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Showing posts with label Usage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Usage. Show all posts

## Friday, August 14, 2015

### Not all two-quadrant power supplies are the same when operating near or at zero volts!

Occasionally when working with customers on power supply applications that require sourcing and sinking current which can be addressed with the proper choice of a two-quadrant power supply, I am told “we need a four-quadrant power supply to do this!” I ask why and it is explained to me that they want to sink current down near or at zero volts and it requires 4-quadrant operation to work. The reasoning why is the case is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Power supply sinking current while regulating near or at zero volts at the DUT

As can be seen in the diagram, in practical applications when regulating a voltage at the DUT when sinking current, the voltage at the power supply’s output terminals will be lower than the voltage at the DUT, due to voltage drops in the wiring and connections. Often this means the power supply’s output voltage at its terminals will be negative in order to regulate the voltage at the DUT near or at zero volts.

Hence a four-quadrant power supply is required, right? Well, not necessarily. It all depends on the choice of the two-quadrant power supply as they’re not all the same! Some two-quadrant power supplies will regulate right down to zero volts even when sinking current, while others will not. This can be ascertained from reviewing their output characteristics.

Our N6781A, N6782A, N6785A and N6786A are examples of some of our two-quadrant power supplies that will regulate down to zero volts even when sinking current.  This is reflected in the graph of their output characteristics, shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Keysight N6781A, N6782A, N6785A and N6786A 2-quadrant output characteristics

What can be seen in Figure 2 is that these two-quadrant power supplies can source and sink their full output current rating, even along the horizontal zero volt axis of their V-I output characteristic plots. The reason why they are able to do this is because internally they do incorporate a negative voltage power rail that allows them to regulate at zero volts even when sinking current. While you cannot program a negative output voltage on them, making them two-quadrants instead of four, they are actually able to drive their output terminals negative by a small amount, if necessary. This will allow them to compensate for remote sense voltage drop in the wiring, in order to maintain zero volts at the DUT while sinking current. This also makes for a more complicated and more expensive design.

Our N6900A and N7900A series advanced power sources (APS) also have two-quadrant outputs. Their output characteristic is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Keysight N6900A and N7900A series 2-quadrant output characteristics

Here, in comparison, a certain amount of minimum positive voltage is required when sinking current. It can be seen this minimum positive voltage is proportional to the amount of sink current as indicated by the sloping line that starts a small maximum voltage when at maximum sink current and tapers to zero volts at zero sink current.  Basically these series of 2-quadrant power supplies are not able to regulate down to zero volts when sinking current. The reason why is because they do not have an internal negative power voltage rail that is needed for regulating at zero volts when sinking current.

So when needing to source and sink current and power near or at zero volts do not immediately assume a 4-quadrant power supply is required. Depending on the design of a 2-quadrant power supply, it may meet the requirements, as not all 2-quadrant power supplies are the same! One way to tell is to look at its output characteristics.

## Wednesday, July 29, 2015

### Battery drain test on anniversary gift clock

Last month, on June 2, 2015, I celebrated working for Hewlett-Packard/Agilent Technologies/Keysight Technologies for 35 years. During the earlier times of my career, on significant anniversaries such as 10 years or 20 years, employees could choose from a catalog of gifts to have their contributions to the company recognized. That tradition has been discontinued, but I did select a couple of nice gifts over the years. During my HP days, one gift I selected was a clock with a stand shown here:
I have had that clock for decades and it uses a silver oxide button cell battery (number 371). I have to replace the battery about once per year and wondered if that made sense based on the battery capacity and the current drain the clock presents to the battery. I expected the battery to last longer so I wanted to know if I was purchasing inferior batteries. These 1.5 V batteries are rated for about 34 mA-hours. So I set out to measure the current drain using our N6705B DC Power Analyzer with an N6781A 2-Quadrant Source/Measure Unit for Battery Drain Analysis power module installed. Making the measurement was simple…..making the connections to the tiny, delicate battery connection points was the challenging part. After one or two failed attempts (I was being very careful because I did not want to damage the connections), I solicited the help of my colleague, Paul, who handily came up with a solution (thanks, Paul!). Here is the final setup and a close-up of the connections:

