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11, NOVEMBER 2008


A New Technique for Measuring Ferrite
Core Loss Under DC Bias Conditions
C. A. Baguley1 , U. K. Madawala1 , and B. Carsten2
Department of Electronics and Computer Engineering,University of Auckland, Auckland 48 New Zealand
Bruce Carsten Associates Inc., Corvallis, OR 97330-9243 USA
It is well known that the measurement of ferrite core losses is difficult, particularly under low power factor conditions for which the
excitation VA drawn is large relative to the power dissipated in the ferrite core. This paper proposes a new technique, called mutual
inductance neutralization, which overcomes this difficulty by compensating for the reactive power drawn by the circuit through the use
of an air cored mutual inductor. Based on the technique, circuits are presented which are appropriate for core loss measurement in the
absence, and the presence of a dc bias. Measured results are presented which verify the accuracy of the technique, and results are also
presented showing the effect of dc bias conditions on the losses of the ferrite core under test.
Index Terms—Core losses, ferrite, switched-mode power supply (SMPS).



UE TO the large quantities of switched-mode power supplies (SMPSs) that are produced, strong economic and
regulatory pressures exist to minimize SMPS size and losses
[1]–[5]. Within SMPS circuits, ferrite-cored magnetic components operating under dc bias conditions are commonly used,
and are typically among the largest components. They therefore have a strong impact on SMPS size and losses, particularly in view of the knowledge that ferrite core losses increase
with dc bias in a highly nonlinear manner [6]–[12]. However,
investigation into the phenomenon is hampered by the difficulty
of accurately measuring ferrite core losses under dc bias [6].
This paper proposes a low-cost, accurate, expedient technique
for measuring ferrite core losses under dc bias conditions that,
to the knowledge of the authors, has not previously been presented.
Average core losses can be measured by exciting a winding on
a ferrite core under test (CUT) then integrating the product of the
over one cycle.
winding emf, and the excitation current
However, if the CUT is a low-permeability and low-loss type,
this procedure is prone to large core loss measurement errors. A
primary source of these errors is the unequal time delays intro, and winding emf
duced by parasitic impedances in the
sensing channels [13], [14]. An example illustrating the high
degree of time/phase matching necessary between the sensing
channels to avoid significant measurement errors is given in [6].
The susceptibility to this form of measurement error occurs because the phase shift between the
and winding emf waveforms is very close to 90 . The measurement technique presented in this paper, which determines core loss through integrating the product of sampled winding emf and
waveforms, overcomes this difficulty by phase-shifting these waveforms using an air-cored mutual inductor.


Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TMAG.2008.2002862

The improvement to the power factor (pf) between the
waveforms is achieved using the
winding emf and
“mutual inductance neutralization” technique illustrated by
Fig. 1(a). The technique is implemented using an adjustable
air-cored mutual inductor with windings of a relative phasing
in Fig. 1(a) is measured, the reactive volt
such that when
cancels that across
drop across the mutual inductor
As is apparent from the equivalent circuit shown in Fig. 1(b),
this leaves only an in-phase resistive core loss component
in the
voltage, which therefore means
is in-phase
. Through integration of the product of the
waveforms over one cycle, the CUT core losses
can be accurately determined. From Fig. 1(b), it is also apparent that the self inductances and winding resistances of the
, as well as those of the mutual inductor,
, and
have no effect on the phase relationship
if the voltmeter used to measure
has a sufficiently high impedance.
Based on Fig. 1(b), the pf of the measurement circuit can be
calculated using (1), and Fig. 1(c) can be obtained

For Fig. 1(c), the sinusoidal excitation frequency is 100 kHz,
is 5 H and assumed to be constant,
is varied from
0 to 10 H, and three different values of
are used to give
three ratios of
, where
is the mutual reactance of the CUT. It is apparent that the smaller
is, then the better is the pf between
. It is also
apparent that the greater is the ratio of
, the more
significant is the improvement to the pf in the uncompensated
case, for which
H, compared to that in the
fully compensated case when the pf is equal to one. This shows
that the potential benefit of the mutual inductance neutralization

0018-9464/$25.00 © 2008 IEEE

the third harmonic will be apparent. (a) Mutual inductance neutralization circuit. and the ac flux density is monitored and controlled to be 10 mT. technique is greatest when low permeability. (a) Excitation waveforms in an uncompensated circuit. then the average of the product of the two is zero for each harmonic. Harmonics do not affect the accuracy of the core loss measurement. Such a low flux density is chosen in order to illustrate the effects of the proposed technique under the core loss measurement extreme of exceptionally poor pf conditions. This is because any third harmonic component introduced by the nonlinear BH loop into will. and (c) variation of power factor with the difference between air and CUT mutual inductances for different R to X ratios. according to . 1. 2. Therefore. the and waveforms measured using the mutual inductance neutralization circuit given in Fig. III. This is because if the harmonic voltage components at the output of the mutual inductor are exactly 90 out of phase with the corresponding harmonics contained in . by the action of the differential operator. indicating the reactive component of has been largely cancelled. NOVEMBER 2008 Fig. A sinusoidal excitation frequency of 50 kHz is used. and that the magnitude of the waveform is dramatically reduced. 2(b). It is clearly evident that the and waveforms are approximately in phase. and it is evident that the pf is very poor with a phase shift close to 90 . this is contingent on minimizing the impurity of the mutual inductor. as explained in Section III. 11. for which the excitation VA drawn is high relative to the core loss. 44. In Fig. is greatly exaggerated and is 90 out of phase with the current harmonic. The third harmonic apparent in is caused by the nonlinear nature of the ferrite BH loop. The improvement to the pf that can be achieved is apparent in the measured waveforms shown in Fig. 2 for which the CUT is a MMG T25 15 10 toroidal in F49 material. . produce a harmonic voltage in the mutual inductor output that. For the same CUT. VOL.4128 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON MAGNETICS. 2(a). the measured and waveforms using an uncompensated circuit are shown. low loss cores are tested. even if sinusoidal excitation is maintained across the CUT. when the output voltage of the mutual inductor is summed with the secondary voltage of the CUT to give . (b) Excitation waveforms in a compensated circuit. MUTUAL INDUCTOR Mutual inductance standards were extensively used in highaccuracy ac bridge measurement circuits during last century. (b) its equivalent circuit. Fig. 1(a). are shown in Fig. NO. However.

