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2150

IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER DELIVERY, VOL. 27, NO. 4, OCTOBER 2012

Simple Voltage Balancing Approach for
CHB Multilevel Inverter Considering
Low Harmonic Content Based on a Hybrid
Optimal Modulation Strategy
Amin Ghazanfari, Student Member, IEEE, Hossein Mokhtari, Member, IEEE, and
Mohsen Firouzi, Student Member, IEEE

Abstract—This paper presents an effective hybrid optimal
modulation technique for a cascaded H-bridge (CHB) multilevel
inverter. The introduced method is generalized optimal pulsewidth
modulation, which can be extended to any -level CHB multilevel
inverter operating at any switching frequency. The presented
hybrid optimal modulation strategy includes the pattern exchange
and optimal modulation techniques. In the optimal modulation
technique, the hybrid interior-point algorithm, which is more
flexible and efficient than conventional optimization techniques,
is applied. The proposed hybrid optimal modulation strategy
yields balanced units’ output fundamental voltages, and low total
harmonic distortion without the need for additional stabilizers.
The performance of the proposed modulation strategy is verified
by simulation studies and experimental results using a five-level
CHB single-phase multilevel inverter.
Index Terms—Hybrid interior-point algorithm, multilevel
inverters, sinusoidal pulsewidth modulation (SPWM), voltage
balancing.

I. INTRODUCTION
HE MULTILEVEL inverter concept, which was initially
introduced with three-level inverters, is now used over a
wide range of high-power applications including renewable energy resources, such as wind and photovoltaic systems [1], [2].
A multilevel inverter is a power-electronic system that generates a desired output voltage by using several levels of dc input
voltages. The main advantages of multilevel inverters compared
to conventional two-level inverters are lower cost, higher performance, less electromagnetic interference, and lower harmonic
content [2].
The most common multilevel inverter topologies are the
diode-clamped, flying-capacitor, and cascaded H-bridge (CHB)
inverters with separate dc voltages. Due to modularity and the
ability to operate at higher voltage levels, the CHB topology

T

Manuscript received December 03, 2011; revised March 28, 2012; accepted
June 12, 2012. Date of publication July 31, 2012; date of current version
September 19, 2012. Paper no. TPWRD-01027-2011.
The authors are with the Center of Excellence in Power System Management
and Control, Sharif University of Technology, Tehran 11365-9363, Iran (e-mail:
aghazanfari@alum.sharif.edu;, mokhtari@sharif.edu;, mfirouzi@alum.sharif.
edu).
Color versions of one or more of the figures in this paper are available online
at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TPWRD.2012.2205277

is preferred for high-power applications among other topologies [3].
In CHB inverters, as the number of levels increases, the
quality of the output signal will be improved, and the inverter output voltage waveform will be closer to a sinusoidal
waveform [4]. Moreover, high voltages can be managed at the
dc and ac sides of the inverter, while each unit endures only
a part of the total dc voltage. But one of the most extensively
addressed drawbacks of CHB inverters is the dc voltage balance control across all dc capacitors of the H-bridge units [5].
Furthermore, balancing units output fundamental voltages and
minimizing harmonic distortion level still remain challenging
issues [6].
Researchers have been trying to improve multilevel inverters
performance by applying optimal dynamic control strategies.
Various optimization algorithms are proposed to balance units’
output fundamental voltages [7] and dc capacitor voltages [8]
as well as lowering total harmonic distortion (THD) [9]. One
technique is proposed in [5], which uses a combination of the
phase-shifting technique and sinusoidal pulsewidth-modulation
(SPWM) strategy, to control the H-bridge dc voltages.
The main objective of optimal modulation strategies is to calculate optimal switching angles. Many studies have been carried out to find optimal angles using optimization techniques
such as polynomial resultants theory (PRT) [10] or genetic-algorithm (GA)-based solutions [11]. In the PRT solution, when the
voltage levels of multilevel inverters are high, the resulting highorder polynomial terms can no longer be solved. In a GA-based
method, the main challenge is that the result may fall into the
trap of local minimums. Therefore, despite its considerable efficiency for large dimension optimization problems, it cannot
guarantee the best optimized result [12]. Some researchers focus
on the elimination of specific harmonics in the output voltage
[3], [10]–[13]. It appears that when the parameters of the objective function increase due to the increase in voltage levels, the
problem will become harder to solve.
This paper presents a hybrid optimal modulation strategy
which includes the optimal modulation strategy and the pattern-exchange technique to balance inverter units’ output
fundamental voltages and minimize the output voltage THD.
In the optimal modulation strategy, a hybrid interior-point
optimization technique is used to overcome the convergence