I set the N6781A voltage to 1.5 V and used the N6705B built-in data logger to capture current drawn by the clock for 5 minutes, sampling voltage and current about every 40 us. The clock has a second hand and as expected, the current showed pulses once per second when the second hand moved (see Figure 1). Each current pulse looks like the one shown in Figure 2. There was an underlying 200 nA being drawn in between second-hand movements. All of this data is captured and shown below in Figure 3 showing the full 5 minute datalog along with the amp-hour measurement (0.28 uA-hours) and average current measurement (3.430 uA) between the markers.

Given the average current draw, I can calculate how long I would expect a 34 mA-hour battery to last:

34 mAh / 3.430 uA average current = 9912.54 hours = about 1.13 years

This is consistent with me changing the battery about every year, so once again, all makes sense in the world of energy and electronics (whew)! Thanks to the capabilities of the N6705B DC Power Analyzer, I now know the batteries I’m purchasing are lasting the expected time given the current drawn by the clock. How much current is your product drawing from its battery?

## 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!

## Tuesday, June 30, 2015

### Using User Defined Statuses on the APS

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to talk about a feature in our Advanced Power Supply family (APS from here on out)  that not too many people know about.  The APS features two user defined statuses in the Operation Status group.  Here is a rundown of all the entries in the group:

You can see that bits 7 and 8 are User1 and User2.

Using the advanced triggering system for the APS you can define what conditions will trigger a change in these two statuses.  The N7906A Power Assistant Software (download link) has a very handy graphical way to set up the trigger.   As an example, let's say that I wanted to change the user defined status when the voltage exceeds 1 V and the unit goes into positive current limit status.  Using the Power Assistant Software I would whip up the following:

After I draw out my trigger expression, I can either download it to my APS or I can click the "SCPI to Clipboard" button on the top of the page.  If I hit that button now and then hit paste here, I get:

:SENSe:THReshold1:FUNCtion VOLTage
:SENSe:THReshold1:VOLTage 1
:SENSe:THReshold1:OPERation GT
:SYSTem:SIGNal:DEFine EXPRession1,"Thr1 AND CL+"
:STATus:OPERation:USER1:SOURce EXPRession1

I can just copy this code into my program.  It's a pretty convenient.

I think the big question is: What can you do with this?  The answer is: whatever you want.  It's user defined so you can use it in whatever way you see fit.  If you want to check if the current exceeds a certain threshold you don't want to do a bunch of measure commands in loop, you can define that as your trigger and then just check the Operation Status Group (using the STAT:OPER? or STAT:OPER:COND? queries).

I think that the most powerful thing that you can do with this is set up a SRQ handler to act when the user statuses change.  This is actually a project that I am working on presently so I have not implemented this just yet (but I will in the near future).   When I do, I will definitely write a blog post about it though!  I wanted to get the word out about this because even I did not automatically think about this when faced with a issue that just screamed to use this.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for a future installment on this topic!

## Friday, June 19, 2015

### How does your product react to a power line disturbance?

Power line disturbances can occur anywhere at any time. Your product can be exposed to disturbances such as voltage surges, sags, brownouts, cycle dropouts, or transients. If you are involved in the design, manufacture, or analysis of a power conversion product or circuit, you are interested in how your product reacts to power line disturbances because your product’s reaction will have a direct impact on how satisfied your customers are with the performance of your product. It is therefore critical for you to know how your product will react to power line disturbances. This knowledge comes only from direct measurement of the power line disturbance and the resultant behavior of your product.
Keysight’s IntegraVision power analyzer model PA2201A can allow you to gain quick insight into your product’s power consumption and dynamic behavior when it is exposed to power disturbances.
Next week, on Thursday, June 25, 2015, at 1:00 pm EDT, I will be presenting a live webinar on the topic “Successfully Make Power and AC Line Disturbance Measurements”. To get more information and to register to attend, please click this link: http://electronicdesign.com/webinar/successfully-make-power-and-ac-line-disturbance-measurements

If you are reading this BEFORE the webinar date, I hope you will attend the live presentation next week. If you are reading this AFTER the webinar date, the above link should bring you to a recording of the webinar.