and the 1-m-long probe leads connecting it to the oscilloscope. IV. it must be minimized to ensure core losses are measured accurately. which means very small phase/time matching errors cause large core loss measurement errors [13]. which gives the measured core losses as of an MMG T25 15 10 a function of the ac flux density toroidal in F49 material that is cut into two halves which are taped together with no spacer between the halves. To minimize primary winding eddy current losses. Such a variation is necessary in order to allow the measurement technique to be used with CUTs of different permeabilities and under different temperature and excitation conditions. as well as the winding eddy current losses. and the primary excitation current waveforms of the mutual inductor to deviate from quadrature. through the use of the mutual inductance neutralization technique. Such a deviation would add to. Winding connection diagram of the core loss test circuit for dc bias conditions.: NEW TECHNIQUE FOR MEASURING FERRITE CORE LOSS UNDER DC BIAS CONDITIONS 4129 Fig. 4. [23].25-mm diameter magnet wire. as this instrument is optimized for accurate high-frequency power measurement at any pf through the high degree of phase/time matching between the current and voltage sensing channels. Therefore. Fig. Decoupling is necessary in order for the dc bias to be exact [6].22. measurements made using the oscilloscope are dramatically improved in accuracy. therefore. In this cirand are measured and multiplied together to cuit calculate the total losses of two gapped ferrite CUTs at the same time. To further reduce inter-winding capacitance. 4. By implication. as well as the associated dielectric losses. The core loss measurements are made in an ambient temperature of 24 C. 3. 3. It is also apparent that. Impurity causes the phase angle between the open circuit secondary winding emf. and the term “impurity” [15]. The relatively low number of primary winding turns minimizes the voltage drop across the primary winding impedance. the mutual inductor used for the results presented in this paper is constructed so as to minimize in particular the inter-winding capacitance.BAGULEY et al. It is apparent that large differences exist between the wattmeter and the oscilloscope core loss measurements. To minimize inter-winding capacitance. the core losses measured using the mutual inductance neutralization technique. the phase angle as measured by the wattmeter varies from 87. and the levels are monitored and controlled. the measurement circuit is modified to that shown in Fig. as well as digitization errors. the ends of the windings that are adjacent to each other are both brought to the circuit ground [20]. the errors associated with mutual inductance standards have been investigated. By comparison. The poor matching is due primarily to the parasitic impedances introduced into the current sensing channel by the 0. The secondary is wound using 0. or subtract from. The primary windings of the CUTs are connected in parallel to ensure that each core is run at the same ac flux density. Three sets of measurements are made: first using a Clarke–Hess 2335 wattmeter [21]. The sense windings of the CUTs are connected in series rather .thick film resistive current shunt that is used. CORE LOSSES MEASURED UNDER DC BIAS To measure core losses in the presence of a dc bias. These differences occur because the phase angle in the core loss measurement circuit is high. second using an Agilent DSO6034 oscilloscope [22] as a wattmeter. so allowing most of the supply voltage to be used to excite the CUT. The be developed to cancel that across primary and secondary windings are wound atop separate pieces of mylar sheet which are slid along a glass former to adjust the gap between the windings to allow the mutual inductance to be varied to the optimal position. the primary and secondary windings are placed end to end on a single layer. The high number of secondary winding turns is necessary to in order for a sufficiently large reactive volt drop across and improve the pf.2 at 80 mT. the primary is wound using Litz wire.97 at 10 mT. The readings taken using the Clarke–Hess 2335 wattmeter are expected to be the most accurate. [16] has been associated with a particular form of error. and third using the same oscilloscope and the mutual inductance neutralization technique. and the primary to secondary turns ratio is 2:21. Comparison of core loss measurements with no dc bias. to 81. this shows that the impurity of the mutual inductor does not significantly affect measurement accuracy. the core loss data measured using the oscilloscope is strongly subject to errors resulting from poor phase/time matching between the current and voltage sensing channels. The benefit of using the mutual inductor is shown in the results presented in Fig. The causes of impurity have been identified [15]–[19] as the self and interwinding capacities of mutual inductor windings (in conjunction with winding resistances and/or dielectric losses). at a sinusoidal excitation frequency of 50 kHz. Because of their importance as a measurement device. Two CUTs are used in order to allow dc bias windings to be placed on each with polarities such that the dc bias windings are effectively decoupled from the ac windings in the circuit.

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