StepUp DCDC Converter Calibration and Adjustment Using a Digital Potentiometer
Keywords:power
/ARTICLES/2003JUN/A/2003JUN28_AMD_POW_AN5.PDF 
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Introduction
The purpose of this application note is to show an example of how a digital potentiometer can be used in the
feedback loop of a stepup DCDC converter to provide calibration and/or adjustment of the output voltage.
The example circuit uses a MAX5025 stepup DCDC converter (capable of generating up to 36V, 120mW
max) in conjunction with a DS1845, 256 position, NV digital potentiometer. For this example, the desired
output voltage is 32V, which is generated from an input supply of 5V. The output voltage can be adjusted in
35mV increments (near 32V) and span a range wide enough to account for resistance, potentiometer and DC
DC converter tolerances (27.6V to 36.7V).
While the intent of this application note is to show an example of a stepup DCDC converter, the ideas
presented here can be applied to generate other combinations of output voltages, step sizes, ranges, and power
requirements to meet your particular applications' needs. An additional application note is available (AN225)
that shows an example of using a digital potentiometer with a stepdown DCDC converter. A link to AN225
appears at the end of this document.
Fixed Stepup DCDC Converter
The typical circuit from the MAX5025 data sheet is shown in Figure 1. In this circuit, the output voltage,
VOUT, is determined by the ratio of fixed resistors R1 and R2. These two resistors form a voltage divider that
feeds a fraction of the output voltage back to the FB pin, creating a closedloop system. The system is at
equilibrium when VOUT is generating the desired output voltage and the R1 and R2 voltage divider feeds back
1.25V to the FB pin. When VOUT is lower than the desired output voltage (and hence the voltage fed back to
FB is below 1.25V), the DCDC converter IC attempts to deliver additional power until FB reaches 1.25V.
Equation 1 is directly from the MAX5025 data sheet. Solving Equation 1 for VOUT yields Equation 2 where
VREF, the FB Set Point, is 1.25V for the MAX5025.
ww
x
v
gg
h
f
= 1
V
V
R2R1
REF
OUT
Equation 1
w
x
v
g
h
f
+= 1
R2
R1
VV REFOUT Equation 2
Application Note 226
StepUp DCDC Converter Calibration and
Adjustment Using a Digital Potentiometer
www.maximic.com
AN226
2 of 8
Figure 1. Fixed StepUp DCDC Converter Circuit
Digital Potentiometer Considerations
One possible way of adding a digital potentiometer into the feedback loop is shown in Figure 2. However,
before selecting a digital potentiometer, a number of considerations must be given some thought. The
following list of questions address important design considerations and assist in the device selection process.
1. Is a 3V or 5V supply available for the potentiometer?
The majority of digital potentiometers available require 3V or 5V to operate. Likewise, the voltage needs
to be available before VOUT can be generated. Since the example circuit has a 5V input supply, this is not
a concern here but if VIN were larger, this would be a major concern.
2. Will the system only be calibrated once? Or monitored/controlled closed loop? How will the digital
potentiometer be controlled? Using a microcontroller? Pushbutton?
The answer to these questions will help select a specific digital potentiometer. For example, if the system
is going to be calibrated once, say during production testing, then a NV (NV) potentiometer is needed to
save the calibrated wiper position. Likewise, it is also important to consider how the potentiometer will be
programmed. Will it be programmed with a production tester capable of talking 2wire or 3wire, or is a
pushbutton potentiometer needed?
3. How many steps are needed? What resolution is required? What range is needed?
These answers determine the minimum acceptable number of potentiometer positions and serve as a
benchmark when experimenting with different resistor values when finding a combination that is
acceptable even in worst case conditions due to resistor/component tolerances. Furthermore, be aware
that the desired output voltage range will be different than the actual output range so that the desired
range can also be obtained even when using worstcase tolerances.
4. What is the max voltage that will ever be applied to the potentiometer terminals? Is VREF (VFB) larger than
the maximum allowable voltage on the VW pin?
Some potentiometers have a specification that states the maximum allowable voltage than can be applied
to any of the potentiometer terminals. The second question is intended to be a sanity check. For example,
the MAX5027 (not the MAX5025) has a VREF of 30V! This voltage cannot be applied to the wiper
terminal. The reason VREF is so high is because it is a nonadjustable DCDC converter.