Enjoy!

## Thursday, April 30, 2015

### When is a number not a number?

All of our power supplies measure their own output voltage and output current. These measured values are available to you from the front panel and over the bus. They may be displayed as an average value or a digitized waveform. Some products have different measurement ranges you can set that affect the accuracy of the measurement and the noise floor of the measurement. Of course, there is a maximum value that each measurement range is capable of measuring. So what happens to the reading if the actual output voltage or current exceeds the maximum value of the measurement range? What does the front panel show and what value do you get if you read it back over the bus?

Below is an example where I set the current measurement range to the 1 mA range on a Keysight N6781A Source/Measure Unit. I then forced more than 1 mA to flow out of the output. As you can see, the front panel indicates “Overload”. If you perform a current measurement and read the result back to your PC, you will get 9.91E37. This is a value defined in the SCPI (Standard Commands for Programmable Instruments) standard to mean “not a number” (NAN). Since Keysight products follow the SCPI standard, we return this number when a range is overloaded. This numeric value for NAN was chosen so that it can be represented as a 32-bit floating point number and is larger than anything expected to occur while using instrumentation. In addition to an overload condition on an instrument, NAN can also be used as the result when, for example, you divide zero by zero or subtract infinity from infinity.
This predefined number is also used when waveform data exceeds the maximum rating of a particular range. The screenshot below on the left shows data that does not overload the range. But when the range is changed and part of the waveform exceeds the maximum rating of the range, that part of the waveform data shows up on the screen in red and when returned to a PC, the value is the NAN value of 9.91E37.

Two other unique numbers defined by the SCPI standard are used to represent positive infinity and negative infinity. For positive infinity (INF), 9.9E37 is used. For negative infinity (NINF), -9.9E37 is used. These values can be used to mean “maximum” for a setting. For example, our output voltage slew rate setting has a range of values to which it can be set. If you want to ensure the output voltage will change as quickly as possible, you want to set this to the maximum slew rate possible. Instead of looking up the specification for the maximum setting, you can use the appropriate SCPI command to set the slew rate to 9.9E37 and it will go to the maximum possible slew rate.

So when is a number not a number? When it is equal to 9.91E37!

### Let's See the Watchdog TImer in Action

Hi everybody!

It is the end of the month and time for my monthly blog post.

Quite some time ago, my buddy Gary mentioned our watchdog timer protection in a post.  Here is what he had to say:

The watchdog timer is a unique feature on some Agilent power supplies, such as the N6700 series. This feature looks for any interface bus activity (LAN, GPIB, or USB) and if no bus activity is detected by the power supply for a time that you set, the power supply output shuts down. This feature was inspired by one of our customers testing new chip designs. The engineer was running long-term reliability testing including heating and cooling of the chips. These tests would run for weeks or even months. A computer program was used to control the N6700 power supplies that were responsible for heating and cooling the chips. If the program hung up, it was possible to burn up the chips. So the engineer expressed an interest in having the power supply shut down its own outputs if no commands were received by the power supply for a length of time indicating that the program has stopped working properly. The watchdog timer allows you to set delay times from 1 to 3600 seconds.

Since Gary wrote that post, we have released the N6900 and N7900 APS units that also include this useful feature.  What I wanted to do was show how to set it up, how to use it,and how to clear it so that everything is a bit more clear.   All of my programming examples in this post will be done using my APS with the VISA-COM IO Library in Visual Basic.