0885-8977/$31.00 © 2012 IEEE

Furthermore. SINGLE-PHASE MULTILEVEL OPTIMAL MODULATION STRATEGY A. 0. a sinusoidal reference voltage waveform is compared with triangular waveforms to generate gate signals for the semiconductor switches. As depicted in Fig. In this part of the optimization approach. Schematic diagram of a five-level single-phase CHB inverter.GHAZANFARI et al. In the line search-trust region interior-point algorithm. 2. Then. Due to the quarter. which shows the number of required switching angles in a quarter of the waveform that depends on the carrier frequency value.e. Fig. the SPWM technique has become popular in industrial applications [8]. II. the trust region method could be called which can guarantee the best optimized solution. 1 shows a two-cell single-phase CHB inverter. = III. 2. The generalized harmonic expression of a multilevel output voltage is derived and expressed as [8] (1) where indicates the number of the series-connected inverter units and is the frequency ratio of the CHB inverter. (a) Reference and four carriers triangular signals 2100 Hz. a comparison of the modulating sine wave with high-frequency triangular carrier waves results in conventional SPWM switching patterns. only odd harmonics exist in the waveform. Four triangular carrier signal patterns and a sinusoidal modulating signal can be seen in Fig. the inverter units’ normalized output fundamental voltage is equalized with the modulation index. 2(b). In a conventional SPWM technique. 1. the modulation index controls the output fundamental voltage amplitude in each unit. The carrier-based SPWM modulation is shown in Fig. . 2(a) where the carrier-wave frequency of each unit is 2100 Hz. problem. It is demonstrated in [14] that this algorithm is considerably more robust than either a pure direct line search or a trust region without any extra computational burden. there is a flexibility to switch between the trust region and a line search method to seek the best factor of direction in the local search space without trapping in local minimums. reliable operation. is is the th switching angle of the the harmonic number and th inverter unit. Fig. The first optimization objective is to have equal output fundamental voltages for all inverter units. low cost.and half-wave symmetry. The proposed hybrid optimal modulation is verified by using simulation and experiments using a scaled prototype. This algorithm tries to find the best step factor by the line search method and when this approach ends up with an ineffective direction or is trapped in a local minimum. the pattern-exchange technique is applied to balance the dc capacitor voltages. voltage levels can be produced by cells of a CHB inverter. the equal power exchange between the inverter units and the load helps to considerably balance the dc . Multicarrier SPWM technique for a five-level line-to-neutral switching pattern using four carriers.. (b) Line-to-neutral switching pattern controlled by the where f comparison of signals. In order to achieve this. The first optimization objective of the th inverter unit is given by (2) where indicates the modulation index. each inverter unit output fundamental voltage is normalized with respect to its corresponding dc capacitor voltage. Three-level output voltages are generated by each single-phase H-bridge inverter (i. and great improvement in the output voltage. Therefore. Due to easy implementation. The desired output voltage is synthesized from the independent dc capacitor voltages at the dc side of the CHB inverter. CHB CONFIGURATION A CHB multilevel inverter includes a number of H-bridge cells connected in series with separate dc sources. In addition.: SIMPLE VOLTAGE BALANCING APPROACH FOR CHB MULTILEVEL INVERTER 2151 Fig. and . Solution of Switching Angles Switching angles for each H-bridge inverter must be accurately calculated to minimize the THD of the CHB output. which results in symmetrical functioning of the H-bridge units.