MAX5025
PGND
/SHDN
VCC
LX
FB
GND
U1
VCC
4.7uF
C1
C2R1L1
D1
C3*
R3*
R2
47uH
ZETEX SCHOTTKY DIODE
VOUT
+

100W
1uF, 50V1uF, 50V
UNFILTERED
VOUT
*Optional RC filter
1%
1%
VCC = VIN = 5V
VIN
= 5V
+

(fixed)
AN226
3 of 8
5. Is the FB pin bias current large enough to cause a noticeable drop across the wiper resistance, RW? Does
the FB pin bias current exceed the maximum (or abs max) wiper current specification?
Fortunately, the maximum wiper current specification is usually 1mA or larger, while the bias current is
in the magnitude of nA. The second reason why the bias current is important is because if too large, the
voltage drop across the wiper resistance becomes noticeable and should be accounted for when
calculating the output voltage.
6. Does the minimum and maximum position of the potentiometer connect directly to VL and VH?
For example, the DS1805 is different in that the maximum potentiometer setting (255) does not connect
directly to the H terminal. It is actually one resistor (LSB) away from the H terminal. Granted, the
difference between 255 and 256 resistors are nil, the same is not the case for potentiometers with fewer
positions. The result of this question can be seen later in Equation 4.
7. What is the desired tolerance of VOUT? 5%? 10%? 3%?
Keep in mind that the DCDC converter IC itself has a tolerance. The MAX5025 for example has a
tolerance of 5%. And this is completely independent from the tolerance of R1 and R2, which may also be
5% or 1%. These tolerances will be discussed in detail later.
8. What is the operating temperature range of the circuit?
Just as important as knowing the effects of the tolerances, it is equally important to know the effects of
temperature on the output voltage.
Figure 2. Digital Potentiometer in the Voltage Divider Feedback Path
Adding a Digital Potentiometer to the Feedback Path
Although there are several ways that a digital potentiometer could have been added to the circuit in Figure 1,
this application note will only discuss the voltage divider configuration as shown in Figure 2. Two
configurations that will not be discussed are 1) using the pot as a variable resistor (by connecting the wiper
terminal to either the high or low terminal) between R1 and R2, and 2) eliminating R2 and connecting the pot
low terminal to ground.
R1
R2
Adjustable VOUT
RH
RL
VH
VL
VW
RW(To FB pin of
DCDC Converter)
VFB
= 1.25V
IW
Caution must be taken so
that VH does not exceed the
specification of the digital
potentiometer.
IW due to MAX5025
is 110nA typical.
RPOT
RPOT
= RH
+ RL
RL
= position x (RPOT
/(total # of positions  1))
RH = RPOT  RL
AN226
4 of 8
Equations 3, 4, and 5 show the relation of the potentiometers' position to RL, RH, and RPOT. Once a
potentiometer is added into the feedback loop, these equations can be used to modify Equations 1 and 2 to
represent the new circuit.
LHPOT RRR += Equation 3
ww
x
v
gg
h
f

4=
)1(
R
R POT
L
positionspotofnumbertotal
positionterpotentiomecurrent Equation 4
LPOTH RRR = Equation 5
RPOT is the endtoend resistance of the potentiometer and RH and RL are dependent on the current wiper
position setting (see Figure 2). The denominator of Equation 4 is (total number of pot positions 1) if the max
and min wiper positions connect directly to the H and L potentiometer terminals, which is true for the
DS1845. Some digital potentiometers may have an additional resistor between the max potentiometer setting
and the H terminal. The denominator for those potentiometers would not include the 1 and simply be (total
number of pot positions).
Equation 2 becomes,
ww
x
v
gg
h
f
+
+
+
= 1
RR2
RR1
VV
L
H
REFOUT Equation 6
Resistor Calculations
Unfortunately, there is no quick, easy way of calculating R1 and R2. VOUT is a function of multiple variables
and many solutions exist. Choosing the optimal solution for a particular application involves a decent amount
of trial and error. For this reason, a spreadsheet is the single most valuable tool because it allows the designer
to make a tweak and instantly see its effects on VOUT for a single potentiometer position as well as a sweep of
the entire potentiometer range. The following will describe the process used to calculate the values for the
example circuit generating 32V.