The setup is pretty easy:

APS.WriteString("OUTP:PROT:WDOG:DEL 5")
APS.WriteString("OUTP:PROT:WDOG ON")

This sets the watchdog delay to 5 seconds and enables it.  This means that if there is no IO activity (ie your computer hangs up) for 5 seconds, then the unit will go into protect and shut the output down.

Lets say that I have a program that performs a measurement around every second for a minute.  Here is the program:

APS.WriteString("OUTP:PROT:WDOG:DEL 2")
APS.WriteString("OUTP:PROT:WDOG ON")

For i = 0 To 59
APS.WriteString("MEAS:VOLT?")
Next

APS.WriteString("STAT:QUES:COND?")

The watchdog delay is set for 2 second so while I run in the loop taking my measurements everything is working great.  After the 3 second wait at the end though, the 2 second watchdog timer comes into effect and the unit goes into the protect state and disables the output.  The response to the questionsable status query is 2048 which corresponds to bit 11 of the register which is defined as "Output is disabled by a watchdog timer protection".  This is the expected result.

My reccomendation to clear the watchdog timer would be to first disable the watchdog timer and then clear the protect.  You can then re-start the watchdog timer when you are ready.

APS.WriteString("OUTP:PROT:WDOG OFF")
APS.WriteString("OUTP:PROT:CLE")

The watchdog timer is a pretty cool feature that can perform a pretty useful task.  I hope that this blog post explains what it is and how to use it a bit more.

## Tuesday, April 28, 2015

### Optimizing a Power Supply’s Output Response Speed for Applications Demanding Higher Performance

Most basic performance power supplies are intended for just providing DC power and maintain a stable output for a wide range of load conditions. They often have lower output bandwidth to achieve this, with the following consequences:
• Internally this means the feedback loop gain rolls off to zero at a lower frequency, providing relatively greater phase margin. Greater phase margin allows the power supply to remain stable for a wider range of loads, especially larger capacitive loads, when operating as a voltage source.
• Externally this means the output moves slower; both when programming the output to a new voltage setting as well as when recovering from a step change in output load current.

While this is reasonably suited for fairly static DC powering requirements, greater dynamic output performance is often desirable for a number of more demanding applications, such as:
• High throughput testing where the power supply’s output needs to change values quickly
• Fast-slewing pulsed current loads where the transient voltage drop needs to be minimized
• Applications where the power supply is used to generate power ARB waveforms

A number of things need to be done to a power supply so that it will have faster, higher performance output response speed. Primarily however, this is done by increasing its bandwidth, which means increasing its loop gain and pushing the loop gain crossover out to a higher frequency. The consequence of this the power supply’s stability can be more influenced by the load, especially larger capacitive loads.

To better accommodate a wide range of different loads many of our higher performance power supplies feature a programmable bandwidth or programmable output compensation controls. This allows the output to be set for higher output response speed for a given load, while maintaining stable operation at the same time. As one example our N7900A series Advanced Power System (APS) has a programmable output bandwidth control that can be set to Low, for maximum stability, or set to High1, for much greater output voltage response speed. This can be seen in the graph in Figure 1, taken from the APS user’s guide.

Low setting provides maximum stability and so it accommodates a wider range of capacitive loading. High 1 setting in comparison is stable for a smaller range of capacitive loading, but allowing greater response bandwidth. This can be seen in table 1 below, for the recommended capacitive loading for the N7900A APS, again taken from the APS user’s guide.

While a maximum capacitive value is shown for each of the different APS models for each of the two settings, this is not altogether as rigid and fixed as it may appear. What is not so obvious is this is based on the load remaining capacitive over a frequency range roughly comparable to the power supply’s response bandwidth or beyond. Because of this the capacitor’s ESR (equivalent series resistance) is an important factor. Beyond the corner frequency determined by the capacitor’s capacitance and ESR, the capacitor looks resistive. If this frequency is considerably lower than the power supply’s response bandwidth, then it has little to no effect on the power supply’s stability. This is the reason why the power supply is able to charge and discharge a super capacitor, even though its value is far greater than the capacitance limit given, and not run into stability problems, for example.