the dead time is considered as (6) is the merit function and . respectively.2152 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER DELIVERY. For instance. it is preferable to use line search method to calculate the step factor. It is worth mentioning that is the vector of switching angles. the primary optimization problem is mapped onto a secondary problem known as Primal-Dual form. Therefore. The main challenge is now to obtain an analytical solution for the nonlinear objective equations. the degrees of freedom for improving the control strategy performance are increased [7]. In these cases. Therefore. Hence. another constraint for the solution is expressed as (4) (5) cannot where is the dead time. When the number of switching angles is increased. (1). 27. particularly SPWM techniques [15]. [8]. when the Hessian is not properly conditioned. and the switching angles be zero. They also become very complicated when the number of levels increases [2]. such as dead time in inverters. It is shown in this paper that the optimization merit function that has the form of (3) can be better optimized in comparison to other modulation strategies. ondary goal variable. the number of harmonics has no boundary in this algorithm [7]. VOL. to find the switching angles in a two-cell single-phase CHB inverter setup with the carrier frequency of 1050 Hz. A constrained minimization problem with harmonic optimization is defined in order to determine the switching angles as (3) where indicates the maximum harmonic number included in the minimization function. voltages. 4. According to the interior-point algorithm. In this paper. Nevertheless. Flowchart of the hybrid interior-point algorithm. Contrary to SHE-based methods. this paper uses the THD minimizing method to find the switching angles. [16]. The THD minimizing method and SHE method are two alternatives for determining the switching angles in a CHB. Line Search-Trust Region Interior-Point Algorithm The line search-trust region interior-point algorithm yields an optimal switching pattern where switching angles are calculated offline to balance the fundamental component of the units’ output voltages with a minimized THD for each unit. by replacing the line search method with the trust region approach. and (5). The hybrid interior-point algorithm is used to resolve these nonlinear functions. 3. The individual trust region approach has the advantage that there is no need to use the Hessian of the Lagrangian in the factorized form. this method highly depends on the Hessian conditioning [14]. the convergence performance will be improved without imposing extra cost in comparison to conventional gradient-based algorithms [14]. SHE methods are limited to low bandwidth applications. Therefore. Typically. This new form of problem consists of some convex barrier terms called barrier functions. is the barrier parameter. two nonlinear equations with 42 unknowns must be solved. solving the optimization problem will be more complicated. (6) can be represented as [17] where (7) is the secwhere is the vector of slack variables. NO. When the number of levels or the carrier frequency increases. The nonlinearities. these terms are in the form of logarithmic functions of an additional variable as a slack variable. are main drawbacks of the modulation strategies. B. OCTOBER 2012 a constraint in the optimization procedure. the convergence is not guaranteed. Let us consider the problem as Fig. are nonlinear equality and inequality constraints defined in (3). and The barrier function is an auxiliary function which considerably reduces the search space and defines a feasible region for . Therefore.

and (c) line to neutral. The iterative process of (7)–(9) is known as the line search interior-point mechanism. Harmonic spectrum of the output voltage using the conventional SPWM technique for (a) first unit. The Lagrangian function related to (7) is given by 2153 Fig.995.GHAZANFARI et al. 5. A quadratic trust region . (b) second unit. the line search method is replaced with a trust region algorithm. variables. First. This backtracking will find the best factor of direction that will optimize the merit function. If approaches zero. (In this case. To find step-length factors. the value of variables for the next iteration will be where (9) It is shown in [14] that (9) can be changed into a linear equation system. slack variables will remain as positive definite. It means that if there is a point at which the gradient of the merit function is a factor of the gradient of constraint functions. the inequality constraint will be satisfied. This factor is known as the Lagrangian factor. and . Fig. and consequently. Due to the logarithmic form of the barrier function. It is worth mentioning that parameter approaches zero in (7). a backtracking search algorithm must be performed over a positive domain with a specific upper boundary [14]. we compute the boundaries of the search algorithm as (10) (11) where . According to the previous paragraph.) . respectively. (8) . where . Therefore. Switching pattern of the output voltage using the conventional SPWM technique for (a) first unit. it is necessary to construct a Lagrangian function related to the optimization problem. Therefore. while satisIn order to find a minimum value of fying the other two constraints. of and . the soluwhenever the tion of the Primal-Dual problem (PDP) will be the same as that of the main problem. The main disadvantage of this mechanism is when and are being saturated and. The initial and the find th iteration values of variables are considered as and . Upon detecting this inefficient situation and whenever each becomes less than 0. whose elements are related to and respectively. the PDP with two constraints can be viewed as a single problem where the target is to for which 0. 4. are upperbound values of are subvectors the backtracking line search domain.0001). the point at which the gradient of the Lagrangian function is zero can satisfy the constraints as well as optimizing the cost function [18]. the problem is to calculate the next iteration direction vector and the step-length factor for the next iteration which decreases the dual merit function. (b) second unit. the step factors approach zero due to tangling in a local minimum. the gradient of the Lagrangian function will be zero at that point. It is worth mentioning that is typically close to one.: SIMPLE VOLTAGE BALANCING APPROACH FOR CHB MULTILEVEL INVERTER the input space where the inequality constraint could be satisfied. correspondingly. To guarantee a sufficient decrease in the merit function the algorithm performs a local backtracking line search in do. the dual function will approach infinity. and (c) line to neutral. are the Lagrangian factor and . can simply be solved by Newton’s method. Then. step-length factors can be calculated in two stages. to compute the mains of step-length factors. Therefore. 0. and .