Assumptions made up front for this design were, RPOT = 10kW, 256 positions, VREF = VFB = 1.25V, and the
output voltage will be 32V when the pot is set in the middle position (position 127). The spreadsheet created
for this application note can be found on the Dallas Semiconductor ftp site. A link to the spreadsheet can be
found at the end of this application note. Plugging the assumptions into Equations 4 and 5, and then into
Equation 6 determines the needed ratio between R1 and R2.
6.241
25.1
32
4.9804R2
6.0195R1
1
V
V
REF
OUT
==w
x
v
g
h
f
+
+
= Equation 7
The MAX5025 data sheet says to choose an R2 in the 5kW to 50kW range and then calculate R1. However,
how can one make an educated R2 selection in such a large range without knowing what else will be
effected? The spreadsheet shown in Figure 3 was created specifically for this. Simply type in a value for R2
in the red cell (D7). R1 is then automatically calculated to obtain the ratio in cell Q7 (which was the result of
Equation 7). In addition, thousands of other calculations are also performed and then VOUT vs. Pot Position is
plotted. The VOUT vs. Pot Position plot shows the expected output voltage for all 256 potentiometer positions.
Linearity, range, and slope can all be seen clearly. Look for the trace labeled "Typical". The other traces will
be described later. Comparing plots of R2 = 5kW and R2 = 50kW (Figure 4) it can be seen that smaller values
of R2 (Figure 4a) produce a much larger output range, although nonlinear and having a steep slope. The
steep slope produces larger than desired step sizes (especially at the lower potentiometer positions)
AN226
5 of 8
decreasing the resolution of VOUT. Larger values of R2, on the other hand, produce a linear output and much
smaller slope (Figure 4b). The smaller the slope, the smaller the step size (and hence resolution). When
attempting to "finetune" a particular output voltage, it is desirable to have many potentiometer positions at
and around the desired output voltage. The drawback, which will be discussed in the following section, is that
since R1 and R2 have a tolerance of 11%, there is a possibility that no potentiometer setting will reach 32V.
This can be seen looking at the top trace in Figure 4b. When the potentiometer is set to position 0, the output
voltage is ~37.5V and when the potentiometer is set to position 255, the output only goes down to 32.3V.
Therefore, it is important to find a happy medium. For the example circuit, the happy medium (determined by
trial and error, entering various values of R2 and looking at the VOUT vs. Pot Position graph ensuring that 32V
could be reached in all conditions with an acceptable step size) is 30kW. The closest 1% SMT standard value
is 30.1kW. Plugging this value into the spreadsheet and having it recalculate R1, the closest standard value
had to be found for R1 as well. The graph shown in Figure 3 shows that 32V can be obtained even in the
worstcase conditions.
Figure 3. Example Resistor and Error Spreadsheet Screenshot
AN226
6 of 8
Once values for R1 and R2 are selected, it is important to verify that VH does not exceed the maximum
specification (of VCC + 0.5V for the DS1845). VH can be calculated using Equation 8.
( )
( )POT
POT
OUT
H RR2
RR2R1
V
V +4
++
= Equation 8
Figure 5 shows a screenshot of the bottom of the example spreadsheet. The calculation of VH can be seen on
the far right along with the max voltage across the potentiometer. We can see that for the resistor values we
chose VH has a worst case potential of 1.84V. This voltage is well within the recommended operating
conditions. Other items in interest in Figure 5 are VOUT min/max, min/max deltas between pot positions, and
also min/max VH. While some of the data and calculations shown in the spreadsheet may appear to be of little
use, it provides multiple sanity checks to ensure a good design.