One last consideration for more demanding applications needing fast dynamic output changes, either when changing values or generating ARBs is the current needed for charging and discharging capacitive loads.  Capacitors increasingly become “short-circuits” to higher AC frequencies, requiring the power supply to be able to drive or sink very large currents in order to remain effective as a dynamic voltage source!

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## Tuesday, March 31, 2015

### When is 64,000 points too many?

Hi everybody!

This month's blog post is based off a customer question that we received this month.  The question was around arbitrary waveforms (arbs), the number of points for the arb, and waveform fidelity.  I have spoken about arbs in the past: click me for Matt's old blog post.  Just to quickly reiterate, there are two options for arbs on the N6705 DC Power Analyzer and the N7900 Advanced power System. There is the Constant Dwell (CD) Arb that allows up to 64,000 point with a minimum Dwell time of 10 us per point and there is the standard List Arb that allows up to 512 points with a dwell as low as 1 us per point.

The question that we are trying to answer today is: When is 512 points more than 64,000 points?  It is an interesting question to think about.  It is definitely not true in cases where you have a non-repeating waveform.  The CD Arb will always be the preferred method there and will give you the best fidelity (smallest dwell times).

The answer is when you have long DC levels in your waveform.  Let's look at the proposed waveform below (please pardon the picture, I hand drew this on my tablet; also note that it is not to scale):

If you look at this waveform, the total time is 11.5 s.  It's a pretty simple waveform that goes from 4 V to 6 V with a 0.05 s ramp between the two values.  We need to pay attention to those times.

Lets with the math behind programming a CD Arb.  With a CD arb, there is a single dwell time so you basically sample the waveform 64000 times.  Lets use that to calculate a dwell time:

11.05 s/64000 = 172.66 us

This means that every point is going to last 172.66 us, no matter if it is in the constantly changing ramp or at a DC level.  This means that when the waveform is at 6 V for 10 s, you will use 57,918 points. That is 90% of your points just sitting at 6V!  For the 0.05 s ramp, you will only be using 290 points.  The ramp is where the waveform is actually changing but due to the nature of how the CD Arb works, you cannot increase the number of points allocated to the ramp.

Let's take a look at the 512 point list now.  We know that the first point of the list will be 4 V for 1 s and that the last point of the list will be 6 V for 10 s.  That leaves us with 510 points to do the 0.05 s ramp which results in s dwell time of 98 us.  This will give us more points in the ramp area and a better looking waveform overall.

That is all I have for this month.  Please feel free to use the comments if you'd like to get in touch with us.

## Monday, March 23, 2015

### Use slew rate control to cleanly power up and reduce peak inrush current of your DUTs

Previously on Watt’s Up? a colleague wrote about how the current limit setting affects a power supply’s voltage response time (click here to review). In this posting he clearly shows how a low current limit setting can greatly slow down the output voltage turn on response time when powering up your DUT.

While this is generally true and good advice, especially for basic performance power supplies, there are additional things to consider when working with high performance power supplies models, as you will see.

Many basic performance power supplies tend to have larger output filter capacitors in order to achieve lower output noise performance. A disadvantage of having a large output capacitor is that it slows down the output voltage response speed of the power supply. Basic performance power supplies can have turn on response times on the order of a 100 milliseconds.

High performance power supplies operate by a somewhat different set of rules. In comparison to basic performance power supplies they typically have much smaller output capacitors and they are designed to have output turn on and turn off response times on the order of a millisecond or less.

However, absolute fastest is not always the best and that is why fast, high performance power supplies also usually incorporate an output voltage slew rate control as well. This allows you to optimize the output turn on and turn off speed for your particular application. This lets you take advantage of the faster output speed you have available, without it being overkill and cause other problems.

