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20/11/2010 DC-DC Converter Basics

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DC-DC Converter Basics


A DC-to-DC c onverter is a devic e that acc epts a DC input voltage and produc es a DC output
voltage. Typically the output produc ed is at a different voltage level than the input. In addition, DC-
to-DC c onverters are used to provide noise isolation, power bus regulation, etc. This is a summary
of some of the popular DC-to-DC c onverter topolopgies:


In this c ircuit the transistor turning ON will put voltage Vin on one end of the inductor. This voltage
will tend to c ause the inductor c urrent to rise. When the transistor is OFF, the c urrent will c ontinue
flowing through the induc tor but now flowing through the diode. We initially assume that the c urrent
through the induc tor does not reach zero, thus the voltage at Vx will now be only the voltage ac ross
the conduc ting diode during the full OFF time. The average voltage at Vx will depend on the average
ON time of the transistor provided the induc tor c urrent is continuous.

Fig. 1: Buck Converter

Fig. 2: Voltage and c urrent c hanges

To analyse the voltages of this c irc uit let us c onsider the c hanges in the induc tor c urrent over one
cyc le. From the relation…/converter.shtm 1/11
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the change of c urrent satisfies

For steady state operation the c urrent at the start and end of a period T will not c hange. To get a
simple relation between voltages we assume no voltage drop ac ross transistor or diode while ON and
a perfec t switch change. Thus during the ON time Vx =Vin and in the OFF Vx =0. Thus

whic h simplifies to


and defining "duty ratio" as

the voltage relationship bec omes Vo=D Vin Sinc e the c ircuit is lossless and the input and output
powers must match on the average Vo* Io = Vin* Iin. Thus the average input and output c urrent
must satisfy Iin =D Io These relations are based on the assumption that the inductor c urrent does
not reach zero.

1.1 Transition between continuous and discontinuous

When the current in the induc tor L remains always positive then either the transistor T1 or the diode
D1 must be c onducting. For c ontinuous c onduc tion the voltage Vx is either Vin or 0. If the induc tor
current ever goes to zero then the output voltage will not be forced to either of these c onditions.
At this transition point the current just reac hes zero as seen in Figure 3. During the ON time Vin-Vout
is ac ross the inductor thus


The average c urrent which must matc h the output current satisfies…/converter.shtm 2/11
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Fig. 3: Buck Converter at Boundary

If the input voltage is c onstant the output current at the transition point satisfies


1.2 Voltage Ratio of Buck Converter (Discontinuous Mode)

As for the c ontinuous c onduc tion analysis we use the fac t that the integral of voltage ac ross the
inductor is zero over a c yc le of switc hing T. The transistor OFF time is now divided into segments of
diode c onduc tion ddT and zero c onduc tion doT. The induc tor average voltage thus gives

(Vin - Vo ) DT + (-Vo ) δ dT = 0 (4)…/converter.shtm 3/11
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Fig. 4: Buck Converter - Disc ontinuous Conduc tion


for the c ase . To resolve the value of consider the output current which is half the
peak when averaged over the c onduc tion times


Considering the c hange of current during the diode conduc tion time


Thus from (6) and (7) we c an get


using the relationship in (5)


and solving for the diode c onduc tion

(10)…/converter.shtm 4/11
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The output voltage is thus given as


defining k* = 2L/(Vin T), we c an see the effect of disc ontinuous c urrent on the voltage ratio of the

Fig. 5: Output Voltage vs Current

As seen in the figure, once the output c urrent is high enough, the voltage ratio depends only on the
duty ratio "d". At low c urrents the discontinuous operation tends to inc rease the output voltage of
the converter towards Vin.


The sc hematic in Fig. 6 shows the basic boost c onverter. This c ircuit is used when a higher output
voltage than input is required.…/converter.shtm 5/11
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Fig. 6: Boost Converter Circ uit

While the transistor is ON Vx =Vin, and the OFF state the induc tor c urrent flows through the diode
giving Vx =Vo. For this analysis it is assumed that the induc tor current always remains flowing
(continuous c onduction). The voltage ac ross the inductor is shown in Fig. 7 and the average must be
zero for the average current to remain in steady state

This c an be rearranged as

and for a lossless circ uit the power balanc e ensures

Fig. 7: Voltage and c urrent waveforms (Boost Converter)

Sinc e the duty ratio "D" is between 0 and 1 the output voltage must always be higher than the input
voltage in magnitude. The negative sign indic ates a reversal of sense of the output voltage.

