Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Optimizing the performance of the zero-burden battery run-down test setup

Two years ago I added a post here to “Watt’s Up?” titled:  “Zero-burden ammeter improves battery run-down and charge management testing of battery-powered devices” (click here to review). In this post I talk about how our N6781A 20V, 3A 20W SMU (and now our N6785A 20V, 8A, 80W as well) can be used in a zero-burden ammeter mode to provide accurate current measurement without introducing any voltage drop. Together with the independent DVM voltage measurement input they can be used to simultaneously log the voltage and current when performing a battery run-down test on a battery powered device. This is a very useful test to perform for gaining valuable insights on evaluating and optimizing battery life. This can also be used to evaluate the charging process as well, when using rechargeable batteries. The key thing is zero-burden current measurement is critical for obtaining accurate results as impedance and corresponding voltage drop when using a current shunt influences test results. For reference the N678xA SMUs are used in either the N6705B DC Power Analyzer mainframe or N6700 series Modular Power System mainframe.
There are a few considerations for getting optimum performance when using the N678xA SMU’s in zero-burden current measurement mode. The primary one is the way the wiring is set up between the DUT, its battery, and the N678xA SMU. In Figure 1 below I rearranged the diagram depicting the setup in my original blog posting to better illustrate the actual physical setup for optimum performance.

Figure 1: Battery run-down setup for optimum performance
Note that this makes things practical from the perspective that the DUT and its battery do not have to be located right at the N678xA SMU.  However it is important that the DUT and battery need to be kept close together in order to minimize wiring length and associated impedance between them. Not only does the wiring contribute resistance, but its inductance can prevent operating the N678xA at a higher bandwidth setting for improved transient voltage response. The reason for this is illustrated in Figure 2.


Figure 2: Load impedance seen across N678xA SMU output for battery run-down setup
The load impedance the N678xA SMU sees across its output is the summation of the series connection of the DUT’s battery input port (primarily capacitive), the battery (series resistance and capacitance), and the jumper wire between the DUT and battery (inductive). The N678xA SMUs have multiple bandwidth compensation modes. They can be operated in their default low bandwidth mode, which provides stable operation for most any load impedance condition. However to get the most optimum voltage transient response it is better to operate N678xA SMUs in one of its higher bandwidth settings. In order to operate in one of the higher bandwidth settings, the N678xA SMUs need to see primarily capacitive loading across its remote sense point for fast and stable operation. This means the jumper wire between the DUT and battery must be kept short to minimize its inductance. Often this is all that is needed. If this is not enough then adding a small capacitor of around 10 microfarads, across the remote sense point, will provide sufficient capacitive loading for fast and stable operation. Additional things that should be done include:
  • Place remote sense connections as close to the DUT and battery as practical
  • Use twisted pair wiring; one pair for the force leads and a second pair for the remote sense leads, for the connections from the N678xA SMU to the DUT and its battery


By following these best practices you will get the optimum performance from your battery run-down test setup!

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