The two most common problems that arise when powering up and powering down many DUTs are related to charging and discharging the input filter capacitor incorporated into them. They are:
• High peak inrush (and discharge) currents due to the high dV/dt slew rate being applied
• Power supply CC-CV mode cross over issues resulting from the high peak inrush current

To illustrate, the turn on characteristic of our N6762A power supply was captured when powering up a load consisting of a 1,200 microfarad capacitor in parallel with a 10 ohm resistor. The N6762A was set to 10 volts and its voltage slew rate set to maximum.  This was captured using the N6762A’s digitizing voltage and current readback together with the 14585A software, shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: N6762A power supply turn on response set to maximum slew rate into parallel RC load

The vertical markers have been placed at zero and maximum voltage points of the turn on ramp. The peak inrush current reaches 3.7 amps and the peak voltage overshoots to 11.06 volts, 10% over the 10 volt setting. The overshoot is a result of the power supply crossing over into current limit during the ramp up and allowing the voltage to rise to 11.06 volts before the voltage control loop regains control to bring the output back down to 10 volts. It also takes a little while for the voltage to settle after the peak overshoot. Both the overshoot voltage and peak inrush current can be problems when powering up a DUT. These occur as a result of having too fast of a voltage slew rate when powering the DUT.

To address the problem we then set the N6762A’s slew rate to a more acceptable value of 2,000 volts/second. The turn on voltage and current were again captured and are shown in Figure 2. As can be seen the voltage overshoot is eliminated and the inrush current has been reduced to a more moderate 3.3 amps.

Figure 2: N6762A power supply turn on response set to 2,000 V/s slew rate into parallel RC load

So in closing high performance power supplies have a significant advantage in their output response speed, in comparison to basic power supplies. And while faster is usually better, absolute fastest may not be best, and this applies to the output response time of power supplies as well! But by having the ability to set the output slew rate on high performance power supplies gives you the ability to optimize its speed for your given application, providing for the best possible outcome possible!

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## Wednesday, March 11, 2015

### Comparing effects of using pulsed and steady state power to illuminate a high brightness LED

I was having a discussion here with a colleague about the merits of powering a high brightness LED (HBLED) using pulsed power versus using steady state DC power.

My opinion was: “Basically, amperes in proportionally equates to light flux out, so you will get about the same amount of illumination whether it is pulsed or DC.”

His argument was: “Because the pulses will be brighter, it’s possible the effective illumination that’s perceived will be brighter. Things appear to be continuous when discrete fixed images are updated at rates above thirty times a second, and that should apply to the pulsed illumination as well!”

I countered: “It will look the same and, if anything, will be less efficient when pulsed!”

So instead of continuing our debate we ran a quick experiment. I happened to have some HBLEDs so I hooked one up to an N6781A DC source measure module housed in an N6705B DC Power Analyzer sitting at my desk, shown in Figure 1. The N6781A has excellent current sourcing characteristics regardless whether it is DC or a dynamic waveform, making it a good choice for this experiment.

Figure 1: Powering up an HBLED

First we powered it up with a steady state DC current of 100 mA. At this level the HBLED had a forward voltage drop of 2.994 V and resulting power of 0.2994 W, as seen in Figure 2, captured using the companion 14585A control and analysis software.

Figure 2: Resulting HBLED voltage and power when powered with 100 mA steady state DC current

We then set the N6781A to deliver a pulsed current of 200 mA with a 50% duty cycle, so that its average current was 100 mA. The results were again captured using the 14585A software, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Resulting HBLED voltage and power when powered with 200 mA 50% DC pulsed current

Switching back and forth between steady state DC and pulsed currents, my colleague agreed, the brightness appeared to be comparable (just as I had expected!).  But something more interesting to note is the average current, voltage, and power. These values were obtained as shown in Figure 3 by placing the measurement markers over an integral number of waveform cycles. The average current was 100 mA, as expected. Note however that the average voltage is lower, at 2.7 V, while the average power is higher, at 0.3127 W! At first the lower average voltage together with higher average power would seem to be a contradiction. How can that be?

