Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why have programmable series resistance on a power supply’s output?

A feature we’ve included on our 663xxA Mobile Communications DC Sources, our N6781A 2-quadrant Source Measure Module, and most recently our N69xxA and N79xxA Advanced Power System (APS) is the ability to program in a value for a resistance that exists in series with the output voltage. So why do we offer this?

 Batteries are not ideal voltage sources. They have a significant amount of equivalent series resistance (ESR) on their output. Because of this, the battery’s output has a voltage drop that is proportional to the current drawn by the DUT that is being powered. An example of this is shown in the oscilloscope capture in Figure 1, where a GPRS mobile handset is drawing pulsed transmit current from its battery.

Figure 1: Battery voltage and current powering a GPRS handset during transmit

In comparison, due to control feedback, a conventional DC power supply has extremely low output impedance. At and near DC, for all practical purposes, the DC output resistance is zero. At the same time, during fast load current transition edges, many conventional DC power supplies can have fairly slow transient voltage response, leading to significant transient overshoots and undershoots with slow recovery during these transitions, as can be seen in the oscilloscope capture in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Example general purpose bench power supply powering a GPRS handset during transmit

It’s not hard to see that the general purpose bench power supply voltage response is nothing close to that of the battery’s voltage response and recognize that it will likely have a significant impact on the performance of the GPRS handset. Just considering the performance of the battery management, the battery voltage drop during loading and rise during charging, due to the battery’s resistance, will impact discharge and charge management performance.

We include programmable resistance in the above mentioned DC power supplies as they are battery simulators.  By being able to program a series output resistance these power supplies are able to better simulate the voltage response of a battery, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: N6781A battery simulator DC source powering a GPRS handset during transmit

While the 663xxA and N6781A are fairly low power meant to simulate batteries for handheld mobile devices, The N69xxA and N79xxA APS units are 1 and 2 KW power supplies meant to simulate much larger batteries used in things like satellites, robotics, regenerative energy systems, and a number of other higher power devices. Figure 4 shows the voltage response of an N7951A 1 KW APS unit programmed to 20 milliohms output impedance, having a +/- 10 amp peak sine wave load current applied to its output.

Figure 4: N7951A 1 KW APS DC source voltage response to sine wave load

Programmable series output resistance is one more way a specialized DC source helps improve performance and test results, in this case doing a better job simulating the battery that ultimately powers the device under test.

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