Figure 4. R2 Comparison
Figure 5. Additional Calculations
VOUT vs. POT POSITION when R2 = 5kW
25
27
29
31
33
35
37
39
41
43
45
47
49
51
53
55
57
59
61
63
65
67
69
71
0 50 100 150 200 250
POT POSITION (DEC)
VOUT(V)
Typical
Ratio Min/ Pot Min
Ratio Min/Pot Max
Ratio Max/Pot Min
Ratio Max/Pot Max
R1 = 240k (1%),
R2 = 5k (1%),
POT = 10k (20%),
VFB = 1.25V (5%)
Typical
VOUT vs. POT POSITION when R2 = 50kW
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
0 50 100 150 200 250
POT POSITION (DEC)
VOUT(V)
Typical
Ratio Min/ Pot Min
Ratio Min/Pot Max
Ratio Max/Pot Min
Ratio Max/Pot Max
R1 = 1.3M (1%),
R2 = 50k (1%),
POT = 10k (20%),
VFB
= 1.25V (5%)
Typical
a) R2 = 5kW b) R2 = 50kW
AN226
7 of 8
Error Analysis
Up to this point, all calculations have used typical (nominal) values. However, to ensure the design is
production worthy it is essential to calculate the variations of the output voltage due to component tolerances,
temperature variations, and any other sources of error and ensure that the desired output voltage can always
be obtained. This application note will go as far as analyzing the effects of resistor, potentiometer, and VREF
tolerances. The analysis of temperature variations, however, is saved for a future application note.
The MAX5025 VREF has a tolerance of 15%. This means that the 1.25V could actually be anywhere between
1.19V and 1.31V. What makes this tolerance different than that of the resistors and potentiometer is that this
5% is for the entire temperature range. The resistors and potentiometer on the other hand spec both a
tolerance and a temperature coefficient. Resistors R1 and R2 both have a tolerance of 11%. The tolerance of
the DS1845 is 120%.
Referring back to Figure 3, the use of these tolerances can be seen in row 7 of the spreadsheet. For example,
C7 is the nominal value of R1, while J7 is nominal (C7) minus 1% and K7 is the nominal plus 1%. Once this
is done for all of the tolerances, calculations can easily be repeated multiple times, calculating all possible
combinations in search of the combinations that yield the minimum and maximum output voltages. These
combinations can then be added to the VOUT vs. Pot Position plot and verified that each can generate 32V.
Once all of the traces on VOUT vs. Pot Position graph meets the desired specifications, the resistor selection is
complete. Figure 6 shows the final circuit with the DS1845 and with the selected values of R1 and R2. The
VOUT vs. Pot Position plot for this circuit is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 6. Final Circuit Using a DS1845 Digital Potentiometer
MAX5025
PGND
/SHDN
VCC
LX
FB
GND
U1
VCC
4.7uF
C1
C2R1L1
D1
C3*
R3*
R2
47uH
ZETEX SCHOTTKY DIODE
VOUT = 32V
+

100W
845kW
30.1kW
1uF, 50V
1uF, 50V
UNFILTERED
VOUT
= 32V
*Optional RC filter
Address=000
DS1845
W1
L0
W0
SDA
SCL H0
VCC
H1
U2
A0
A1
A2
WP
GND
L1
VCC
VCC
4.7kW
R4 R5
4.7kW
To 2Wire
Interface .1uFC4
VCC
1%
1%
VCC = VIN = 5V
VIN
= 5V
+

(adjustable
from 27.6V to
36.7V in 35mV
increments,
typical)
AN226
8 of 8
Conclusion
This application note shows an example of how to use a digital potentiometer in the feedback loop of a step
up DCDC converter to allow the output voltage to be calibrated. While this application note specifically uses
the MAX5025 and the DS1845 to generate 32V, the concepts presented here can be applied towards other
potentiometer/converter combinations as well as other output voltages and power ratings.
Questions/comments/suggestions concerning this application note can be sent to:
MixedSignal.Apps@dalsemi.com.
Link to the spreadsheet used in this example:
ftp.dalsemi.com/pub/system_extension/pots/AN226/AN226.xls
Link to Application Note 225 showing a stepdown DCDC converter:
http://pdfserv.maximic.com/arpdf/AppNotes/app225.pdf
Maxim Integrated Products / Dallas Semiconductor Contact Information
Dallas Semiconductor
4401 S. Beltwood Parkway
Dallas, TX 75244
Tel: 9723714448
Maxim Integrated Products, Inc
120 San Gabriel Drive
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Tel: 4087377600
Product Literature / Samples Requests:
(800) 9988800
Sales and Customer Service:
(408) 7377600
World Wide Website:
www.maximic.com
Product Information:
http://www.maximic.com/MaximProducts/products.htm
Ordering Information:
http://www.maximic.com/BuyMaxim/Sales.htm
FTP Site:
ftp://ftp.dalsemi.com
Tech Support:
MixedSignal.Apps@dalsemi.com
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