. so even if the external control voltage goes to some high value. the maximum switch current is automatically limited. Transformer Anti-Saturation The main transformer is especially designed for low losses.) If the switch current should fail to reach the threshold after 95% of the cycle has passed. each switch is turned on by a 302 . The turn-on pulse comes at regular intervals from an internal clock. the current output just goes to maximum (designed to be ≈110% of rating). the following description is with reference to a push-pull switching converter operating at a constant frequency. so are the transformer primary and secondary currents. (There are two switch cycles in every period of the switching frequency. Switch symmetry correction measures must be taken with a stiff transformer to prevent core saturation. + I + IL L − B I THRESHOLD A ON 0 B ON A ON B ON REGULAR TURN-ON PULSES As usual. and the switch current is immediately corrected within that cycle. The current threshold control circuit automatically keeps the core in the center of the B-H curve because the current in each switch is shut off at the same level. stays on until it receives a turn-off pulse. it does not suffer the disadvantage of needing open circuit protection. Therefore the converter behaves as a voltage controlled current source which is also very fast acting. The current threshold may be varied from cycle to cycle or even within a cycle. As explained below. A pulse and once on. the control circuit for the current source converter inherently provides two other features: 1) over-current protection for the main switches and 2) antisaturation which keeps the main transformer core in the center of its B-H curve. The control voltage is internally limited. Switch Protection The current threshold is internally limited to a maximum value. After it is rectified and filtered in the usual way.

The solid line waveform shows the actual switch current. The effects can be explained quantitatively without going into great detail. THRESHOLD “NORMAL” SWITCH CURRENT WAVEFORM FOR D = ⅔ ∆t 2·∆t 4·∆t 8·∆t 16·∆t SWITCH CURRENT PERTURBATION GROWTH FOR D = ⅔ REGULAR TURN-ON PULSES 303 . The  D  term   represents how a disturbance will  D −1  grow or decay in subsequent switch closures (n). to prove why this instability occurs. and why low transformer magnetizing inductance helps stability. It is mathematically straightforward. Define D (duty factor) to be the ratio of the ON time of a switch to a half period of the switching frequency.INSTABILITIES: Cause There may be instability in a constant-frequency current threshold control circuit for duty cycles greater than 50%. and the input and output voltages are constant so the rising and falling slopes of the current waveform are constant. the following assumptions are made: the switch turn-on signals come at fixed intervals. the current threshold level is fixed. the main transformer has insignificant magnetizing current (high magnetizing inductance). The instability is not caused by the external voltage feedback loop. but rather tedious. A 90% duty factor causes any error to grow by nearly a decade per cycle. In constructing the waveform. the duty factor is ⅔. As shown. n A simple current waveform construction vividly shows how instability grows from a slight disturbance in the control circuit. This term converges and simple stability is assured as n → ∞ if the duty factor D < ½. especially if the main transformer has a large magnetizing inductance. any perturbation has a rapid geometric growth. This instability is sometimes heard as a raucous whine from the transformer at frequencies unrelated to the switching frequency. in fact. for this case the time error doubles for each switch closure. why the frequency of oscillation is not related to the witching frequency or to the resonant frequency of the LC filter. the dashed line represents decay of filter inductor current during switch OFF time. the whine persists if the input threshold control lead is held constant.

stability is assured over all duty factors. 48-volt input. However.5. it is not a requirement that the ramp If the converter output is a well regulated voltage. the waveform constructions also suggest a simple and effective remedy. All of the above advantages have been verified on several 20 kHz. the angle β is fixed by the value of the output filter inductor.   ¡ THRESHOLD SLOPE = 1 D=0 D = 0. Fortunately. and each has 9 turns of copper foil. As the load is reduced. OVERALL CONVERTER DESIGN AND PERFORMANCE This current threshold control method has been incorporated into several converters with excellent results. efficiency increases slightly then drops below 80% at 10% of load rating. Main Transformer The secondary is made from two single-turn stamped copper preforms of equivalent No. 1 AWG.5. A much better method is to add an artificial slope to the rising current during ON time in order to increase α. disturbances corrected by this method are damped about 3 times faster. put a negative slope on the threshold during ON time.) For the same angle α.5 D=1 0. It has a 1000 turn winding surrounded by a single turn foil so each amp of switch current is reduced to 1 mA in the control circuit. this stabilizing method is unattractive because perturbations are slowly damped and the high magnetizing current adds substantially to the peak switch current. artificial slope is needed only above D = 0.5 watts: 1. Mathematics show and measurements confirm that stability is assured over all duty factors if the angles between the current waveform and the threshold line at the point of intersection satisfy the inequality α>β.5 D=1 By adding this ramp to the current waveform. The transformer magnetizing current also increases the stability.5 watts copper loss. The current threshold circuit is designed to reset the current transformer core between each switch closure. This high efficiency (power out to total power in) includes the approximately one watt used by the control circuit. or a portion of a parabola (integrate a ramp) or the simple ramp itself (which we use): 304 . If the total slope needed for stability at D = 1 is 1 unit. (Note. Many design and construction techniques were used to achieve good converter performance at low cost. The primary is made in two parts. This scheme also allows use of a good high-magnetizing inductance transformer to reduce peak switch current. Switch Current Transformer A clean replica of the switch current needed by the control circuit is produced by this PC boardmounted transformer which has no pigtail leads. then the exact artificial ramp which needs to be added to the current waveform is: SLOPE = 1 SLOPE = 2D − ln D · 1. 1 watt core. Total full load dissipation is 2. 3-volt 100-amp units that have an overall 83% efficiency at full load. (Or equivalently.INSTABILITIES: Remedy This potential for instability is clearly not acceptable. Since the control is stable for D (duty factor) less than 0. Furthermore. because the nonlinearities cause an increasing slope as D increases.307 RAMP AMPLITUDE FUNCTION Several ways of approximating this slope are to use a portion of a sinewave. Angle α can be increased by lowering the transformer magnetizing inductance and stability can be assured over all duty factors if the magnetizing inductance is sufficiently small. the magnetizing current nonlinearities (especially near saturation) also help stability.693 SLOPE = 0 D=0 D = 0.

