A Constant ON-Time 3-Level Buck Converter for Low Power Applications

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Virginia Tech

Smart cameras operate mostly in sleep mode, which is light load for power supplies. Typical buck converter applications have low efficiency under the light load condition, primarily from their power stage and control being optimized for heavy load. The battery life of a smart camera can be extended through improvement of the light load efficiency of the buck converter. This thesis research investigated the first stage converter of a car black box to provide power to a microprocessor, camera, and several other peripherals. The input voltage of the converter is 12 V, and the output voltage is 5 V with the load range being 20 mA (100 mW) to 1000 mA (5000 mW). The primary design objective of the converter is to improve light load efficiency.

A 3-level buck converter and its control scheme proposed by Reusch were adopted for the converter in this thesis. A 3-level buck converter has two more MOSFETs and one more capacitor than a synchronous buck converter. Q1 and Q2 are considered the top MOSFETs, while Q3 and Q4 are the synchronous ones. The extra capacitor is used as a second power source to supply the load, which is connected between the source of Q1 and the drain of Q2 and the source of Q3 and the drain of Q4. The methods considered to improve light load efficiency are: PFM (pulse frequency modulation) control scheme with DCM (discontinuous conduction mode) and use of Schottky diodes in lieu of the synchronous MOSFETs, Q3 and Q4. The 3-level buck converter operates in CCM for heavy load above 330 mA and DCM for light load below 330 mA. The first method uses a COT (constant on-time) valley current mode controller that has a built in inductor current zero-crossing detector. COT is used to implement PFM, while the zero-crossing detector allows for DCM. The increase in efficiency comes from reducing the switching frequency as the load decreases by minimizing switching and gate driving loss. The second method uses an external current sense amplifier and a comparator to detect when to shut down the gate drivers for Q3 and Q4. Schottky diodes in parallel with Q3 and Q4 carry the load current when the MOSFETs are off. This increases the efficiency through a reduction in switching loss, gate driving loss, and gate driver power consumption.

The proposed converter is prototyped using discrete components. LTC3833 is used as the COT valley current mode controller, which is the center of the control scheme. The efficiency of the 3-level buck converter was measured and ranges from 82% to 95% at 100 mW and 5000 mW, respectively. The transient response of the converter shows no overshoot due to a 500 mA load step up or down, and the output voltage ripple is 30 mV. The majority of the loss comes from the external components, which include a D FF (D flip-flop), AND gate, OR gate, current sense chip, comparator, and four gate drivers. The proposed converter was compared to two off-the-shelf synchronous buck converters. The proposed converter has good efficiency and performance when compared to the other converters, despite the fact that the converter is realized using discrete components.

3-Level Buck Converter, Constant ON-Time Control (COT), Light-load efficiency, Pulse Frequency Modulation, Low Power Applications