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International Journal of Recent Trends in Engineering, Vol 1, No. 3, May 2009

Harmonic Reduction Technique for a Cascade

Multilevel Inverter
Jagdish Kumar1, Biswarup Das2, and Pramod Agarwal2
Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee, India
Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee, India
Email: {biswafee, pramgfee}

Abstract—In this paper, an optimization technique is distortion. There are different approaches for the
proposed to compute switching angles at fundamental selection of switching techniques for the multilevel
frequency switching scheme by solving non linear inverters [4]-[9], one of the important techniques is
transcendental equations (known as selective harmonic selective harmonic elimination (SHE) method. In SHE
elimination equations), thereby eliminating certain
predominating lower order harmonics, and simultaneously,
technique, certain predominating lower order harmonics
control over magnitude of output voltage of a multilevel are eliminated whereas higher order harmonics are
inverter is achieved. As these equations are nonlinear filtered using suitable filter. Switching angles are
transcendental in nature, there may exist simple, multiple or computed by solving the SHE equations, but it is difficult
even no solution for a particular value of a modulation to solve SHE equations because of their nonlinear
index. The proposed scheme is implemented in such a way characteristics. Due to nonlinear nature, solution of these
that all possible solutions are obtained without knowing equations may be simple, multiple or even no solution for
proper initial guess at the solutions. Moreover, this a particular value of modulation index (m). A big task is
technique is suitable for higher level of multilevel inverters how to get all possible solutions when they exist using
where other existing methods fail to compute the switching
angles due to more computational burden. For the values of
simple and less computationally complex method. Once
modulation indices where multiple solutions exist, the these solutions are obtained, the solutions having least
solutions which produce least THD in the output voltage is THD are selected for switching purpose.
chosen. A significant decrease in THD is obtained by In [4], [5], iterative numerical techniques such as
considering multiple solution sets instead of taking a single Newton- Raphson method have been implemented to
set of solution. The computational results are shown solve the SHE equations producing only one solution set,
graphically for better understanding and to prove the and even for this a proper initial guess and starting value
effectiveness of the method. An experimental 11-level of m for which solutions exist are required. Some
cascade multilevel inverter is employed to validate the techniques as discussed in [6], [7], here SHE equations
computational results.
are first converted into polynomial equations, and then
Index Terms—Cascade multilevel inverter, modulation the resulting polynomial equations are solved using
index, objective function, total harmonic distortion (THD), theory of resultants of polynomials and the theory of
sequential quadratic programming (SQP). symmetrical polynomials, producing all possible
solutions. A difficulty with these approaches is that for
I. INTRODUCTION higher levels of multilevel inverter the order of
polynomials becomes very high, thereby making the
Multilevel inverters are more advanced and latest type computations of solutions of these polynomial equations
of power electronic converters that synthesize a desired very complex. Optimization techniques based on Genetic
output voltage from several levels of dc voltages as Algorithm (GA) and Particle Swarm Optimizations
inputs. By taking sufficient number of dc sources, a (PSO) have been discussed in [8], [9] for computing
nearly sinusoidal voltage waveform can be synthesized. switching angles only for 7-level multilevel inverters.
In comparison with the hard-switched two-level pulse The implementation of these approaches requires proper
width modulation inverters, multilevel inverters offer selection of certain parameters such as population size,
several advantages including their capabilities to operate mutation rate, initial weight etc. It becomes difficult to
at high voltage with lower voltage stress per switching, select these parameters for higher level multilevel
high efficiency and low electromagnetic interferences [1], inverters. To circumvent above mentioned problems, a
[3] etc. simple optimization technique based on sequential
To synthesize multilevel output ac voltage using quadratic programming (SQP) is proposed in this paper to
different levels of dc inputs, semiconductor devices must solve SHE equations which produces all possible
be switched on and off in such a way that desired solutions. The proposed technique is implemented in such
fundamental is obtained with minimum harmonic a way that all possible solutions for any number of H-
bridges connected in series are computed by using any
arbitrary initial guess with negligible computational
1 Corresponding author: Tel. No. +91-9410747840, Email Addresses:,
effort. A complete analysis for an 11-level inverter using


