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Switching Regulator Fundamentals

Switching regulators are defined, with input, output and duty cycle relationships presented. Whether you are a novice or a seasoned pro, this
course is designed to get your inductor switching in the right direction.
You will learn the three basic regulator types and how to recognize them at a glance. You will also learn the basics for doing positive, negative
and inverting voltage conversion.
Why do you need this course? Read the FAQ.

Course Map/Table of Contents


1. Course Navigation
1. 1.1 Course Navigation
2. Switching Regulators
1. 2.1 Pulse Width Modulation
2. 2.2 DC-DC Converters
3. 2.3 Inductive Switching
3. Topologies
1.
2.
3.
4.

3.1 Buck
3.2 Boost
3.3 Buck-Boost (Inverting)
3.4 Application Note

4. Review Test
1. 4.1 Review Test

Course Navigation
1.1 Course Navigation

Course Navigation
This course is organized like a book with multiple chapters. Each chapter may have one or more pages.
The previous and next arrows move you forward and back through the course page by page.

The left navigation bar takes you to any chapter. It also contains the bookmarking buttons, 'save' and 'go to.' To save your place
in a course, press the 'save' button. The next time you open the course, clicking on 'go to' will take you to the page you saved or
bookmarked.
The 'Go to Final Test' button on the left navigation bar takes you back to the Analog University course listing, where you started.
Take the course final test by clicking on 'Test Yourself.'
The top services bar contains additional information such as glossary of terms, who to go to for help with this subject and an
FAQ. Clicking home on this bar will take you back to the course beginning.
Don't miss the hints, references, exercises and quizzes which appear at the bottom of some pages.

Switching Regulators
Switching Regulator Fundamentals Copyright 2010 by National Semiconductor All rights reserved

A fresh look at how inductor and switch placement define the basic converter topology. Pulse width modulation and inductor operation are
covered.

2.1 Pulse Width Modulation


2.2 DC-DC Converters
2.3 Inductive Switching

Pulse Width Modulation


One way to control average power to a load is to control the average voltage to it.

By opening and closing the switch, the average voltage as seen by the load resistor R is:

Where:

Changing the duty cycle D changes the average voltage to the load. This method of control is known as pulse width modulation, which
is used in fixed frequency switching regulators.
Using only a switch is fine for lighting and heater control. When a DC output voltage is needed, an additional filter must be used.

DC-DC Converters
For DC-DC converters, an inductor is used to average the switched voltage. The basic switching regulator has three terminals. This means there
are only three places the inductor can connect to, which is a very important concept. All square wave inductive switchers use at least one of the
following building blocks.
A buck converter has the inductor connected to the output terminal. The DC (average) inductor
current is equal to the output current. This converter will step down the input to produce a lower
output voltage of the same polarity.

A boost converter has the inductor connected to the input terminal. The DC (average) inductor
current is equal to the input current. This converter will step up the input to produce a higher

output voltage of the same polarity.


A buck-boost converter has the inductor connected to the ground terminal. The DC (average)
inductor current is equal to the sum of the input and output current. This converter will invert the input
to produce a lower or higher output voltage of opposite polarity.

By noting the inductor placement, it's easy to tell what the inductors DC (average)
current is.

Inductive Switching
The inductor doesn't care where it is connected. Its operation will always be the same.
In steady state, the average inductor voltage equals zero. V and V are defined by the switches and the applied circuit voltages.
1

Graphically:

The inductor will pass the required DC current. An AC current will ramp up and down as the inductor voltage is switched.

Inductor Current

I=V*T/L
I = 5V * 10us / 10 uH = 5A

Topologies
The input, output and duty cycle relationships are defined for each topology. All voltages and currents are presented in terms of magnitude, not
polarity.
3.1 Buck
3.2 Boost
3.3 Buck-Boost (Inverting)
3.4 Application Note

Buck
Because of it's simplicity and ease of use, the buck converter is very popular in distributed power systems.
To analyze the ideal buck converter, equate the voltage across the inductor when Sw is on, to the voltage when Sw is on:
1

Solving for V :
O

Solving for D:

The basic practical buck converter uses a free-wheeling diode in place of Sw .


2

Capacitors are used to filter the ripple currents and produce a DC voltage. Since
the inductor is in series with the output, the output capacitor sees low ripple
current. With a switch at the input, the input capacitor sees high pulsating current.

The negative buck is a mirror image of the positive buck. Note that the diode
points in the direction of positive current flow at the output.

For a practical buck converter, the loss elements must be accounted for.

Solving for V :
O

Solving for D:

Ideal buck: duty cycle


D=V /V
O

IN

D = 5V / 10V = 0.5

Boost
Because of it's ability to step up a voltage, the boost converter is popular in many battery powered applications.
To analyze the ideal boost converter, equate the voltage across the inductor when Sw is on, to the voltage when Sw is on:
1

Solving for V :
O

Solving for D:

The basic practical boost converter uses a free-wheeling diode in place of Sw .


