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A Built-In Self-Test High-Current LED Driver

Do Hung Nguyen, Jaber Hasan, and Simon S. Ang

Abstract - In this paper, a built-in self-test (B1ST) high- employs a power MOSFET acting as a part of a current-
current light-emitting-diode (LED) driver circuit is proposed. mirror as shown in Fig. 1. However, the on-chip current
The circuit not only maintains different constant currents for regulator is costly due to its large size, especially when many
multiple LED strings, but it also minimizes the conduction LED strings are needed [3]. In addition, high current
power dissipation by keeping the power MOSFETs in the consumption in the LED string could damage the chip. Other
constant-current controllers operating in the linear region. issues such as channel length modulation and "falling into
The proposed driver first acquires the current-voltage (1-V) triode region" can also cause mismatch in the current mirror
data ofthe constant-current power MOSFETs and stores them [3].
into memories. These stored 1- V data, along with a duty cycle
control of the switching converter, are used to ensure that
these power MOSFETs are operating in their linear region to
minimize conduction power dissipation. The proposed circuit
was verified using PSP1CE with two to five LED strings.
Simulation results show a maximum efficiency of95.6%.

Index Terms - LED driver, Built-in Self-Test.

Backlights for liquid-crystal-display (LCD) panels using the Fig. 1. LED driver using on-chip current mirror.
conventional cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) are
gradually being replaced by light-emitting-diodes (LEDs) due The second topology of the constant-current sinking
to their longer life time, high efficiency luminance, and configuration is shown in Fig. 2. In this topology, a reference
improved chromaticity [1]. LEDs are being used not only in voltage is used to maintain a constant voltage drop across the
portable electronics with LCD displays such as laptop sensing resistor, and this regulates the current flowing through
computers, cameras, cell phones, and automobiles, but they the LED string. The main disadvantage of this configuration is
are also being used in general-purpose household and that the MOSFET may drift into saturation causing a
commercial lighting, street lighting, signage, and traffic signal significant amount of conduction power loss.
lights. Oscillation may occur in the above two topologies [3]. This
The brightness illuminated by a LED is a function of its happens when the drain-to-source voltage of the MOSFET is
forward current. In order to achieve a desired luminance, sufficiently high during the saturation mode. The large
LEDs are usually connected in a series configuration parasitic inductances associated with the connection wires
operating from a similar driving current. By using a constant together with high saturated drain-to-source voltage of the
current source, the effect of forward voltage variations on the power MOSFET can drive the power MOSFET into

LEDs is eliminated. As such, brightness dimming of the LED oscillation during an increasing drain-to-source voltage [3].
string can be implemented by controlling its forward current.
There are two approaches to maintaining a constant current

~ \J\
in a LED string. The first is to use a constant-current power
supply with a stable feedback loop. The constant-current
supply can be either a linear or switch-mode power supply.
The linear current regulator is cost effective but it suffers from
poor efficiency because of the voltage drop across its linear
pass device [2]. The drawbacks of the linear regulator can be
overcome by the use of a switch-mode power supply [2].
The second approach is the constant-current sinking
configuration. There are two topologies. The first
Fig. 2. LED driver using sense resistance
Do Hung Nguyen, Jaber Hasan, and Simon S. Ang are with the Department of
Electrical Engineering, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 72701, In this paper, a built-in self-test (BIST) LED driver circuit
USA. is proposed. The current-voltage (I-V) characteristics of the
power MOSFETs are first extracted using a built-in self-test
978-1-4244-3870-9/09/$25.00 ©2009 IEEE


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circuit [4] and then these data are stored into the on-chip process is repeated for each of the power MOSFET in the
memories. With these stored I-V characteristics and a constant-current controllers.
feedback-controlled DC/DC switching converter, the power Ramp down phase
MOSFETs in the constant-current controllers can be ensured
to operate in the desired region of operation to minimize
conduction power dissipation. Generator
Fig. 3 shows the system block diagram of the BIST LED Ramp up phase
driver with a single LED string. As shown, the driver circuit
has two modes of operation: testing and operation modes,
depending on the activation of the switches, SI, SIb and S2'