International Journal of Recent Trends in Engineering, Vol 1, No. 3, May 2009
five H-bridges per phase in series is presented, and it is cascade and using proper modulation scheme, a nearly
shown that for a range of m, switching angles can be sinusoidal output voltage waveform can be synthesized.
computed to produce the desired fundamental voltage The number of levels in the output phase voltage is 2s+1,
along with elimination of 5th, 7th, 11th, and 13th order where s is the number of H-bridges used per phase. Fig. 2
harmonic components. The computational results are shows an 11-level output phase voltage waveform using
validated through experiments. five H-bridges. The magnitude of the ac output phase
voltage is given by van = va1+va2+va3+va4+va5 [2].
II. CASCADE MULTILEVEL INVERTER In general, when s number of H-bridges per phase is
Cascade Multilevel Inverter (CMLI) is one of the most connected in cascade, the Fourier series expansion of the
important topology in the family of multilevel inverters. staircase output voltage waveform is given by (1).
It requires least number of components with compare to

diode-clamped and flying capacitors type multilevel 4Vdc
inverters. It has modular structure with simple switching v an ( wt ) = ∑
k =1, 3, 5 kπ
(cos (kα 1 ) + ...
strategy and occupies less space [1] - [3].
The CMLI consists of a number of H-bridge inverter + cos (kα s )) sin (kwt ) (1)
units with separate dc source for each unit and is
connected in cascade or series as shown in Fig. 1. Each
H-bridge can produce three different voltage levels: +Vdc,
0, and –Vdc by connecting the dc source to ac output side
by different combinations of four switches S1, S2, S3, and For a given fundamental peak voltage V1, it is required
S4. The ac output of each H-bridge is connected in series to determine the s switching angles such that the selection
such that the synthesized output voltage waveform is the of one angle is used to determine V1 and remaining (s-1)
sum of all of the individual H-bridge outputs. angles are used to eliminate the same number of
harmonics (generally lower order harmonics), and also all
switching angles should be in the range 0 ≤ α1 < α2 < … <
S1 S2 α5 ≤ π/2. In three-phase power system, triplen harmonics
+ are canceled out automatically in line-to-line voltages as
va v a1 Vdc _ a result only non-triplen odd harmonics are present in
S3 S4 line-to-line voltages [3], [4].
For an 11-level cascade inverter, there are five H-
bridges per phase i.e. s = 5 or five degrees of freedom are
available; one degree of freedom is used to control the
magnitude of the fundamental output voltage and the
v a2
Vdc _
remaining four degrees of freedom are generally used to
eliminate 5th, 7th, 11th, and 13th order harmonic
S3 S4
components as they dominate the total harmonic
distortion [5].
The modulation index, m is defined as the ratio of the
S1 S2 fundamental output voltage to the maximum obtainable
v a3 +
voltage (maximum voltage is obtained when all switching
Vdc _ angles are zero). From (1), the relation between m and
S3 S4 switching angles is given as:

cos(α 1 ) + cos(α 2 ) + ... + cos(α 5 ) = 5m (2)

S1 S2
v a4 +
Vdc _
S3 S4

S1 S2

v a5 +
n Vdc _
S3 S4

Figure 1. Configuration of a single-phase 11-level CMLI. Figure 2. Output voltage waveform of an 11-level CMLI.
Similarly from (1), expressions for 5th, 7th, 11th, and
By connecting the sufficient number of H-bridges in th
13 harmonic components (scaled values) are given as:

