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Angel Borrell Sanz

Ph.D. Thesis title:

Angel Borrell Sanz

Miguel Castilla Fernández

Reading date:

The multiphase synchronous buck converter is universally used today for powering low voltage, high current and high slew-rate loads, such as CPUs and other high performance digital ICs. This converter demands control techniques with high dynamical response in order to face large and fast load transients. In this regard, hysteretic regulators represent an excellent option due to their immediate reaction, unlimited duty cycle and outstanding capacity for handling large signal regimes.
The main contributions of much published work in the field of multiphase hysteretic controllers are current sharing and phase interleaving. However, the author is not aware of any studies describing a control scheme that integrates the main control functions for powering such demanding loads: output voltage regulation, adaptive voltage positioning, current sharing and phase interleaving. Nor is there a design methodology based on the closed-loop output impedance. This design would optimize the output voltage transient response and, in this way, the entire voltage tolerance window of the processor would be exploited. Thus, this research work presents a novel hysteretic controller for a multi-phase synchronous buck converter supplying low voltage, high current and high slew-rate loads along with a design methodology based on closed-loop output impedance analysis.
The single-phase hysteretic controller is the start point for this research work. Several authors have extensively treated the single-phase hysteretic controller. In this regard, a review of a low-cost single-phase control scheme is carried out first. The main feature of this controller is the lack of current sensing and processing circuitry in order to accomplish the adaptive voltage regulation. Then, the influence of variations of the inductor and output capacitor and the control parameters on the output impedance is studied. This has allowed for establishing a correspondence between each of the control parameters and the output filter components. The review finishes by implementing a synchronization system to achieve fixed switching frequency in steady state while maintaining the instantaneous reaction and optimal output-voltage response during transients.
At this point, a novel low-cost hysteretic controller for multiphase synchronous buck converters is presented. Two design alternatives for the controller are proposed. The first uses an equivalent single-phase converter to design the control parameters. This approximation is valid as long as the deviations between the phases of the converter are within the usual limits (+/- 15 %). The second does the same considering the exact model of the converter, achieving resistive output impedance regardless of the differences that exist between the phases.
Simulation and experimental results are reported in order to validate the features of the novel control scheme. From a practical point of view, the lack of current sensing and processing circuitry in the controller allow for a simple and low-cost implementation of the adaptive voltage positioning and current sharing with outstanding performance. The injection of an external synchronization signal has been proved to be a simple alternative in order to implement fixed switching frequency and phase interleaving operation.
Finally, the proposed controller achieves similar characteristics to the high performance controllers intended for powering low voltage, high current and fast transient loads, but with the additional advantage of simplicity and low-cost circuit implementation.