Switch Mode Power Supply Current Sensing—Part 1: The Basics

Current-mode control is widely used for switching mode power supplies due to its high reliability, simple loop compensation design, and simple and reliable load sharing capability. The current sense signal is an essential part of a current-mode switch mode power supply design; it is used to regulate the output and also provides overcurrent protection. Figure 1 shows the current sensing circuit for an LTC3855 synchronous switching mode step-down power supply. The LTC3855 is a current-mode control device with cycle-by-cycle current limiting. The sense resistor RS monitors the current.

Figure 1. The switch mode power supply current sense resistor (RS).

Figure 2 shows a scope image of the inductor current for two cases: in one case, with a load that the inductor current is capable of driving (red line), and in the second case, where the output short circuited (purple line).

Figure 2. LTC3855 current limit with foldback example, as seen on a 1.5 V/15 A rail.

Initially, the peak inductor current is set by the inductor value selected, the power switch ON time, the input and output voltages of the circuit, and the load current (signified by “1” on the plot). When the short circuit is applied, the inductor current quickly ramps upward until it hits the current limit at the point where RS × IINDUCTOR (IL) equals the maximum current sense voltage—protecting both the device and downstream circuitry (signified by “2” on the plot). After that, the built-in current foldback limit (number “3” on the plot) further reduces the inductor current to minimize thermal stress.

Current sensing also serves other purposes. It allows accurate current sharing in a multiphase power supply design. With lightly loaded power designs, it can be used to increase efficiency by preventing reverse current flow (reverse currents are currents that flow the opposite way through the inductor, from output to input, which may be undesirable or even destructive in some applications). In addition, when a multiphase application is lightly loaded, current sensing can be used to reduce the number of phases needed, which increases circuit efficiency. For loads that require a current source, current sensing can turn the power supply into a constant current source for applications such as LED driving, battery charging, and driving lasers.

In Part 2 of this series, “Where to Place the Current Sense Resistor,” we cover in which leg of the circuit to place the current sense resistor and how it affects operation.

Software

LTspice

LTspice® software is a powerful, fast, and free simulation tool, schematic capture, and waveform viewer with enhancements and models for improving the simulation of switching regulators.

LTpowerCAD

The LTpowerCAD design tool is a complete power supply design tool program that can significantly ease the tasks of power supply design. It guides users to a solution, selects power stage components, provides detailed power efficiency, shows quick loop Bode plot stability and load transient analysis, and can export a final design to LTspice for simulation.

henry-jindong-zhang

Henry (Jindong) Zhang

Henry Zhang is an applications engineering manager for power products at Linear Technology. He began his Linear career as an applications engineer in 2001. He became an applications section leader in 2004 and applications engineering manager for power products in 2008. His group supports wide range of products and applications, from small monolithic regulators and power modules, to large kW-level high power, high voltage converters. In addition to supporting power applications and new product developments, his group also develops the LTpowerCAD supply design tool. Henry has broad interests in power management solutions and analog circuits. He has over twenty technical articles, seminars and videos published and 8 power supply patents granted or pending.

Henry graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia with his masters and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering.

mike-shriver

Mike Shriver

Mike Shriver is a Senior Applications Engineer at Analog Devices. He has over 15 years’ experience at Linear Technology, now ADI, working in power applications. Prior to Linear Technology, he worked for Artesyn Technologies and Best Power Technology.

Kevin Scott

Kevin Scott

Kevin Scottは、アナログ・デバイセズのパワー製品グループでプロダクト・マーケティング・マネージャを務めています。昇圧、昇降圧、絶縁型コンバータに加え、LEDドライバとリニア・レギュレータを担当しています。以前は、シニア・ストラテジック・マーケティング・エンジニアとして、技術トレーニング用コンテンツの作成、セールス・エンジニアのトレーニング、各種製品の技術的な優位性を紹介するウェブサイト向け記事の執筆を行っていました。半導体業界で26年間にわたり、アプリケーション、ビジネス・マネージメント、マーケティングの業務に携わってきました。

1987年にスタンフォード大学で電気工学の学士号を取得。短期間NFLに所属した後、技術者としてのキャリアをスタートさせました。