Advanced Control Schemes for High-Bandwidth Multiphase Voltage Regulators


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Virginia Tech


Advances in transistor-integration technology and multi-core technology of the latest microprocessors have driven transient requirements to become more and more stringent. Rather than relying on the bulky output capacitors as energy-storage devices, increasing the control bandwidth (BW) of the multiphase voltage regulator (VR) is a more cost-effective and space-saving approach. However, it is found that the stability margin of current-mode control in high-BW design is very sensitive to operating conditions and component tolerance, depending on the performance of the current-sensing techniques, modulation schemes, and interleaving approaches. The primary objective of this dissertation is to investigate an advanced multiphase current-mode control, which provides accurate current sensing, enhances the stability margin in high-BW design, and adaptively compensates the parameter variations.

Firstly, an equivalent circuit model for generic current-mode controls using DCR current sensing is developed to analyze the impact of component tolerance in high-BW design. Then, the existing state-of-the-art auto-tuning method used to improve current-sensing accuracy is reviewed, and the deficiency of using this method in a multiphase VR is identified. After that, enlightened by the proposed model, a novel auto-tuning method is proposed. This novel method features better tuning performance, noise-insensitivity, and simpler implementation than the state-of-the-art method.

Secondly, the current state-of-the-art adaptive current-mode control based on constant-frequency PWM is reviewed, and its inability to maintain adequate stability margin in high-BW design is recognized. Therefore, a new external ramp compensation technique is proposed to keep the stability margin insensitive to the operating conditions and component tolerance, so the proposed high-BW constant-frequency control can meet the transient requirement without the presence of bulky output capacitors. The control scheme is generic and can be used in various kinds of constant-frequency controls, such as peak-current-mode, valley-current-mode, and average-current-mode configurations.

Thirdly, an interleaving technique incorporating an adaptive PLL loop is presented, which enables the variable-frequency control to push the BW higher than proposed constant-frequency control, and avoids the beat-frequency input ripple. A generic small-signal model of the PLL loop is derived to investigate the stability issue caused by the parameter variations. Then, based on the proposed model, a simple adaptive control is developed to allow the BW of the PLL loop to be anchored at the highest phase margin. The adaptive PLL structure is applicable to different types of variable-frequency control, including constant on-time control and ramp pulse modulation.

Fourthly, a hybrid interleaving structure is explored to simplify the implementation of the adaptive PLL structure in an application with more phases. It combines the adaptive PLL loop with a pulse-distribution technique to take the advantage of the high-BW design and fast transient response without adding a burden to the controller implementation.

As a conclusion, based on the proposed analytical models, effective control concepts, systematic optimization strategies, viable implementations are fully investigated for high-BW current-mode control using different modulation techniques. Moreover, all the modeling results and the system performance are verified through simulation with a practical output filter model and an advanced mixed-signal experimental platform based on the latest MHz VR design on the laptop motherboard. In consequence, the multiphase VRs in future computation systems can be scalable easier with proposed multiphase configurations, increase the system reliability with proposed adaptive loop compensation, and minimize the total system footprint of the VR with the superior transient performance.



voltage regulators, high bandwidth, fast transient, DCR current sensing, auto-tuning, adaptive control, interleaving, PLL