International Journal of Recent Trends in Engineering, Vol 1, No. 3, May 2009
optimization toolbox [12].
cos(5α1 ) + cos(5α 2 ) + ... + cos(5α 5 ) = h5
cos(7α 1 ) + cos(7α 2 ) + ... + cos(7α 5) = h7
By implementing the proposed method, all possible
cos(11α1 ) + cos(11α 2 ) + ... + cos(11α 5 ) = h11 solution sets for an 11-level CMLI were computed and a
complete analysis is also presented. Starting with any
cos(13α1 ) + cos(13α 2 ) + ... + cos(13α 5 ) = h13 (3)
random initial guess all solution sets were computed by
incrementing m in small steps from 0 to 1. The nature of
Equations (2) and (3) in combined form are known as the results obtained is shown (only in the range of m
SHE equations in terms of five unknowns α1, α2, α3, α4, where solutions occur) in Fig. 3. By using preliminary
and α5; provided that h5, h7, h11, h13 are identically zero. computed results from Fig. 3, complete solution sets were
For the given value of m (from 0 to1), it is required to get computed as shown in Fig. 4. It can be seen from the Fig.
complete and all possible solutions for the switching 4 that the solutions do not exist at lower and upper ends
angle (0 to π/2) when the solutions exist, with minimum of the modulation indices and also for m = [0.3800
computational burden and complexity. 0.4400], [0.7300 0.7310], and [0.7330 0.7470]. Multiple
Following objective function is formulated to solve solution sets exist for m = [0.5050 0.5800], [0.6120
SHE equations using optimization technique: 0.7000]. Even some solutions existing in very narrow
range of m = [0.3760 0.3790], [0.5470 0.5490], [0.7320]
Φ (α1 ,α 2 , α 3 ,α 4 , α 5 ) = h5 + h7 + h11 + h13 (4)
2 2 2 2 were also obtained by implementing the proposed
method, hence this demonstrate the capability of
proposed method in computing all possible solution sets.
Now, (4) is to be minimized subject to equality
constraints given by (2) and 0 ≤ α1 < α2 < … < α5 ≤ π/2.
Feasible solutions exist only where objective function (4)
is identically zero.


To solve the SHE equations using optimization
technique, a proper initial guess at the solution is
required. In general it is difficult to make initial guess i.e.
what value one should start with. In the proposed
technique no such specific initial guess is required i.e.
one can start with any random initial guess and can obtain
required information about the nature of the solutions.
Once initial knowledge about the solutions is known,
different solution sets (in case of multiple solutions) can
be obtained by using switching angles thus obtained as
initial guess. Figure 3. Solution sets computed with an arbitrary initial guess.
The algorithm for the optimization technique is as
1) Assume any random initial guess for switching
angles such that 0 ≤ α1 < α2 < … < α5 ≤ π/2.
2) Set m = 0;
3) Calculate the objective function and check
equality constraints.
4) Accept the solution if Φ is zero and equality
constraints are satisfied, else drop the solution.
5) Increment m by a very small value and repeat
step 4).
6) Plot the switching angles thus obtained as a
function of m and observe the nature of the
solutions. Different solution sets appear.
7) Take one solution set at a time and compute all
switching angles set for the whole range of m,
where solutions exist, by taking solutions
obtained in step 6 as initial guess. Figure 4. Exact solution sets for 11-level CMLI.
8) Complete other solution sets in similar way. For each of the multiple solution sets as computed
To implement the above algorithm, the sequential above, total harmonic distortion (THD) in percent is
quadratic programming (SQP) method [10], [11] has been computed according to (5), the set of switching angles
used and been implemented by using MATLAB among multiple solutions sets which produce least THD

International Journal of Recent Trends in Engineering, Vol 1, No. 3, May 2009

is selected and termed as combined solution. The THD

plots for different solution sets along with combined
solution are plotted as a function of m in Fig. 5. It can be
seen from the Fig. 5 that there is a significant decrease in
THD if one uses all possible solution sets for determining
the combined solution instead of using only one solution
set as reported in [3]-[5]. For example, if one computes
THD produced due to all possible solution sets at m =
0.5470 (at this value of modulation index, there are three
solution sets), the difference in THD for the solution sets
having highest and lowest THD is about 3%.

