Design and Integration Techniques for High-Frequency PCB-Based Magnetics in Resonant Converters

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Virginia Tech


In today's industrial power converters, converter reliability is essential, and converter topologies are well-established. Without a doubt, the power electronic industry continues to seek efficient power delivery and high power density. Resonant converters, especially LLC converters, have been intensively studied and applied in DC-DC converters. One of the most demanding applications for LLC converters is data centers. To date, LLC Resonant converters, are deployed in many applications for improved efficiency, density, and reliability. With the introduction of WBG devices coupled with the soft switching feature, the switching frequency can be extended beyond Mega-Hertz. With the significant increase in operating frequency, complicated magnetic components can be broken down into a cellular structure, each with a few number of turns. They can be easily implemented using 4-6 layers of PCB windings. Moreover, integrating the cellular cores using flux cancellation can further improve the power density. The proposed integrated magnetics can be automated in the manufacturing process. The magnetic size is reduced at this frequency, and planar magnetics using PCB winding become more relevant. PCB magnetics feature multiple advantages over Litz wire. The benefits are summarized as follows: The labor-intensive manufacturing process can be automated, thus reduction of cost. There is much reduced CM noise by using the shield layer. They have parasitics with much-improved reproducibility in large quantities. PCB windings feature less leakage between transformer windings because of the flexibility of the winding interleaving and the reduced number of turns. There is better thermal management due to the increased surface-to-body ratio. The design has a low profile and high-power density. However, it is not without its own limitations. There are challenges for high frequency PCB-magnetic magnetic design for the LLC converter. Firstly, With the recently developed high frequency core material, a phenomenon referred to as the dimensional resonant is observed. The effects of dimensional resonance were discussed in the literature when using an unusually large core structure; however, it can be observed more frequently under high excitation frequency, particularly with integrated magnetics. This dissertation discusses the dimensional effects of core loss on a PCB-based magnetics structure. A case study is presented on a 3-kW 400-to-48-V LLC prototype running at 1 MHz. The converter utilizes a low-profile matrix of two integrated transformers with a rectangular and thin cross-section area for reduced core loss. Specific solutions are presented. % Secondly, The matrix transformer is suitable for an LLC converter with high output current. However, the matrix transformer also increases the core size and core losses. The core loss degrades the LLC converter's light load and peak efficiency. In this dissertation, We discuss the design process and implementation of the DC-DC stage of the power supply unit for narrow range 48 V data center bus architecture. The optimization takes into account the number of elemental transformers, number of transformer turns, switching frequency, and transformer dimensions, namely winding width and core cross-section area. The optimization process results in a nearly 99% efficient 400-to-48-V LLC with a very high-power density and low profile fully integrated on PCB. A matrix of four transformers is used to reduce the termination loss of the secondary synchronous rectifier and achieve better thermal management. The number of secondary turns is optimized to achieve the best trade-off between winding loss, core loss, and power density. Another challenge arises for magnetic integration when multiple magnetic components with different characteristics come together. For instance, in the case of a transformer and an inductor on the same PCB. The PCB transformer is designed with perfectly interleaved primary and secondary layers to utilize the full PCB layer thickness. As a rule of thumb, the transformer winding layer is designed within 1 to 2 times the skin depth. On the other hand, the inductor's winding lacks interleaving and suffers from high MMF stress on layers. This makes the inductor prone to high eddy currents and eddy loss. Furthermore, this dissertation addresses the challenges associated with the high winding and core loss in the Integrated Transformer-Inductor (ITL). To overcome these challenges, we propose an improved winding design of the ITL by utilizing idle shielding layers for inductor integration within the matrix transformer. This method offers full printed circuit board (PCB) utilization, where all layers are consumed as winding, resulting in a significant reduction in the winding loss of the ITL. Moreover, we propose an improved core structure of the ITL that offers better flux distribution of the leakage flux within the magnetic core. This method reduces the core loss by more than 50% compared to the conventional core structure. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our proposed concepts by presenting the design of the ITL used in a high-efficiency, high-power-density 3-kW 400-to-48-V LLC module. The proposed converter achieves a peak efficiency of 98.7% and a power density of 1500 W/in3. This dissertation presents the concept of matrix inductors to solve such problems. A matrix of four resonant inductors is also designed to reduce the proximity effect between inductor windings and reduce inductor PCB winding loss. The matrix inductor provides a solution for high thermal stress in PCB-based inductors and reduces the inter-winding capacitance between inductor layers. This dissertation solves the challenges in magnetic design in high-frequency DC-DC converters in offline power supplies and data centers. This includes the transformer and inductor of the LLC converter. With the academic contribution in this dissertation, Wide-bandgap devices WBG can be successfully utilized in high-frequency DC-DC converters with Mega-Hertz switching frequency to achieve high efficiency, high power density, and automated manufacturing. The cost will be reduced, and the performance will be improved significantly.



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