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Analysis on Supercapacitor Assisted Low Dropout (SCALDO) Regulators

State-of-the-art electronic systems employ three fundamental techniques for DC-DC converters: (a) switch-mode power supplies (SMPS); (b) linear power supplies; (c) switched capacitor (charge pump) converters. In practical systems, these three techniques are mixed to provide a complex, but elegant, overall solution, with energy efficiency, effective PCB footprint, noise and transient performance to suit different electronic circuit blocks. Switching regulators have relatively high end-to-end efficiency, in the range of 70 to 93%, but can have issues with output noise and EMI/RFI emissions. Switched capacitor converters use a set of capacitors for energy storage and conversion. In general, linear regulators have low efficiencies in the range 30 to 60%. However, they have outstanding output characteristics such as low noise, excellent transient response to load current fluctuations, design simplicity and low cost design which are far superior to SMPS. Given the complex situation in switch-mode converters, low dropout (LDO) regulators were introduced to address the equirements of noise-sensitive and fast transient loads in portable devices. A typical commercial off-the-shelf LDO has its input voltage slightly higher than the desired regulated output for optimal efficiency. The approximate efficiency of a linear regulator, if the power consumed by the control circuits is negligible, can be expressed by the ratio of Vo/Vin. A very low frequency supercapacitor circulation technique can be combined with commercial low dropout regulator ICs to significantly increase the end-to-end efficiency by a multiplication factor in the range of 1.33 to 3, compared to the efficiency of a linear regulator circuit with the same input-output voltages. In this patented supercapacitor-assisted low dropout (SCALDO) regulator technique developed by a research team at the University of Waikato, supercapacitors are used as lossless voltage droppers, and the energy reuse occurs at very low frequencies in the range of less than ten hertz, eliminating RFI/EMI concerns. This SCALDO technique opens up a new approach to design step-down, DC-DC converters suitable for processor power supplies with very high end-to-end efficiency which is closer to the efficiencies of practical switching regulators, while maintaining the superior output specifications of a linear design. Furthermore, it is important to emphasize that the SCALDO technique is not a variation of well-known switched capacitor DC-DC converters. In this thesis, the basic SCALDO concept is further developed to achieve generalised topologies, with the relevant theory that can be applied to a converter with any input-output step-down voltage combination. For these generalised topologies, some important design parameters, such as the number of supercapacitors, switching matrix details and efficiency improvement factors, are derived to form the basis of designing SCALDO regulators. With the availability of commercial LDO ICs with output current ratings up to 10 A, and thin-prole supercapacitors with DC voltage ratings from 2.3 to 5.5 V, several practically useful, medium-current SCALDO prototypes: 12V-to-5V, 5V-to-2V, 5.5V-to-3.3V have been developed. Experimental studies were carried out on these SCALDO prototypes to quantify performance in terms of line regulation, load regulation, efficiency and transient response. In order to accurately predict the performance and associated waveforms of the individual phases (charge, discharge and transition) of the SCALDO regulator, Laplace transform-based theory for supercapacitor circulation is developed, and analytical predictions are compared with experimental measurements for a 12V-to-5V prototype. The analytical results tallied well with the practical waveforms observed in a 12V-to-5V converter, indicating that the SCALDO technique can be generalized to other versatile configurations, and confirming that the simplified assumptions used to describe the circuit elements are reasonable and justifiable. After analysing the performance of several SCALDO prototypes, some practical issues in designing SCALDO regulators have been identified. These relate to power losses and implications for future development of the SCALDO design.
Type of thesis
Gunawardane, K. K. (2014). Analysis on Supercapacitor Assisted Low Dropout (SCALDO) Regulators (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8769
University of Waikato
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