|| This is a standardized size for PCB mounted power
supplies. Many of these modules also have the same pin-out so that they are
interchangeable. They come in a wide variety of input and output voltages and
powers, are usually fully isolated, and are highly efficient. I suppose that
the term brick comes from the first engineer that dropped a power supply
on his toe. The brick power supply dimensions are as follows:
4.6 x 2.4 x 0.5 (116.8 x 61.0 x 12.7) mm
Half brick 2.3 x 2.4 x 0.35
Quarter brick 2.3 x 1.45 x 0.35
|| In a multiple output power supply it is sometimes awkward
to have every output voltage spot-on. Power supply centering refers to
this. This is often due to things like needing a full integer wind on a
transformer. So, although the voltage might be well regulated, the nominal
voltage can be slightly off.
||The range of current over which the load regulation is
within specified limits is called compliance current. There can be
compliance current problems at both high or low currents.
|| The range of output voltage (in a constant current power
supply) over which the load regulation is within certain limits is called the
|| A sometimes used fail-safe mechanism which shorts the
outputs of the power supply under failure conditions. Crowbar protection
can also refer to a circuit which has its sole purpose to cause a fuse to blow
by subjecting it to high current.
|Current limit techniques.
|| One of the advantages of switching power supplies is that
they can sense if they are overloaded and do something about it (other than
catching on fire or blowing a fuse). When an over current situation is detected
there are two possibilities. Some power supplies reduce the voltage so the
current stays within safe limits. This is essential for some applications such
as battery chargers, heating or electrochemical processing where you don't want
to stop the process when the current limit is reached. However, it might be
dangerous for cases where you are normally operating below the current limit
and over current is always due to a fault. So for the second case the power
supply is designed to pulse when it detects an over current situation. Thus it
is self-resetting but won't supply a lot of current to a dead short. For
obvious reasons this is called "hiccup mode" current limiting.
|| A simple DC/DC converter which typically uses a
self-resonant square wave generator without a voltage or current feedback loop
is a DC Transformer.
|Direct off line
|| A switching power supply that is isolated by the high
frequency transformer and has no 60 Hz transformer at the front end is called
direct off line.
|| The fundamental limit of a power supply is how hot they
can get. A 100 watt power supply can't run at 1000 watts just because something
in it would get too hot. Therefore if you are running a power supply in a hot
environment you will have to cut back its rated power to compensate for the
fact that it can't get rid of its heat as efficiently. A derating curve or
specification tells you what this tradeoff is.
|| In a power supply,Drift is a failure of the
feedback loop to control the voltage or current because the gain of the
feedback loop is changing for some reason, for example the sense resistor is
changing resistance due to heating.
|| When the current flowing through an inductor is cut off
the energy stored in the magnetic field is released by a sudden reversal of the
terminal voltage. If a diode is in place to conduct the stored energy somewhere
useful, the diode is called a flyback diode. This only requires one
winding on the inductor, so the inductor would be called a flyback
transformer. This arrangement has the interesting property of transferring
energy to the secondary side of the power supply only when the primary switch
is off. Such switchmode power supplies are called flyback
|| A forward converter is a switching power supply
circuit that transfers the energy from the primary to the secondary while the
switching element is "on," which is the opposite of a flyback converter.
|| When a power supply is first turned on there are a lot of
capacitors and inductors that are empty. Inrush current is the transient
amount of current that it takes to charge these capacitors and inductors and
thus start up the power supply.
||Isolation is the electrical separation between the
input and the output. Some power supplies, such as many DC/DC converters have
common grounds, and therefore are not isolated. Most AC/DC and AC/AC converters
are isolated for safety reasons. The measure of isolation is resistance, and is
measured with an ohm meter. In some instances you might also want to know the
isolation capacitance between the input and output to make sure the RF
isolation is low.
||Say you have one part of your circuit that you need to
float above ground. Or say your equipment has a possibility to feed high
voltage back into the power supply. You want to know what the maximum isolation
voltage is. This is usually defined as the voltage between the input and the
output (or chassis) of a power supply that would cause it to either fail, or to
conduct a certain number of microamps of DC current, and is often in the
|| An isolated power supply will still "leak" a tiny amount
of current, either AC or DC to the chassis, or to ground, from the input or the
output. This is critical in cases where a human can be part of the circuit,
such as in an operating room, so leakage current is limited to a low value in
medical grade power supplies.
|| Line reguation means that the power supply will provide a
constant voltage as the input voltage varies. Inexpensive transformer based
wall mount power supplies, for example, do not have good line regulation, and
will change the output proportional to the input voltage. Switching power
supplies, by their very nature, have very good line regulation. This has a
plumbing analogy. When you are taking a shower your spousal unit usually takes
the opportunity to flush the toilet. This causes the cold water pressure to
drop, and thus the flow of cold water in your carefully designed mix drops and
you are scalded. Then, as if to compensate, the sink faucet is turned on full
hot and an analogous phenomenon causes you to freeze. We power supply designers
would say that the line regulation of your shower head is not adequate.
||Load regulation means that the power supply will provide a
constant voltage as the current drawn from the load goes up and down. This has
a plumbing analogy. During the Super Bowl, when a lot of beverages are being
consumed in front of the TV and no one wants to miss the action, city water
pressure is at a constant. During the commercials, when the football fans are
at liberty to engage in plumbing activities, the city water pressure drops
precipitously, sometimes triggering water-failure alarms in industry. We power
supply designers would say that the city water pressure does not have good load
regulation. Again, inexpensive transformer-based wall mount power supplies are
designed to give a certain voltage at a certain current draw. When the current
changes voltage changes, how much depends on the design of the transformer.
