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Eliminating need for loop compensation

Posted: 18 Dec 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Digital power  power consumption  power supply  thermal management  ZL8800 

Digital power is one of the most important technologies available today to reduce power consumption and also manage the growing power complexity in modern electronic systems in information and communications technology markets and in today's smart handheld or portable consumer electronics products. Digital power management and control provide real-time intelligence that enables system developers to build power systems that automatically adapt to their environment and optimise efficiency. The use of intelligent digital power ICs means automatic compensation for changes in load and system temperature, enabling energy savings with adaptive dead-time control, dynamic voltage scaling, frequency shifting, phase dropping and discontinuous switching modes.

The power supply's ability to enable these modes to optimise system efficiency is especially important, especially when energy consumption is reaching increasing levels of sensitivity worldwide. Key aspects of power management include voltage and current monitoring, voltage sequencing, voltage tracking, fault detection and fault management. Additionally, thermal management includes monitoring temperature throughout a system and responding to conditions by controlling fans or shutting down parts of the system. Also important is integrating the power and thermal management with the power conversion, thereby removing the need for further power and thermal management ICs.

According to market analyst IMS Research[1], the digital power market is currently one of the fastest-growing segments of the power management industry. The global markets for digital power supplies and digital power ICs are projected to boom from 2013 to 2017 with increasing use in IT infrastructure and further expansion into markets such as lighting and consumer applications. In particular, the server market is the largest for digital power supplies and is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 44.8 per cent from 2012 to 2017. And markets that currently account for considerably smaller shares, such as lighting along with notebooks and tablets, are predicted to grow even faster at 126, 92 and 88 per cent, respectively, over the same period.

Rapid growth for digital power ICs is, therefore, expected from this potential in digital power supplies, and this does not include the significant market for their deployment in equipment at the board level. The analyst forecasts digital power IC revenues to increase by more than five times from 2013 to reach $2.6 billion in 2017.

One obstacle to the rapid adoption of digital power has been its perceived expense, but this is fast becoming a myth. Digital power efficiency and cost is now equaling or bettering comparable analogue power-conversion solutions. However, power conversion is only part of the overall solution. Having the digital controller in a highly integrated mixed-signal silicon technology process allows the integration of power management with power conversion.

There are significant performance, cost and space benefits made possible by this high level of integration. A digital power solution differs from an analogue solution in a number of ways. Most importantly, the pulse width modulation (PWM), loop control and feedback are implemented digitally. Analogue signals are converted to digital using analogue-to-digital converters (ADCs) and once the signals are digital, microcontrollers, digital-signal processors or computational state machines control the digital PWM and the feedback loop.

For the most part, the early adopters of digital power have been in IT infrastructure markets, such as servers and telecommunications or data-communications equipment, although analogue-based power-management systems still occupy an enviable share in the market at present. However, increasing number of equipment makers are migrating to digital technology because of its flexibility and programmability, delivering overall increased performance and reliability.

Design flexibility of digital power
An increasingly complex yet reliable power distribution system will need many voltage rails, which are required to sequence or track other rails to properly bias microprocessors, microcontrollers, ASICs, FPGAs and any other digital logic ICs that are present in the system and will likely require differing voltages for operation. As a product design moves through various phases, changes in the design can occur including the addition of a power rail, more current on a rail, or the requirement for a tighter transient response. Normally, this would require the redesign of the power distribution, whereas a digital power solution is flexible and can adapt with changing requirements.

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