but their metal barrier system tends to have a high drop so they generate more heat and waste more power than other lowdrop diodes with lower temperature ratings. shutdown. The entire control circuit including the main switches mounts on one PC board with total area of 27 square inches.5 watts each. The switches function efficiently over the entire load range +V CLOCK CONTROL VOLTAGE STEERING AND CONTROL +V THRESHOLD AND FLIP-FLOP INPUT + P/O T4 − OUT − + +V P/O T4 +V MAIN SWITCH CURRENT MONITOR ARTIFICIAL RAMP 305 . but in this instance they are nothing more than two conductors making a single pass through a core.1-volt differential drop. Current transformers may sound formidable. the base drive transformers are driven by small 100 mA. yet they easily force equal currents into diodes with 0. Motorola with a chromium barrier).. Note that the circuit is configured to cause the collector (case) of the main switches to be at AC ground. It provides the control. and efficiency at 3 volts output is especially sensitive to the forward voltage drop of the rectifiers.5 or that the function be truncated below D = 0. This regenerative base drive interface to the main switch causes a sharp reduction in required power handling capability of components in the control circuit. Low rectifier drop is achieved two ways: 1) use of Schottky diodes and operating them at about half their current rating and 2) using only certain Schottky diodes with low drops (e. Proportional Base Drive The base drive transformer needed for isolation between the control circuit and the switch has been designed to take advantage of the benefits of regenerative proportional base drive to the main switch. At full load (100 amps) the diodes dissipate 39 watts. and alarm functions yet draws only 1 watt of power. Universal Control Circuit The current threshold circuit has been designed so that it can control power switching converters ranging from several tens of watts to the several kilowatt range. g.function equals zero at D = 0. Semiconductors Performance heavily depends on the semiconductors. Rectifier Current Balancing Four Schottky barrier rectifier diodes are operated in parallel to reduce voltage drop and power dissipation and to improve reliability. Rather than balance diode currents by power dissipating resistance. Some Schottky diodes are designed for use at 150°C junction temperature (e. The base transformers are PC board mounted and have no pigtail leads to couple noise.. a technique used for many years in the electroplating industry. g. TRW with a tungsten barrier). current balancing transformers are used. 100 mW transistors. Both sets of balancing transformers dissipate less than 1 watt. Manufacturing costs are low because all parts mount directly on the board without brackets and there are no hardwires: all conductors are printed copper. In fact. The main switches have low VCE saturation voltage and fast switching times to assure low losses of about 4.5).

The absolute and AC values of the switch current are used to advantage for controlling and protecting the converter. voltage feedback designs. The feature of main switch protection against damaging currents is especially valuable for the high-power converters. October 1967. they usually need separate circuits for short-circuit protection. These efforts have paid off because the converter easily meets FCC requirements for EMI generation (generally 15 µV/m at λ/2π distance). [3] P. so the converter could be packaged in an open case to get maximum convection air flow. Parallel. The converter is also very resistant to EMI illumination from outside sources. “Converter Circuit and Method Having Fast Responding Current Balance and Limiting”. January 1977. during tests. in fact. These schemes have excellent transient response and immunity to supply voltage noise.002. it 1) protects the main switches against overcurrents. However. The current threshold control circuit goes further back into the converter and measures the current in each switch. Some two-loop controls monitor current in the output filter inductor (or switching inductor).because of the proportional base-drive circuit. Gallaher. Over the frequency range of 20 to 220 MHz it was difficult to find any peaks which exceeded normal background noise. and Buck-Boost DC-to-DC Converters”. NASA Report CR-121106. US Patent 3. US Patent 4. REFERENCES [1] L. and for switch protection. 127 pages. The current threshold control circuit provides the fast transient response of a two-loop control plus. L. “ASDTIC Control and Standardized Interface Circuit Applied to Buck. and 4) keeps the transformer core operating in the center of its B-H curve. “Current Regulator with AC and DC Feedback”. et al. D. All transformer windings are laid out to be self-shielding and to minimize EMI generation. but discard the absolute value and use only the AC value of the current.628. for transformer anti-saturation. Hunter.350. Battery power sources had to be substituted so measurements could be made at illumination intensities of 20-40 volts per meter over the frequency range of 50-250 MHz. E. [2] A. 306 . The main switches are arranged with their collectors (cases) at AC ground to eliminate capacitance coupling of switching noise to the heat sink. Noise Generation and Susceptibility The entire power converter and control circuit was designed with EMI in mind. CONCLUSIONS Previous two-loop control circuits with both voltage and current feedback have achieved dramatic improvements in converter performance over the older single-loop. February 1973. All conductors are printed paths so EMI generation and susceptibility is controlled by design.963. without additional circuits. 2) limits current for output shorts. This control circuit has been successfully applied to converters which range in power from several tens of watts to several kilowatts. commercial supplies used to power the converter failed well before the converter. Output rectifiers and filter components are also arranged such that the diode cases are at AC ground to again eliminate capacitance coupling of rectifying noise. Schoenfeld and Y. 3) allows paralleled converters to equally and stably share the load. Yu. Turn-off times are also kept small by pulling out over 1 amp of reverse base current.

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