2

Since the inductor is in series with the input, the input capacitor sees low ripple
current. With a diode at the output, the output capacitor sees high pulsating
current.

The negative boost is mirrored from the positive boost. Note that the diode
points in the direction of positive current flow at the output.

For a practical boost converter, the loss elements must be accounted for.

Solving for V :
O

Solving for D

Boost Inductor Current


The DC (average) inductor current in the boost converter is equal to:
1. Input current
2. Output current
3. Input + output current
4. Input - output current
1 Answer: Input current. Since the inductor is in series with the input terminal, the DC (average) input current must flow through it.

Buck-Boost (Inverting)

The buck-boost converter is used when a voltage inversion is needed. For this discussion, all voltages are presented in terms of magnitude.
To analyze the ideal buck-boost converter, equate the voltage across the inductor when Sw is on, to the voltage when Sw is on:
1

Solving for V :
O

Solving for D:

The basic practical buck-boost converter uses a free-wheeling diode in place of


Sw . With a switch at the input and diode at the output, both the input and output
2

capacitors see high pulsating currents.

The negative-to-positive buck-boost is a mirror image of the positive-to-negative


buck-boost. Note that the diode points in the direction of positive current flow at
the output.

For a practical buck-boost converter, the loss elements must be accounted for.

Solving for V :
O

Solving for D:

A buck-boost is used to produce an output voltage of opposite polarity from the


input.

Buck-boost formulas showing polarity inversion:


With respect to ground, the inductor voltage when the switch is on:

(V

-V

IN

-0)D

SW

Again with respect to ground, the inductor voltage when the switch is off:
(0-V +V )(1-D)
O

Equate the two terms and solve:


(V

-V

IN

)D=(-V +V )(1-D)

SW

D=(-V +V )/(V
O

IN

V = - ( D / ( 1 - D )) ( V
O

-V -V
O

IN

SW

-V

SW

+V )
D

)+V

Application Note
AN-1246: Stresses in Wide Input DC-DC Converters is an invaluable reference for buck, boost and buck-boost converters. It has all of the
formulas in one complete design table. Print it out and keep it handy.
AN-1246: Stresses in Wide Input DC-DC Converters

Duty Cycle Revisited


For the buck converter, it is easy to visualize the output voltage being proportional to the input by the relationship:
V =V
O

IN

The terms 1 / (1 - D) and D / (1 - D) for the boost and buck-boost are more abstract.
T can be expressed as t

on

D=t

+ t , so:
off

/T

on

(1 - D) = t

off

/T

Relating this back to the three ideal equations:


Buck
V =V

*t

Boost
V =V

*T/t

IN

IN

on

/T

off

Buck-Boost (Inverting)
V =V *t /t
O

IN

on

off

These relationships become much easier to visualize.

Review Test
Place a short summary of this chapter's topics here.
4.1 Review Test

Review Test
Take a short test to review your progress

Review Test
Select the appropriate answer for each question or enter the answer in the blank provided. When you are done, click the button to submit your
answers and find out your score.

1. Duty cycle is:


A. Equal to Vi / Vo
B. Another term for PWM
C. The ratio of t(on) / T
D. Used to measure an inductor
1 Correct Answer: C
2. In a buck converter, the inductor is connected to:
A. Input
B. Output
C. Ground
2 Correct Answer: B
3. In a switching regulator at steady state, the average voltage across the inductor is:
A. Positive
B. Zero
C. Negative
D. Undefined
3 Correct Answer: B
4. In a buck-boost converter, the DC (average) inductor current is equal to the:
A. Input current
B. Output current
C. Input + output current
D. Input - output current
4 Correct Answer: C
5. An ideal boost converter has 5V in and 15V out. What is the duty cycle?
A. 0.333
B. 0.667
C. 0.75
5 Correct Answer: B

Boost
A switching regulator used to step up a voltage.

Buck
A switching regulator used to step down a voltage.

Buck-boost
A switching regulator used to invert a voltage.

Duty Cycle
The ratio of on-time to period in a switching regulator.

D = t (on) / T

PWM
Pulse width modulation. A technique used to vary the duty cycle, thereby controlling the voltage to the load.

Frequently Asked Questions


Do you have a question? We may have already answered it. Check below to see if you can find the answer to your question.

Questions
Why do I need to see switching regulator basics again?

Answers
Why do I need to see switching regulator basics again?
Answer
Most of us learn switching regulators piecemeal, or circuit by circuit. We don't get an intuitive grasp of how the basic topologies
relate to each other, or how simple they really are when approached the right way. Building blocks focus on the fundamental
concepts which are common to all switching regulators. This method will help you understand each circuits operation by simple
inspection.

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PowerWise Design University Team