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Hybrid monolithic integration of high-power DC-DC converters in a high-voltage technology

(2014)
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Abstract
The supply of electrical energy to home, commercial, and industrial users has become ubiquitous, and it is hard to imagine a world without the facilities provided by electrical energy. Despite the ever increasing efficiency of nearly every electrical application, the worldwide demand for electrical power continues to increase, since the number of users and applications more than compensates for these technological improvements. In order to maintain the affordability and feasibility of the total production, it is essential for the distribution of the produced electrical energy to be as efficient as possible. In other words the loss in the power distribution is to be minimized. By transporting electrical energy at the maximum safe voltage, the current in the conductors, and the associated conduction loss can remain as low as possible. In order to optimize the total efficiency, the high transportation voltage needs to be converted to the appropriate lower voltage as close as possible to the end user. Obviously, this conversion also needs to be as efficient, affordable, and compact as possible. Because of the ever increasing integration of electronic systems, where more and more functionality is combined in monolithically integrated circuits, the cost, the power consumption, and the size of these electronic systems can be greatly reduced. This thorough integration is not limited to the electronic systems that are the end users of the electrical energy, but can also be applied to the power conversion itself. In most modern applications, the voltage conversion is implemented as a switching DC-DC converter, in which electrical energy is temporarily stored in reactive elements, i.e. inductors or capacitors. High switching speeds are used to allow for a compact and efficient implementation. For low power levels, typically below 1 Watt, it is possible to monolithically implement the voltage conversion on an integrated circuit. In some cases, this is even done on the same integrated circuit that is the end user of the electrical energy to minimize the system dimensions. For higher power levels, it is no longer feasible to achieve the desired efficiency with monolithically integrated components, and some external components prove indispensable. Usually, the reactive components are the main limiting factor, and are the first components to be moved away from the integrated circuit for increasing power levels. The semiconductor components, including the power transistors, remain part of the integrated circuit. Using this hybrid approach, it is possible in modern converterapplications to process around 60 Watt, albeit limited to voltages of a few Volt. For hybrid integrated converters with an output voltage of tens of Volt, the power is limited to approximately 10 Watt. For even higher power levels, the integrated power transistors also become a limiting factor, and are replaced with discrete power devices. In these discrete converters, greatly increased power levels become possible, although the system size rapidly increases. In this work, the limits of the hybrid approach are explored when using so-called smart-power technologies. Smart-power technologies are standard lowcost submicron CMOS technologies that are complemented with a number of integrated high-voltage devices. By using an appropriate combination of smart-power technologies and circuit topologies, it is possible to improve on the current state-of-the-art converters, by optimizing the size, the cost, and the efficiency. To determine the limits of smart-power DC-DC converters, we first discuss the major contributing factors for an efficient energy distribution, and take a look at the role of voltage conversion in the energy distribution. Considering the limitations of the technologies and the potential application areas, we define two test-cases in the telecommunications sector for which we want to optimize the hybrid monolithic integration in a smart-power technology. Subsequently, we explore the specifications of an ideal converter, and the relevant properties of the affordable smart-power technologies for the implementation of DC-DC converters. Taking into account the limitations of these technologies, we define a cost function that allows to systematically evaluate the different potential converter topologies, without having to perform a full design cycle for each topology. From this cost function, we notice that the de facto default topology selection in discrete converters, which is typically based on output power, is not optimal for converters with integrated power transistors. Based on the cost function and the boundary conditions of our test-cases, we determine the optimal topology for a smart-power implementation of these applications. Then, we take another step towards the real world and evaluate the influence of parasitic elements in a smart-power implementation of switching converters. It is noticed that the voltage overshoot caused by the transformer secondary side leakage inductance is a major roadblock for an efficient implementation. Since the usual approach to this voltage overshoot in discrete converters is not applicable in smart-power converters due to technological limitations, an alternative approach is shown and implemented. The energy from the voltage overshoot is absorbed and transferred to the output of the converter. This allows for a significant reduction in the voltage overshoot, while maintaining a high efficiency, leading to an efficient, compact, and low-cost implementation. The effectiveness of this approach was tested and demonstrated in both a version using a commercially available integrated circuit, and our own implementation in a smart-power integrated circuit. Finally, we also take a look at the optimization of switching converters over the load range by exploiting the capabilities of highly integrated converters. Although the maximum output power remains one of the defining characteristics of converters, it has been shown that most converters spend a majority of their lifetime delivering significantly lower output power. Therefore, it is also desirable to optimize the efficiency of the converter at reduced output current and output power. By splitting the power transistors in multiple independent segments, which are turned on or off in function of the current, the efficiency at low currents can be significantly improved, without introducing undesirable frequency components in the output voltage, and without harming the efficiency at higher currents. These properties allow a near universal application of the optimization technique in hybrid monolithic DC-DC converter applications, without significant impact on the complexity and the cost of the system. This approach for the optimization of switching converters over the load range was demonstrated using a boost converter with discrete power transistors. The demonstration of our smart-power implementation was limited to simulations due to an issue with a digital control block. On a finishing note, we formulate the general conclusions and provide an outlook on potential future work based on this research.

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Windels, Jindrich. 2014. “Hybrid Monolithic Integration of High-power DC-DC Converters in a High-voltage Technology”. Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Engineering and Architecture.
APA
Windels, J. (2014). Hybrid monolithic integration of high-power DC-DC converters in a high-voltage technology. Ghent University. Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, Ghent, Belgium.
Vancouver
1.
Windels J. Hybrid monolithic integration of high-power DC-DC converters in a high-voltage technology. [Ghent, Belgium]: Ghent University. Faculty of Engineering and Architecture; 2014.
MLA
Windels, Jindrich. “Hybrid Monolithic Integration of High-power DC-DC Converters in a High-voltage Technology.” 2014 : n. pag. Print.
@phdthesis{4351220,
  abstract     = {The supply of electrical energy to home, commercial, and industrial users has become ubiquitous, and it is hard to imagine a world without the facilities provided by electrical energy. Despite the ever increasing efficiency of nearly every electrical application, the worldwide demand for electrical power continues to increase, since the number of users and applications more than compensates for these technological improvements. In order to maintain the affordability and feasibility of the total production, it is essential for the distribution of the produced electrical energy to be as efficient as possible. In other words the loss in the power distribution is to be minimized. By transporting electrical energy at the maximum safe voltage, the current in the conductors, and the associated conduction loss can remain as low as possible. In order to optimize the total efficiency, the high transportation voltage needs to be converted to the appropriate lower voltage as close as possible to the end user. Obviously, this conversion also needs to be as efficient, affordable, and compact as possible. Because of the ever increasing integration of electronic systems, where more and more functionality is combined in monolithically integrated circuits, the cost, the power consumption, and the size of these electronic systems can be greatly reduced. This thorough integration is not limited to the electronic systems that are the end users of the electrical energy, but can also be applied to the power conversion itself. In most modern applications, the voltage conversion is implemented as a switching DC-DC converter, in which electrical energy is temporarily stored in reactive elements, i.e. inductors or capacitors. High switching speeds are used to allow for a compact and efficient implementation.
For low power levels, typically below 1 Watt, it is possible to monolithically implement the voltage conversion on an integrated circuit. In some cases, this is even done on the same integrated circuit that is the end user of the electrical energy to minimize the system dimensions. For higher power levels, it is no longer feasible to achieve the desired efficiency with monolithically integrated components, and some external components prove indispensable. Usually, the reactive components are the main limiting factor, and are the first components to be moved away from the integrated circuit for increasing power levels. The semiconductor components, including the power transistors, remain part of the integrated circuit. Using this hybrid approach, it is possible in modern converterapplications to process around 60 Watt, albeit limited to voltages of a few Volt. For hybrid integrated converters with an output voltage of tens of Volt, the power is limited to approximately 10 Watt. For even higher power levels, the integrated power transistors also become a limiting factor, and are replaced with discrete power devices. In these discrete converters, greatly increased power levels become possible, although the system size rapidly increases. In this work, the limits of the hybrid approach are explored when using so-called smart-power technologies. Smart-power technologies are standard lowcost submicron CMOS technologies that are complemented with a number of integrated high-voltage devices. By using an appropriate combination of smart-power technologies and circuit topologies, it is possible to improve on the current state-of-the-art converters, by optimizing the size, the cost, and the efficiency.
To determine the limits of smart-power DC-DC converters, we first discuss the major contributing factors for an efficient energy distribution, and take a look at the role of voltage conversion in the energy distribution. Considering the limitations of the technologies and the potential application areas, we define two test-cases in the telecommunications sector for which we want to optimize the hybrid monolithic integration in a smart-power technology. Subsequently, we explore the specifications of an ideal converter, and the relevant properties of the affordable smart-power technologies for the implementation of DC-DC converters. Taking into account the limitations of these technologies, we define a cost function that allows to systematically evaluate the different potential converter topologies, without having to perform a full design cycle for each topology. From this cost function, we notice that the de facto default topology selection in discrete converters, which is typically based on output power, is not optimal for converters with integrated power transistors. Based on the cost function and the boundary conditions of our test-cases, we determine the optimal topology for a smart-power implementation of these applications.  Then, we take another step towards the real world and evaluate the influence of parasitic elements in a smart-power implementation of switching converters. It is noticed that the voltage overshoot caused by the transformer secondary side leakage inductance is a major roadblock for an efficient implementation. Since the usual approach to this voltage overshoot in discrete converters is not applicable in smart-power converters due to technological limitations, an alternative approach is shown and implemented. The energy from the voltage overshoot is absorbed and transferred to the output of the converter. This allows for a significant reduction in the voltage overshoot, while maintaining a high efficiency, leading to an efficient, compact, and low-cost implementation. The effectiveness of this approach was tested and demonstrated in both a version using a commercially available integrated circuit, and our own implementation in a smart-power integrated circuit. Finally, we also take a look at the optimization of switching converters over the load range by exploiting the capabilities of highly integrated converters. Although the maximum output power remains one of the defining characteristics of converters, it has been shown that most converters spend a majority of their lifetime delivering significantly lower output power. Therefore, it is also desirable to optimize the efficiency of the converter at reduced output current and output power. By splitting the power transistors in multiple independent segments, which are turned on or off in function of the current, the efficiency at low currents can be significantly improved, without introducing undesirable frequency components in the output voltage, and without harming the efficiency at higher currents.
These properties allow a near universal application of the optimization technique in hybrid monolithic DC-DC converter applications, without significant impact on the complexity and the cost of the system. This approach for the optimization of switching converters over the load range was demonstrated using a boost converter with discrete power transistors. The demonstration of our smart-power implementation was limited to simulations due to an issue with a digital control block. On a finishing note, we formulate the general conclusions and provide an outlook on potential future work based on this research.},
  author       = {Windels, Jindrich},
  isbn         = {9789085786733},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {XXV, 160},
  publisher    = {Ghent University. Faculty of Engineering and Architecture},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {Hybrid monolithic integration of high-power DC-DC converters in a high-voltage technology},
  year         = {2014},
}