3. BUCK-BOOST CONVERTER…/converter.shtm 6/11
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Fig. 8: schematic for buc k-boost converter

With c ontinuous c onduc tion for the Buck-Boost c onverter Vx =Vin when the transistor is ON and Vx
=Vo when the transistor is OFF. For zero net c urrent change over a period the average voltage
ac ross the inductor is zero

Fig. 9: Waveforms for buc k-boost converter

whic h gives the voltage ratio

and the c orresponding current

Sinc e the duty ratio "D" is between 0 and 1 the output voltage can vary between lower or higher
than the input voltage in magnitude. The negative sign indic ates a reversal of sense of the output


The voltage ratios ac hievable by the DC-DC c onverters is summarised in Fig. 10. Notice that only the
buc k converter shows a linear relationship between the control (duty ratio) and output voltage. The
buc k-boost c an reduce or inc rease the voltage ratio with unit gain for a duty ratio of 50%.…/converter.shtm 7/11
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Fig. 10: Comparison of Voltage ratio


The buc k, boost and buc k-boost c onverters all transferred energy between input and output using
the inductor, analysis is based of voltage balanc e across the induc tor. The CUK c onverter uses
capac itive energy transfer and analysis is based on current balanc e of the capac itor. The circ uit in
Fig. 11 is derived from DUALITY principle on the buck-boost c onverter.

Fig. 11: CUK Converter

If we assume that the c urrent through the inductors is essentially ripple free we can examine the
charge balanc e for the capac itor C1. For the transistor ON the c irc uit bec omes

Fig. 12: CUK "ON-STATE"…/converter.shtm 8/11
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and the c urrent in C1 is IL1. When the transistor is OFF, the diode c onducts and the c urrent in C1
bec omes IL2.

Fig. 13: CUK "OFF-STATE"

Sinc e the steady state assumes no net c apac itor voltage rise ,the net c urrent is zero

whic h implies

The inductor c urrents matc h the input and output c urrents, thus using the power conservation rule

Thus the voltage ratio is the same as the buc k-boost converter. The advantage of the CUK
converter is that the input and output induc tors c reate a smooth current at both sides of the
converter while the buck, boost and buck-boost have at least one side with pulsed c urrent.

4. Isolated DC-DC Converters

In many DC-DC applic ations, multiple outputs are required and output isolation may need to be
implemented depending on the applic ation. In addition, input to output isolation may be required to
meet saftey standards and / or provide impedanc e matc hing.

The above discussed DC-DC topologies c an be adapted to provide isolation between input and

4.1 Flyback Converter

The flybac k c onverter c an be developed as an extension of the Buck-Boost c onverter. Fig 14a shows
tha basic converter; Fig 14b replaces the induc tor by a transformer. The buck-boost c onverter works
by storing energy in the induc tor during the ON phase and releasing it to the output during the OFF
phase. With the transformer the energy storage is in the magnetisation of the transformer core. To
inc rease the stored energy a gapped core is often used.

In Fig 14c the isolated output is c larified by removal of the c ommon referenc e of the input and
output c irc uits.…/converter.shtm 9/11
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Fig. 14(a): Buc k-Boost Converter

Fig. 14(b): Replac ing induc tor by transformer

Fig. 14(c ): Flybac k converter re-c onfigured

4.2 Forward Converter

The concept behind the foward converter is that of the ideal transformer c onverting the input AC
voltage to an isolated secondary output voltage. For the c ircuit in Fig. 15, when the transistor is ON,
Vin appears across the primary and then generates

The diode D1 on the sec ondary ensures that only positive voltages are applied to the output circ uit
while D2 provides a c irc ulating path for induc tor current if the transformer voltage is zero or
negative.…/converter.shtm 10/11
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Fig. 15: Forward Converter

The problem with the operation of the c ircuit in Fig 15 is that only positive voltage is applied across
the core, thus flux c an only inc rease with the applic ation of the supply. The flux will inc rease until
the core saturates when the magnetising c urrent increases significantly and c ircuit failure oc c urs.
The transformer can only sustain operation when there is no signific ant DC c omponent to the input
voltage. While the switch is ON there is positive voltage ac ross the c ore and the flux inc reases.
When the switch turns OFF we need to supply negative voltage to rset the c ore flux. The c ircuit in
Fig. 16 shows a tertiary winding with a diode c onnection to permit reverse current. Note that the
"dot" c onvention for the tertiary winding is opposite those of the other windings. When the switch
turns OFF c urrent was flowing in a "dot" terminal. The c ore inductance ac t to continue c urrent in a
dotted terminal, thus

Fig. 16: Forward c onverter with tertiary winding

For further reading:

[1] "Power Electronic s: Converters, Applic ations and Design", Mohan, Undeland and Robbins, Wiley,

Copyright © G. Ledwich 1998.

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