and (c) line to neutral. (b) second unit. (b) the second unit. method is used to guarantee enough decrease in the merit function. and (c) line to neutral. 8. a radial base region (a disc with around the th iteration point) has been selected as radius a feasible region. Also. Fig. IV. One of the conditions which detects the saturation of the algorithm is consecutive transitions between the line search and the trust region without any considerable change in the merit function. SIMULATION RESULTS AND COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS In this section. will approach zero faster and vice versa. Therefore. VOL. Switching pattern of the output voltage using the proposed optimal PWM technique for (a) first unit. NO. Fig. the barrier parameter must converge to zero by iterating the algorithm. (b) second unit. if the most recent barrier problem is solved in . Otherwise. Basically in this phase. This flexible hybrid mechanism enables a robust optimization method for the merit functions with a nonconvexity situation and high dimensional constraint. such as the THD function in (3). OCTOBER 2012 Fig. The algorithm tries to find a minimum point for the approximation of the merit function inside the feasible region. else . Usually. Fig. the radius of region is reth iteration. while GA-based solutions need massive computational processing and storage resource without guarantee of convergence. a quadratic approximation of the cost as a polyfunction inside the dist region is performed ( nomial form of approximation). less than three iterations. 7. This cycle will continue until the end of the process. Finally. the line search method can be called upon until the next local minimum is observed. One of the conditions is a fixed number of iterations that guarantees an acceptable output (in this case. This condition means that the minimum trap is not a local minimum. It is worth mentioning that the initial state variables are chosen randomly. Hence. 3 illustrates a flowchart of the hybrid interior-point algorithm which is implemented in the MATLAB environment as a minimization function. This mechanism means that when the algorithm converges more rapidly to the final result. warded and becomes large for the it will be penalized and become smaller. Harmonic spectrum of the output voltage by using the pattern-exchange technique for (a) the first unit.2154 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER DELIVERY. as explained earlier. 4. Then. the merit function decreases into the th epoch. accordingly. 6. Switching pattern of the output voltage using the pattern-exchange technique for (a) the first unit. a simplified comparative study for a five-level CHB single-phase multilevel inverter is made between the proposed switching strategy and the conventional SPWM strategy . 27. this issue must be considered in updating the parameter. optimization algorithms have several stop conditions. after improving the value of the merit function. 90 iterations). and (c) line-to-neutral. If in the th epoch.

4. the magnitudes of the th harmonic at the inverters’ output are not equal. Fig. This means at specific times. Fig. TABLE II PARAMETERS FOR THE EXPERIMENTAL SETUP Fig. 5. 5 shows that the fundamental component of the units output are not the same.GHAZANFARI et al. Fig. Picture of the 1-kW scaled prototype. In addition. The switching patterns of the inverter units and line-to-neutral output voltage using the conventional SPWM are shown in Fig. 11. some units operate longer than the others. It is important to ensure that the output voltage of all inverters has no dc component by a proper pattern exchange. the dc component will be produced in the output . 10. (b) the second unit. 9. and the line-to-neutral arrangement produced by exchanging the switching pattern among the units in a quarter of a cycle. The harmonic spectrum for each inverter unit and the line-toneutral arrangement are calculated and the results are shown in Fig. Experimental result of the switching pattern in the quarter of the output voltage waveform (21 angles for each unit). The modulation index of the CHB inverter is set to 1 to provide a precise comparison between the waveforms.: SIMPLE VOLTAGE BALANCING APPROACH FOR CHB MULTILEVEL INVERTER 2155 TABLE I FUNDAMENTAL VALUE OF INVERTER UNITS FOR THE MENTIONED SPWM SWITCHING METHODS (IN PER UNIT) Fig. THD against the modulation index. Fig. which causes an undesired unbalanced situation in units’ output fundamental voltages. 12. Harmonic spectrum of the output voltage using the proposed optimal PWM technique for (a) the first unit. For instance. in the MATLAB environment. 6 shows the switching pattern of the output voltage for each inverter unit. and (c) line to neutral.

