Optimization of LLC Resonant Converters: State-trajectory Control and PCB based Magnetics


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Virginia Tech


With the fast development of information technology (IT) industry, the demand and market volume for off-line power supplies keeps increasing, especially those for desktop, flat-panel TV, telecommunication, computer server and datacenter. An off-line power supply normally consists of electromagnetic interference (EMI) filter, power factor correction (PFC) circuit and isolated DC/DC converter. Isolated DC/DC converter occupies more than half of the volume in an off-line power supply and takes the most control responsibilities, so isolated DC/DC converter is the key aspect to improve the overall performance and reduce the total cost for off-line power supply.

On the other hand, of all the power supplies for industrial applications, those for the data center servers are the most performance driven, energy and cost conscious due to the large electricity consumption. The total power consumption of today's data centers is becoming noticeable. Moreover, with the increase in cloud computing and big data, energy use of data centers is expected to continue rapidly increasing in the near future. It is very challenging to design isolated DC/DC converters for datacenters since they are required to provide low-voltage high-current output and fast transient response.

The LLC resonant converters have been widely used as the DC-DC converter in off-line power supplies and datacenters due to its high efficiency and hold-up capability. Using LLC converters can minimize switching losses and reduce electromagnetic interference. Almost all the high-end offline power supplies employs LLC converters as the DC/DC converter.

But there are three major challenges in LLC converters. Firstly, the control characteristics of the LLC resonant converters are very complex due to the dynamics of the resonant tank. This dissertation proposes to implement a special LLC control method, state-trajectory control, with a low-cost microcontroller (MCU). And further efforts have been made to integrate all the state-trajectory control function into one MCU for high-frequency LLC converters, including start-up and short-circuit protection, fast transient response, light load efficiency improvement and SR driving.

Secondly, the transformer in power supplies for IT industry is very bulky and it is very challenging to design. By pushing switching frequency up to MHz with gallium nitride (GaN) devices, the magnetics can be integrated into printed circuit board (PCB) windings. This dissertation proposes a novel matrix transformer structure and its design methodology. On the other hand, shielding technique can be employed to suppress the CM noise for PCB winding transformer. This dissertation proposes a novel shielding technique, which not only suppresses CM noise, but also improves the efficiency. The proposed transformer design and shielding technique is applied to an 800W 400V/12V LLC converter design.

Thirdly, the LLC converters have sinusoidal current shape due to the nature of resonance, which has larger root mean square (RMS) of current, as well as larger conduction loss, compared to pulse width modulation (PWM) converter. This dissertation employs three-phase interleaved LLC converters to reduce the circulating energy by inter-connecting the three phases in certain way, and proposed a novel magnetic structure to integrated three inductors and three transformers into one magnetic core. By pushing switching frequency up to 1MHz, all the magnetics can be implemented with 4-layer PCB winding. Additional 2-layer shielding can be integrated to reduce CM noise. The proposed magnetic structure is applied to a 3kW 400V/12V LLC converter.

This dissertation solves the challenges in analysis, digital control, magnetic design and EMI in high-frequency DC/DC converters in off-line power supplies. With the academic contribution in this dissertation, GaN devices can be successfully applied to high-frequency DC/DC converters with MHz switching frequency to achieve high efficiency, high power density, simplified but high-performance digital control and automatic manufacturing. The cost will be reduced and the performance will be improved significantly.



DC/DC converter, LLC converter, high-frequency, digital control, transformer design, magnetic integration, EMI, gallium nitride