This design note shows how adding an emitter-follower output stage to a low-dropout regulator (LDO) increases the available output current without boosting the regulator's low quiescent current (IQ). The MAX1616 linear regulator is featured in the design.
A similar version of this article appeared in the June 26, 2000 issue of Electronic Design.
On the other hand, linear regulators with low quiescent current may not have sufficient load-current capability to supply the DRAM during active read or write operations. The design solution in this situation is to add an emitter-follower output stage to a low-current high-voltage low-dropout (LDO) regulator (Figure 1). Adding the transistor as shown, between the LDO output and load, increases the available output current without boosting the regulator's low (15µA) quiescent current.
Though not an issue for the application in question (regulating a 12V battery down to 5V), the dropout voltage (minimum-allowed VIN minus VOUT) for this circuit equals that of the regulator IC (350mV maximum) plus the transistor's base-emitter drop of approximately 0.7V. The pass element in IC1 is a pnp transistor, whose saturation at low dropout voltage increases the quiescent current for that condition. To maintain low quiescent current, therefore, the regulator headroom should be kept well above 1V.
Figure 1. An external emitter-follower increases the output current while maintaining the low quiescent current of this LDO regulator.