News Column

Patent Issued for Sensor-Less Operation and Detection of CCM and DCM Operation Modes in Synchronous Switching Power Converters

June 18, 2014

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews journalists, a patent by the inventor Abu Qahouq, Jaber A. (Tuscaloosa, AL), filed on January 13, 2010, was published online on June 3, 2014.

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8742744, is University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Switching power converters with synchronous rectification utilize switching between inductor's current continuous and discontinuous conduction operation modes (CCM and DCM) in order to achieve improved power efficiency across wide load and input voltage ranges. The inductor current zero crossing is sensed in order to detect the operation modes transition point between CCM and DCM. The challenges associated with this include inductor current zero crossing point sensing accuracy, noise effect near the zero crossing point and the sensing circuitry speed and power loss. Moreover, additional hardware such as ADC is required if the used controller is a fully digital controller.

"While synchronous rectification is used in switching power converters in order to improve the power efficiency at high load currents in addition to reducing the output voltage ripple, transitioning from CCM to DCM at lighter load currents is used in order to improve light load power efficiency (as explained in references [1-4] listed on page 12). DCM emulation, as known in the art, is a technique used to improve power converter efficiency at lighter load currents while achieving higher efficiency at higher load currents by employing Synchronous Rectifiers (SRs) that operate at CCM. Usually, the DCM operation at lighter load currents is combined with variable or/and reduced switching frequency operation for larger efficiency improvement. Light load efficiency is desirable because new and future power managed load technologies operates most of the time (up to 90% of the time) at light load requirements. Achieving high efficiency across wide load ranges is desirable because the new and future generation of devices is highly power managed and they operate across wide load range and operate most of the time at lighter load currents. Therefore, SR CCM and DCM operations are important for lower power consumption.

"Switching from CCM to DCM or vice versa requires sensing the zero crossing of the inductor current. This requires sensing the instantaneous inductor current information at the switching frequency speed, its accuracy and stability is sensitive to noise effect at the zero crossing transition point and it results in additional power losses by the sensing circuitries especially at higher load currents and at higher switching frequencies. The detection of the inductor current zero crossing, which determines the operation mode (CCM or DCM) and determines the SR switch turn off time in DCM, requires sensing the instantaneous current of the output inductor, where the high bandwidth sensing and detection circuitries are essential in order to detect the correct zero crossing point. Moreover, the switching noise, which is introduced at the instances of turning ON and OFF of the converter switches (where the zero crossing of inductor current occurs), makes it more difficult to detect the zero crossing time (and the non zero crossing) accurately. Furthermore, the sensing and detection circuitries power losses and sensing accuracy will impact the controller operation accuracy and impact the power conversion efficiency.

"A converter with, for example, a 100 kHz+ or 100 MHz+ switching frequency requires very high-bandwidth low-noise sensing and comparator circuitry to detect the correct inductor current zero crossing for correct DCM and CCM operations. This implies high power loss through the sensing (which may include a sensor and an amplifier) and comparator circuitries. This power loss scales with the switching frequency, and therefore, the higher the switching frequency is (in the future), the higher the sensing power loss. This also impacts the cost and size of the controller. Moreover, the operation may be more impacted by the sensing accuracy at such frequencies as mentioned earlier. This is true in the case of using analog controller, digital controller, or mixed analog-digital controller. Moreover, if the implantation utilizes a fully digital controller, an additional ADC (Analog-to-Digital Converter) may be required which means additional size, cost, and power consumption (as explained in references [6, 7] listed on page 12).

"Variable switching frequency is usually used during the DCM operation in order to gain further efficiency improvement (as explained in references [1-4] listed on page 12). Conventionally, the switching frequency is varied as a function of the load current or as a function of a variable that indicates the load current change such as the upper switch (control switch) duty cycle in a buck converter (or the voltage--mode closed-loop compensator error signal) (as explained in references [1-4] listed on page 12). Especially during the CCM operation, when the SR switch gate control signal is complementary to the control switch gate control signal, sufficient fixed or variable SR dead-time should be provided. Several SR dead-time control schemes are known in the art (as explained in references [5-7] listed on page 12). Adaptive SR dead-time control schemes are such those adjusting SR dead-time based on the input current minimization (as explained in reference [7] listed on page 12) or based on the duty cycle minimization (as explained in references [6] listed on page 12).

"A need therefore exists for power converter control systems and methods that do not require sensing the inductor current or any current in the converter which eliminates or reduces challenges associated with inductor current sensing for the zero point detection."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent: "Generally, described herein are embodiments of control schemes for sensor-less operation and detection of CCM and DCM in a switching power converter. In one aspect, embodiments of a controller are described that utilize dual control loops and do not require sensing the inductor current or any current in the converter which eliminates or reduces the challenges and problems associated with current sensing. Advantages of embodiments of methods described herein become more significant when used in ultra high switching frequency converters (as explained in references [8, 9] listed on page 12) since embodiments of the controller result in eliminating the need for high speed low-noise current sensing circuitries, when used in on-chip integrated power converters where sensing accuracy may be a more significant issue compared to on-board power converters, and in power converters With paralleled modules since embodiments of the controller eliminate sensing circuitries in each of the modules.

"In one aspect, the inductor current zero crossing point can be interpreted from a pulse-width modulation (PWM) duty cycle value (which is an available parameter in a digital controller and need no additional sensing) during DCM operation. The operation and turn off time of the SR for higher efficiency can also be interpreted from the PWM duty cycle value in DCM mode. In other words, the value of the lower switch ON time (or duty cycle D1) is made as a function of the value of the upper switch ON time (or duty cycle D) which is determined by the output voltage regulation closed loop. Therefore, the DCM mode can be implemented with no need for inductor current sensing, resulting in lower controller power consumption, higher power conversion efficiency, lower sensitivity to noise, and lower size and cost (by reducing the number of components).

"Additional advantages will be set forth in part in the description which follows or may be learned by practice. The advantages will be realized and attained by means of the elements and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims or inventive concepts. It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description are exemplary and explanatory only and are not restrictive."

For more information, see this patent: Abu Qahouq, Jaber A.. Sensor-Less Operation and Detection of CCM and DCM Operation Modes in Synchronous Switching Power Converters. U.S. Patent Number 8742744, filed January 13, 2010, and published online on June 3, 2014. Patent URL:

Keywords for this news article include: Electronics, Digital Control, University of Alabama.

Our reports deliver fact-based news of research and discoveries from around the world. Copyright 2014, NewsRx LLC

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: Electronics Newsweekly

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters