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DC to DC Conversion:

Boost Converter Design


Bryan R. Reemmer
Team 5
March 30, 2007

Executive Summary
This application note will outline how to implement a boost, or step-up, converter. It will
explain the electro-mechanical workings of the circuit, as well as common sources for
error. As there are many chips available to perform this type of DC-DC conversion, a
specific example of a chip-based solution is provided.

Keywords: Boost converter, step-up converter, DC-DC converter, MAX5026


Table of Contents

Introduction………………………………………………………………… 3

Objective…………………………………………………………………… 3

Design……………………………………………………………………… 3

Analysis……………………………………………………………………. 4

IC Implementation………………………………………………................. 5

Results……………………………………………………………………… 5

Conclusions………………………………………………………………… 6

References………………………………………………………………….. 7

2
Introduction
DC to DC converters are extremely important in battery-powered electronic devices, such
as MP3 players and laptop computers. Those electronic devices often contain several sub-
circuits, each requiring a voltage level different than that supplied by the battery. Even
worse, the voltage of a battery declines as its stored power is drained, so it does not
output a constant voltage level. DC to DC converters offer a method of generating
multiple controlled voltages from a single battery voltage, thereby saving space instead of
using multiple batteries to supply different parts of the device.

A boost converter is simply is a particular type of power converter with an output DC


voltage greater than the input DC voltage. This type of circuit is used to ‘step-up’ a
source voltage to a higher, regulated voltage, allowing one power supply to provide
different driving voltages.

Objective
The purpose of this document is for the reader to become familiar with the function and
implementation of a boost converter. A basic design will be discussed along with a
specific application of an integrated circuit (IC) solution.

Design
A boost converter is part of a subset of DC-DC converters called switch-mode converters.
The circuits belonging to this class, including buck, flyback, buck-boost, and push-pull
converters are very similar. They generally perform the conversion by applying a DC
voltage across an inductor or transformer for a period of time (usually in the 100 kHz to 5
MHz range) which causes current to flow through it and store energy magnetically, then
switching this voltage off and causing the stored energy to be transferred to the voltage
output in a controlled manner. The output voltage is regulated by adjusting the ratio of
on/off time. As this subset does not use resistive components to dissipate extra power, the
efficiencies are seen in the 80-95% range. This is clearly desirable, as it increases the
running time of battery-operated devices.

The basic boost converter circuit consists of only a switch (typically a transistor), a
diode, an inductor, and a capacitor. The specific connections are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Standard layout of a Boost Converter.

3
Analysis
Examining the circuit for two cases (switch open and switch closed) is fairly straightforward,
assuming ideal components, and provided that there is constant current flow through the inductor.
This case is referred to as ‘continuous mode operation.’

Figure 2: Current flow through the converter, depending on the state of the switch

Applying Kirchhoff’s rules around the loops and rearranging terms yields an intuitive
result:

VO 1
=
VIN 1 ! D

That is to say, the gain from the boost converter is directly proportional to the duty cycle
(D), or the time the switch is ‘on’ each cycle. Figure 3 graphically demonstrates this.

Figure 3: Inductor current and duty cycle vs. time

In some cases, the amount of energy required by the load is small enough to be
transferred in a time smaller than the cycle length. In this case, the current through the
inductor falls to zero during part of the period. This is called ‘discontinuous operation.’

4
The only difference, then, is that the inductor is completely discharged at the end of the
cycle. Although slight, the difference has a strong effect on the output voltage equation.
Compared to the expression of the output voltage for the continuous mode, this
expression is much more complicated. Furthermore, in discontinuous operation, the
output voltage not only depends on the duty cycle, but also on the inductor value, the
input voltage, and the output current.

IC Implementation
In order to implement the switching necessary for the converter to work, it is desirable to
find an IC solution. The 5026 chip, from MAXIM, is one such solution. The typical
circuit from the MAX5026 data sheet is shown in Figure 4. 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 feedback
(FB) pin, creating a closed-loop 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 (the voltage fed back
to FB is below 1.25V), the DC-DC converter IC attempts to deliver additional power
until FB reaches 1.25V.

&V #
R1 = R 2$$ OUT ' 1!! Equation 1
% VREF "

& R1 #
VOUT = VREF $ + 1! Equation 2
% R2 "

Equation 1 is directly from the MAX5026 data sheet. Solving Equation 1 for VOUT yields
Equation 2 where VREF, the FB Set Point, is 1.25V for the MAX5026.

Figure 4: MAX5026 implementation of a boost converter.

Results
The output voltage obtained during this study was not a full 30V. The actual output was
approximately 28V. The discrepancy is most likely due to losses in the board, as well as
to non-ideal devices (most notably the inductor).

5
In the analysis above, all components were assumed ideal. It was assumed that the power
is transmitted without losses from the input voltage source to the load. However,
parasitic resistances exist in all circuits, due to the resistivity of the materials they are
made from. Therefore, a fraction of the power managed by the converter is dissipated by
these parasitic resistances. This is why the efficiencies are not at a perfect 100%.

For the sake of simplicity, the inductor is assumed the only non-ideal component, and
that it is equivalent to an inductor and a resistor in series. This is reasonable because an
inductor is made of one long wound piece of wire, so it is likely to exhibit a non-negligible
parasitic resistance. Furthermore, current flows through the inductor both in the on and
the off states, so any non-ideal effects will be more pronounced. Reworking the earlier
equations with the added inductor resistance (RL) changes the gain equation to the
following:

VO 1
=
VIN RL
+1! D
R(1 ! D )

Even without the full derivation, the equation makes intuitive sense. If the inductor
resistance is zero (an ideal inductor), the equation above becomes equal to the ideal case;
however, as RL increases, the voltage gain of the converter decreases compared to the
ideal case. Also, the effect of RL increases with the duty cycle, D. Figure 5 displays these
effects graphically. As the inductor becomes less ideal, the possible gain drops off
sharply from the theoretical value, especially as the duty cycle grows above 50%.

Figure 5: Non-ideal inductors can rapidly degrade boost converter performance.

Conclusions

6
DC-DC converters are an excellent way to get the most use out of a single power supply.
Though the total power must remain constant, one can efficiently trade off between
current strength and voltage levels to power a variety of sub-circuits without costly extra
batteries.

7
References

MAX5026 Datasheet:
<http://www.ortodoxism.ro/datasheets/maxim/MAX5025-MAX5028.pdf>

DC-DC Converter Basics:


<http://www.powerdesigners.com/InfoWeb/design_center/articles/DC-
DC/converter.shtm>

Simple Converter:
<http://www.elexp.com/t_dc-dc.htm>

+30V DC-DC Converter:


<http://www.interq.or.jp/japan/se-inoue/e_ckt28.htm>

DC-DC Converters: A Primer:


<http://www.jaycar.com.au/images_uploaded/dcdcconv.pdf>

Breakthrough efficiency levels:


<http://www.futurlec.com/News/National/DC_Converter.shtml>