Monday, July 14, 2014

Extending the usable bandwidth of the DC source when performing AC disturbance testing on your DUT

A lot of various products that run off of DC power, often destined to be used in automobiles and other types of vehicles, but even quite a number in stationary applications as well, require validation testing for impact of having AC disturbances riding on top the DC powering them.

 Conducting this type of testing is often a big challenge for the test engineer in finding a solution that adequately addresses the disturbance test requirements. It usually requires multiple pieces of hardware:
  • A DC power supply is used to provide the DC bias voltage and power.
  • A power amplifier is used to generate the AC disturbance.
  • A separate ARB /function generator is needed to produce the reference signal for the disturbance

Coupling the DC power supply and power amplifier together is extremely problematic. While it would be great to just directly connect the two in series, this rarely can be done in practice as the power amplifier usually cannot handle the DC current of the power supply. A variety of custom approaches are then typically taken, all with their associated drawbacks.

An article about this very topic was published last year, written by a colleague I work with, Paul Young in our R&D group. As he noted it’s great when the power source can provide both the DC power as well as the AC disturbance as this is a big savings over trying to incorporate multiple pieces of equipment. Paul’s article “Extending the Usable Bandwidth of a Programmable Power Supply for Generating Sinusoidal Waveforms” (click here to review) is an excellent reference on this and the inspiration for my blog posting this week.

Our N6705B DC Power Analyzer in Figure 1 and recently introduced N7900A series Advanced Power System (APS) 1KW and 2KW power supplies in Figure 2 have proven to be very useful for doing a variety of testing where transients and audio disturbances are needing to be introduced on top of the DC that is powering the DUT.


Figure 1: Agilent N6705B DC Power Analyzer and N6700 series DC power modules


Figure 2: Agilent N7900A series 1KW and 2KW Advanced Power System and N7909A Power Dissipator

The reasons for these products being useful for disturbance testing are due to their built in ARB generation capability in conjunction with having a respectable AC bandwidth, on top of being able to source the DC power. Everything can be done within one piece of equipment.

A very common test need is to superimpose a sinusoidal disturbance in the audio range. One example of this is in automobiles. The alternator “whine” AC ripple induced on top of the DC output falls within this category. Our 1KW and 2KW N7900A series APS are good for applications needing higher DC power. However, at first glance the specified AC bandwidth of 2 kHz on does not look like it would work well for higher audio frequencies. The AC response of an N7951A from 1 kHz to 10 kHz is shown in Figure 3. This was captured using the 14585A companion software to set up its ARB.  There is noticeable roll off for higher frequency, as expected.


Figure 3: N7951A APS AC response characteristics captured using companion 14585A software

However, it’s worth noting that the roll off is gradual and very predictable. In the case of superimposing a relatively small AC signal on top of the DC output it is easy to compensate by measuring the attenuation at the given frequency and applying a gain factor to correct for it, as I did as shown in Figure 4. As one example, for 5 kHz, I programmed 2.38 volts peak to get the desired 1 volt peak.


Figure 4: N7951A APS AC response characteristics after gain correction

As can be seen it was simple to now get a flat response over the entire range. A limiting factor here is sum of the programmed DC value plus programmed AC peak value needs to be within the voltage programming range of the power supply being used. In practice, when the AC disturbance is reasonably small it is easy to cover a wide range of frequency.

Another factor to consider is capacitive loading. Some DC powered products sometimes have a fairly substantial filter capacitor built in across the DC power input. This will increase the peak current drain from the power supply when AC is applied on top of the DC. As an example a 100 microfarad capacitor will draw a peak current of 6.28 amps when a 10 kHz, 1 volt peak AC signal is applied. There may also be series impedance limiting the peak current, but whatever this AC peak current is it needs to be included when determining the size of the power supply needed.

With these basic considerations you will be able to perform AC disturbance testing over a much greater bandwidth as well!

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