Sl,b : Testing Mode
I I To Decision Circuit
I I LED S2 :Operation Mode for Operation Mode
I IString
Fig. 4. Circuit to collect I-V data of the power MOSFET
Converter L _J
Operation Mode
In this mode, the controller which uses the data collected
from the I-V characteristics of all the power MOSFETs during
the testing mode, will adjust both the duty cycle of the DC/DC
switching converter and the gate voltage of each of the power
---'" MOSFET in the constant-current controller in such a way that
all the currents flowing through the LED strings will be equal
to 10 and at the same time all the MOSFETs are operating in
the linear region to minimize their conduction power loss.
Fig. 3. System block diagram of the proposed BIST LED driver.
To demonstrate the concept, a two LED string and a five
LED string system are simulated. There are two control loops
Testing Mode:
in the driver controller. The first loop detects the changes in
1. Switch SI is switched on to initiate the testing mode.
the driving current and at the same time performs the required
2. The drain terminal of the power MOSFET is
compensations. This regulation can be implemented using a
connected to V DD=5 V, which is a sufficiently high
simple control law [1]. The second loop detects whether
voltage to ensure that the transistor is operating in its
saturation region. VD ~ VDO and selects the minimum of {VD1 , VD 2 , ••• , VDO } , as
3. The gate voltage is ramped up from zero, during this shown in Fig. 5, to adjust the duty cycle of the switched mode
process the power MOSFET is kept in the saturation DC/DC converter in such a way that a minimum V D is ensured
region. When the gate voltage reach VGS=VGSa at for all the power MOSFETs for them to operate in the linear
region to minimize conduction power loss. To achieve this, a
1D -- 10 -- VCOM _
decision circuit for a two-LED string circuit shown in Fig. 6 is
R SENSE R SENSE used to select the lower limit of this voltage to ensure that the
the comparator will generate a signal to tum off the LED strings are all functional. Drain voltages of power
voltage ramp. MOSFETs are first fed into the comparators. The acquired
4. At this time, SIbis switched on and the drain voltage drain voltages are first amplified to facilitate a more accurate
of the power MOSFET is ramped down until the comparison since their differences may be small. The outputs
drain current starts to decrease to an amount equal to of these comparators are fed into logic circuits to generate
M = 5%10 (by setting VCOM = O.95VREF ). This control signals {SW o, SW I, SW 2} to switch on only one of the
appropriate switches at any time.
operating point is defined as "the saturation edge
voltage" , V DO , of the power MOSFET. V DO To control duty cycle
5. This information V DO is stored into on-chip memory. r--- ...I...- ----.of DCIDC Converter
The circuit to collect the I-V characteristics of the power
Minimum Analog
MOSFET is shown in Fig. 4. The ramp up phase is
corresponding to the switching on of the switch SI while the
Voltage Selector
ramping down phase is corresponding to the switching on of
Fig. 5. Minimum analog voltage selector operation.
the switch SIb' The drain voltage at the edge of saturation is
detected with the presence of the RSENSE, ignoring the small
amount of voltage dropped across this sense resistor [5]. This


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Amplification and
Fig. 10 shows the SPICE simulation to illustrate the
Comparation operation in the testing mode. The ramp up phase as indicated
Voo SW o

=D- in the plot is to determine the saturation current and its
corresponding saturated drain-to-source voltage. After this,
VOl SW I the testing mode goes into the ramp down phase to determine
the saturation edge voltage VDO by reducing to 95% of its
V0 2 SW 2 saturation current. As shown, the saturated drain-to-source
voltage drops to its saturation edge voltage VDO during this
V M1N transition. In these simulations, the sign of the current
flowing through the sense resistor is defined as negative as the
drain current flows into drain of the power MOSFETs. The
Fig. 6. Block diagram of the minimum voltage selector.
entire testing mode takes only 10 us,
Fig. 7 shows the operation mode BIST LED driver circuit Fig. 11 shows the operation mode of the BIST LED driver.
with two LED strings. As shown, the minimum analog A disturbance pulse of 2 V is added to one of LED strings at
voltage selector feeds the information to change the duty cycle 20 us, As shown, a positive disturbance causes the drain
of the DC/DC converter according to a control law. Unlike voltage of the power MOSFET to reduce as shown in the
[1], the duty cycle of the DC/DC converter is directly middle plot. As such, the decision circuit selects this voltage
controlled by sensing the drain terminal at each of the power to control the DC/DC converter output. The output of the
MOSFET in the constant-current controller. As such, a more DC/DC converter decreases to ensure that the power
precise control of the drain-to-source voltage of the power MOSFET is operating in its linear region to minimize
MOSFET is achieved. Since the duty cycle of the pulse-width conduction power loss. At the same time, currents flowing
modulator (PWM) is controlled using two separate control through the LED strings are maintained at about 94.8% of the
loops, the stability of the system is improved. specified 350 rnA. As shown in Fig. 11, for a 2 V disturbance
step with a rise time of 2 JlS, the transient responses of LED
- - - Switch
Mode current and DC/DC converter output did not reveal any sign
DC/DC LED t LED t of oscillation.
Selector Converter
To control duty
VDO cycle of DC/DC

Fig. 7. Operation mode circuit


The power MOSFET SPICE model used in this simulation 3.'nl1l
~"" -'"
« • . . • • . . . •_ . . .

'" _ •.• _ _ ..