Switching supplies are fully regulated, so have good load regulation, as do
linear regulated supplies.
|| Mean time before failure. This is a statistical
calculation, not a measurement. All the parts in a device have mean time
between failure ratings. These are mathematically combined to get an MTBF
number, often dependent on the stress put on them. Even the via holes in a
circuit board have MTBF ratings. As you might think, as a rule of thumb, the
more parts the less the MTBF. However, sometimes you can replace one part with
a few more reliable parts, or spread the stress of one part over several parts
and increase the MTBF. The human body has a trillion cells and each cell has an
MTBF of 6 years. No wonder I don't feel so good. By the way, PowerStream
engineers are well equipped to calculate MTBF using MIL-HDBK-217E.
|Parallel Forced Sharing
|| Two switchmode power supplies with feedback loops will do
strange and sometimes unexpected things when connected in parallel. Often one
supply will carry the entire load until its current limit is reached. If it
starts hiccuping before the other one comes to its rescue the two supplies may
start a chaotic oscillation. The answer to this problem is to use power
supplies that are made to communicate with each other so they can collaborate,
a switchmode power supply feature know as parallel forced sharing.
Sometimes this takes the form of a master-slave operation, and sometimes they
just force each other to put out the same current.
|| Power factor correction. This originally referred to the
fact that an inductive load, where the current and the voltage are not totally
in phase, draws instantaneous power of the instantaneous current times the
instantaneous voltage. However, it has been extended to mean any distortion or
phase shift in the power drawn from the mains. An AC power supply must use some
method to control the power coming from the mains. Usually this is done with
some kind of pulsing. There are also components in the power supply that cannot
draw current until the voltage gets high enough, or draw current only at the
peak of the sine wave. Drawing power from different parts of the sine wave can
distort what is left for everybody else to use and the utilities have to
compensate for it. In Europe, where the utilities are mostly owned by the
government the governments are tempted to use the power of the law to benefit
their industries, and have required an increasingly onerous set of PFC values
over the years, now requiring PFC for power supplies as low as 75 watts. In the
USA the utilities are at the mercy of their customers and PFC requirements have
lagged behind Europe.
|| When current is flowing the voltage at the end of a cable
is different from the voltage at the beginning because of the resistance of the
wire. The higher the current the higher this loss. Since switching power
supplies contain feedback loops to keep the voltage constant it is feasible to
sense the voltage at the other end of the cable with wires that do not conduct
current, thus regulating the voltage were it is used, rather than where it is
||Radio frequency interference, see EMI.
|| Ripple is the amount of fluctuation left over from the
rectification of AC to DC. It is measured in volts peak to peak or volts RMS.
Switching power supplies have high frequency ripple, linear power supplies have
low frequency ripple (some multiple of 60 Hz).
||This is defined as root mean squared. RMS is a
clever way to measure average voltage when the voltage is AC. After all, the
time average of a 60 Hz sine wave is zero, since half of the time it is
positive and half the time it is negative. So what they do is square the
signal, which makes everything positive, average this, and then take the square
root to get it back to volts instead of volts squared.
|| Sometimes the equipment that you are powering from the
power supply has so much inrush current that it will shut down the power
supply, or blow a fuse, or cause other damage. In this case you want to use a
power supply that has a soft start to gradually increase the output voltage to
keep the "out rush" current within a reasonable range.
||One of the many efficiency problems with power supplies is
that diodes have a forward voltage drop. This means that when they are
conducting there is about 0.6 volts difference between one side of the diode to
the other. Multiply this voltage drop by the current and you have the power
that is lost forever to heat in the diode. This is a particularly troublesome
thorn-in-the-flesh when low voltage, high current power supplies are designed,
for example 2.5 or 3.3 volt supplies for computers. One way to eliminate this
is to use a back-to-back set of MOSFETs that are turned on and off by an active
circuit that detects the zero crossings and turns on the FET at just the right
time. Since the on-resistance of MOSFETs can be very low, you can thus have
very high efficiency rectification. This is known as synchronous
rectification. Impressive, no? There is an engineering solution to
everything except cash flow!
|| Thermal protection means the power supply studies its own
temperature, and when it feels that is has had enough, shuts down in time to
prevent permanent damage.