A Novel Inverse Charge Constant On-Time Control for High Performance Voltage Regulators


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Virginia Tech


One of the fundamental characteristics of the microprocessor application is its property of dynamic load change. Although idle most of the time, it wakes up in nanoseconds to support sudden workload demands, which are becoming increasingly severe in today's multi-core processors with large core count. From the standpoint of its voltage regulator (VR) design, it must have very good efficiency at light loads, while also supporting a very fast transient response. Thus, the variable-frequency constant on-time current-mode (COTCM) control scheme is widely used in the VRs, as it can automatically reduce its switching frequency during light-load conditions. But, from transient point of view, it has some limitations in response to heavy-load demands by microprocessors; this is resolved by adding different nonlinear controls in state-of-the-art control schemes. These nonlinear controls are difficult to optimize for the widely variable transient conditions in processors. Another major issue for this ripple-based COTCM control is that when the combined inductor-current ripple in multiphase operation becomes zero because of the ripple-cancellation effect, COTCM loses its controllability. Therefore, the goal of this research is to discover a new adaptive COT control scheme that is concurrently very efficient at light-load conditions and also provides a fast and optimized transient response without adding any nonlinear control; hence providing a complete solution for today's high-performance microprocessors.

Firstly, the overview of state-of-the-art COTCM control is discussed in detail, and its limitations are analyzed. Analysis shows that one issue plaguing the COTCM control is its slow transient response in both single and multiphase operation. In this context, two methods have been proposed to improve the transient performance of conventional COTCM control in single and multiphase operations. These two methods can effectively reduce the output capacitor count in system, but the ripple-cancellation and phase overlapping issues in multiphase operation are yet to be improved. This provides motivation to search for a new COT control technique that can resolve all these problems together.

Therefore, a new concept of inverse charge constant on-time (IQCOT) control is proposed to replace the conventional ripple-based COTCM; the goals are to improve noise immunity at the ripple-cancellation point without adding any external ramp into the system, and to improve the load step-up transient performance in multiphase operation by achieving natural and linear pulse overlapping without adding any nonlinear control. Additionally, the transient performance of the proposed IQCOT has been further improved by naturally increasing or decreasing the TON time during the load step-up or step-down transient period without adding any nonlinear control. As this transient property is inherent in proposed IQCOT control, it is adaptive to the widely variable transient requirements of processors, and always produces an optimized transient response.

In order to design the proposed control with high bandwidth for supporting fast transient response, an accurate high-frequency small-signal model needs to be derived. Therefore, a high-frequency model for the proposed IQCOT control is derived using the describing function method. The model is also verified by simulation and hardware results in different operating conditions. From the derived model it is found that the quality factor (Q) of one double-pole set varies with changes in duty cycle. To overcome this challenge, an auto-tuning method for Q-value control is also proposed in this dissertation.



Power Electronics, Power Management, Control, Voltage Regulator, Current Mode, Buck Converter, Transient Response Improvement, Multiphase