.... ~
"(",,r .•tel)
is a 2N7002 n-channel MOSFET [6]. These power MOSFETs

are being chosen since they are being used in a practical Fig. 8. Input and output signals with the ADC feeds into a DAC.
ML4876 LCD Backlight Controller ICs. The SPICE model for
the LED is modified from [7] for a high current operation at
350 rnA. The 8 bits ADC and DAC used in the simulation are
adapted from [8] for a 5 V supply system. Fig. 8 shows the
input and output signals with the output of the ADC fed into
the input of the DAC. The ADC is an 8-stage pipeline
architecture using a sample and hold circuit. A 5 V reference
voltage is used which corresponds to a 19.53 mV resolution.
The simulation result shows an acceptable integral
nonlinearity (INL) for this application even though the two
end points have better resolutions than the middle input range.

II '511S taR t5e\

; WiU"Ulu:r_) '1_1:') "'I'.':') ••,..... :••
Fig. 9 illustrates the functionality of the simulated analog HtIf

Fig. 9. Minimum analog voltage selector operation. V-Selector is the

minimum voltage selector. As can be seen, with the desired output.
saturation edge voltage VDO, and the two drain-to-source
voltages of VD 1 and VD2 , the output V_Selector (bolded plot)
is the minimum of these voltages.


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The concept of employing built-in self-test to determine the

current-voltage characteristics of power MOSFETs in the
constant-current controllers of a LED driver is demonstrated.
-..... =ltl1l1
The acquired current-voltage characteristics are used to ensure
that the power MOSFETs in the constant-current regulators

~--~-~ operate in the linear region of operation to minimize

conduction power dissipation. Stability of the BIST LED
driver is enhanced with a separate control of the constant-
;>'(ttil._1f1l current controller and the output voltage of the DC/DC
Fig. 10. Simulated plots: (top) current flowing through the power converter. Simulations verified that the proposed BIST LED
MOSFET, (bottom) drain-to-source voltage across the power MOSFET driver was able to select the minimum drain voltage to control
during the testing mode. the duty cycle, and hence, to achieve a minimized conduction
power loss. At a 350 rnA forward current, a maximum power
efficiency of 95.6% can be attained for a 5-LED string BIST
driver. This BIST LED driver offers a much more flexible and
practical implementation due to the fact that there is no need
to match the current-voltage characteristics for each of the
power MOSFET in the constant-current controller.

[1] Yuequan Hu, Jovanovic, and M. Milan, "A Novel LED Driver with
Adaptive Drive Voltage," Applied Power Electronics Conference and
Exposition, APEC. pp. 565-571. Feb 2008.
[2] S. S. Ang and Alejandro Oliva, Power-Switching Converters, Second
Fig. 11. (Top) Disturbance voltage of +2V and -2V added to the LED
Edition CRC Press, 2005.
strings, (middle) Drain voltage at the power MOSFET, (bottom) Forward
[3] Tse-Ju Liao, and Chern-Lin Chen, "Robust LED Backlight Driver with
current flowing through one of the LED strings.
Low Output Voltage Drop and High Output Current Accuracy,"
Table 1 summarizes the performance parameters of the International Conference on Software Engineering and Technology,
proposed BIST LED driver with five LED strings compared to ICSET 2008.
the reported work of [1] and [9]. As can be seen, the designed [4] C. Stroud, P. Karunaratna, and E. Bradley, "Digital Components for
Built-in-Self-Test of Analog Circuit," ASIC Conference and Exhibit,
BIST LED driver has a maximum efficiency of 95.6% at the
1997. Proceedings, Tenth Annual IEEE International, 7-10 Sept. 1997
lowest drain voltage of the power MOSFET and yet the Page(s):47 - 51.
controller is able to deliver the desired forward current of 350 [5] T. Lopez, and R. Elferich, "Measurement Technique for the Static
mA to all the LED strings. The minimum operation efficiency Output Characterization of High-Current Power MOSFETs," IEEE
Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement, August 2007.
corresponds to when the power MOSFETs are operating at
[6] 2N7002 N-Channel enhancement mode field effect transistor spice
their saturation edge voltage, similar to those reported in [1] model:
and [9]. The DC input range for this particular five LED [7] S. Mollet, "Analyze LED characteristics with SPICE", EDN
strings BIST driver is from 11.5 V to 13.9 V. It should be Jan 18 2001.
[8] R. Jacob Baker, CMOS: Mixed Signal Circuit Design, IEEE Press
noted that the DC input range will increase as the number of
Series on Microelectronics Systems, John Wiley & SONS 2002.
LED strings increases. Obviously, the lower limit of the [9] W. Y. Leung, T. Y. Man, and M. Chan, "A High-Power-LED Driver
DC/DC converter output voltage has to be large enough to with Power-Efficient LED-Current Sensing Circuit," 34th European
supply the desired 350mA forward current to all the LED Solid-State Circuits Conference, 2008 ..

This Work [1] [9]

Maximum 95.6% 88% 92%

Minimum 86% 85% 87%
LED Current 350 rnA 350mA 350mA
DC/DC Voltage 11.5 V to 13.9 V 20 V to 30 V 2.7 V to 3.7 V
Number ofLEDs 5 10
per string


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