the output voltage carrier waveform frequency will be 4200 Hz. the fundamental component of the line to neutral is lower than 2 p.e. 4. Two parallel metal–oxide semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) are considered as power switching devices to reduce the switching losses and increase reliability. Experimental results using the proposed hybrid optimal PWM technique. This technique naturally mitigates the harmonics and balances the dc capacitor voltages for the CHB inverter [2]. The experimental system specifications of the five-level CHB inverter are listed in Table II. 10 provides a comparison among the harmonic content of the aforementioned strategies. V. The output fundamental voltages of the CHB inverter units in the proposed optimal PWM and the hybrid optimal PWM . 21 switching angles are considered for each quarter of a cycle). angles shown in Fig. The pattern exchange in the optimal modulation strategy will achieve advantages of both equal units’ output fundamental voltages and the magnitude of the th harmonic. A sample of the switching angles obtained by the hybrid optimal switching strategy is presented in Table III. NO. Inverter units with a alower order of harmonics are almost equal. In the overmodulation region. The switching pattern of the output voltage obtained by using the proposed optimal PWM technique without considering the pattern exchange is shown in Fig. The output voltage waveforms of each unit and the line-toneutral voltages are depicted in Fig. The output waveforms and harmonic spectrum of the H-bridge units are captured by a digital realtime oscilloscope (Tektronix TDS2014C). but the experimental results indicate that it does not have a better harmonic spectrum than the proposed strategy. the proposed strategy can still find the closest optimal angles. VOL. 12 are in accordance with the switching angles given in Table III. The harmonic spectrum of the CHB inverter output voltage with the conventional SPWM switching technique is demonstrated in Fig.u. OCTOBER 2012 TABLE III SWITCHING ANGLES PATTERN FOR THE CHB MULTILEVEL INVERTER (DEG) IN A QUARTER OF A CYCLE of inverter units if the pulses are exchanged in the half cycle of the waveform. 12 shows the offline calculated switching pattern for each unit for a quarter of a cycle. It seems that the conventional SPWM should have better harmonic content. which are indicated in Fig. The corresponding harmonic spectrums of the hybrid optimal PWM strategy. 15. but. 7 presents the harmonic spectrum of the output voltage of each unit after exchanging the switching pattern in a quarter of the fundamental cycle. verify balanced units’ output fundamental voltages. The calculated switching angles are downloaded into an ATMEGA-16 microcontroller. Furthermore. The level of the fundamental component of inverter units is also equal.u. Two separate dc sources provide constant dc voltages for each part of the dc link. based on the identified number of switching angles in the quarter of the output voltage waveform. The output voltage harmonic spectrum is also demonstrated in Fig. Consequently. 27. the averaged switching frequency is obtained as 1050 Hz in each unit. a 4-dB difference exists between the units’ output fundamental components. The two inverter units have approximately equal output fundamental component levels. 13. Switching pattern of (a) each unit and (b) line to neutral. Table I summarizes the fundamental component values for each unit and the line-to-neutral voltage for different strategies. This will cause excessive power losses in each unit and will result in dc voltage oscillation. This yields a total averaged output voltage waveform frequency of 2100 Hz. For the proposed hybrid optimal PWM strategy. 9. The most significant advantage of this technique is identical dc capacitor voltages that result in symmetrical operation of all H-bridge units at the price of increasing the capacitor voltage oscillation. The prototype inverter is based on two-cell CHB units. Fig. The switching Fig. 11. Based on the selected frequency ratio (i. 14. The carrier frequency for the conventional SPWM strategy for each unit is 2100 Hz. It shows that the optimal modulation strategy and the hybrid optimal modulation strategy yield close harmonic contents. 8. Fig. 13. This figure shows a considerable difference (almost 4 dB) in the amplitude of the units’ output fundamental voltages which results in an undesired unbalanced situation.2156 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER DELIVERY. keeping the harmonic content as low as possible. Fig.. A picture of the 1-kW scaled prototype is demonstrated in Fig. EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS A low-power five-level CHB inverter prototype has been developed to verify the feasibility of the proposed strategy and confirm the validity of the simulation and theoretical findings. This value is more than 1 p. in the conventional SPWM.

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