2 2 2
V17 + V19 + ... + V49 Figure 5. THD of different solution sets.
THD = × 100 (5)

Where V17, V19 …V49 are magnitudes of 17th, 19th, 49th

order harmonic components (non-triplen odd harmonics
only) respectively, and V1 is magnitude of fundamental
One of the key features of the proposed method is that
the switching angles can be obtained for those values of
modulation indices for which solutions of sets of
equations given by (2) and (3) do not exist, thus
producing continuous solution for the complete range of
m from 0 to 1. In this case, the objective function given
by (4) is minimized (instead of making it zero) subjected
to equality constraint given by (2) with switching angles Figure 6. Variation of objective function.
range 0 ≤ α1 < α2 < … < α5 ≤ π/2. Variation of the
objective function with m is shown in Fig. 6. The
switching angles corresponding to least THD for the
values of m where solutions exist, and corresponding to
least objective function for the values of m where
solutions do not exist are plotted in Fig. 7. The plot for
switching angles in Fig. 7 is plotted only for the range of
m where THD is below certain limits.


A prototype single-phase 11-level CMLI has been built
using 400V, 10A MOSFET as the switching device. Five
separate dc supply of 13V each is obtained using step
down transformers with rectifier unit. Pentium 80486
Figure 7. Switching angles.
processor based PC with clock frequency 2MHz with
timer I/O card is used for firing pulse generation. Firing The experimentally produced phase voltage along with
pulses to the switching devices are given through a delay its harmonic spectrum corresponding to lowest THD is
circuit which provides 5µsec delay to avoid any short shown in Fig. 8, and in Fig. 9 phase voltage with
circuit due to simultaneous conduction of devices in the corresponding harmonic spectrum for the solution having
same leg of H-bridges. highest THD is depicted. The harmonic spectrums of
In order to validate the analytical and simulated results, synthesized phase voltage show that 5th, 7th, 11th, and 13th
an 11-level single-phase output voltage at m = 0.5480 (for harmonics are almost absent as predicted analytically.
this value of m three solution sets exist) was synthesized The THD in line to line voltage as computed analytically
at fundamental frequency (f = 50Hz). The fundamental and experimentally are: 5.70% and 5.25% respectively
voltage V1 produced was 45.34V (peak) as calculated for the solution set producing least THD in the output
using (1) and (2). For each of the multiple solution set, voltage. Corresponding data for the solution set having
THD in line to line voltage was computed as per (5). highest THD are 8.28% and 7.03%. The above data show
that experimental results are in close agreement with
theoretical values. The triplen harmonics are present in
Figs. 8 and 9 due to the fact that the synthesized wave
form is a single-phase one.

International Journal of Recent Trends in Engineering, Vol 1, No. 3, May 2009

Industry Applications, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 36-44, Jan. /Feb.

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Figure 8. Phase voltage and harmonic spectrum for the solution set elimination equations for a multilevel converter”, in Proc.
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Figure 9. Phase voltage and harmonic spectrum for the solution set
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[12] MATLAB Version (R2006a).

The selective harmonic elimination method at
fundamental frequency switching scheme has been
implemented using the optimization technique that
produces all possible solution sets when they exist. In
comparison with other suggested methods, the proposed
technique has many advantages such as: it can produce all
possible solution sets for any numbers of multilevel
inverter without much computational burden, speed of
convergence is fast, it can produce continuous solutions
for the complete range of modulation index thereby
giving more flexibility in control action etc. The proposed
technique was successfully implemented for computing
the switching angles for 11-level CMLI. A complete
analysis for 11-level inverter has been presented and it is
shown that a significant amount of THD reduction can be
attained if all possible solution sets are computed.

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