First, in case you did not notice, the product of the RMS voltage and RMS current are 0.3897 W which clearly does not match our average power value displayed. What, another contradiction? Why is that? Multiplying RMS voltage and RMS current will give you the average power for a linear resistive load but not for a non-linear load like a HBLED. The average power needs to be determined by taking an overall average of the power over time computed on a point-by-point basis, which is how it is done within the 14585A software as well as within our power products that digitize the voltage and current over time. Second, the average voltage is lower because it drops down towards zero during periods of zero current. However it is greater during the periods when 200 mA is being sourced through the HBLED and these are the times where power is being consumed.

So here, by using pulsed current, our losses ended up being 4.4% greater when powered by the comparable steady state current. These losses are mainly incurred as a result of greater resistive drop losses in the HBLED occurring at the higher current level.

There is supposed to be one benefit however of using pulsed power when powering HBLEDs. At different steady state DC current levels there is some shift in their output light spectrum. Using pulsed current provides dimming control while maintaining a constant light spectrum. This prevents minor color shifts at different illumination levels. Although I would probably never notice it!

## Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hi everybody!

My blog post this month is the result of a recent customer question.  The question was: how do you synchronize measurements with list transients?  The short answer is that you use the built in digitizer to generate enough points to sample the measurements over the entire transient.  The rest of this blog will provide the long answer.  The program that I am using here was written for a N6762A DC Power Module but the technique will work with any power supply that has a built in digitizer such as the Advanced Power System or any N6700 module with option 054.

For simplicity’s sake, we are going to use a 5 point list.  The voltage steps are 1 V, 2 V, 3 V, 4 V, and 5 V and the dwell times are 0.1 s, 0.2 s, 0.3 s, 0.4 s, and 0.5 s.  Let’s first set the list up (please note that all programming is done in VB.net with VISA-COM):

The next thing to do is to set up the measurement system.  We need to figure out the total number of points that we need measure so that we can cover the entire transient.  The first thing that we need to do is to calculate the total time of the list transient (you can even do this in your program):

The total time of our transient is 1.5 s.  Now we need to use this to figure out the number of points. I am going to choose a measurement interval of 40.96 us.  This means that we want to take a measurement every 40.96 us for 15 s.  To get the total number of points, you need to divide the total transient time by the measurement time interval:

I’m going to round down and use 36,621 points.  I’m also going to tell the power supply to use the binary data format because as we know from my previous blog posts, this is the fastest way to read back data.   Here is the code to set up the digitizer:

We will set our trigger source to bus for both the transient system and the acquire system:

Next we initiate both systems:

Once the initiate is complete, we send a trigger:

This will start both the list transient and the digitizer.  After everything is completed, we can fetch our measured voltage array:

This array will have all of our measurements.

I hope that this has been useful, have a good month everyone.

## Thursday, February 26, 2015

### When measurements and mathematics agree, I’m happy!

I have been an electrical engineer my entire career which will span 35 years in June (yikes….I’m too young to be this old!). Despite all of that time, plus the 4 years of undergraduate study before that and 3 years to get my MSEE at night while working full time during the day, I am still amused by some simple engineering principles. When the measurements I make in the real world completely agree with the hard-core theoretical mathematics I learned in school, I am amused.  Perhaps this should simply be expected (it is), but for some reason, I am still delighted when it happens. I recently had one of those simple experiences that I want to share with you today.

I was exploring some of the features on our new Keysight PA2201A IntegraVision power analyzer to better understand its operation and the applications for this new line of power measurement instrumentation. I had a simple desk lamp with a 100 W incandescent light bulb plugged into the wall outlet (120 Vac, 60 Hz here in the United States) and ran the voltage and current to the power analyzer. Given that the bulb presents a nearly pure resistive load to the sinusoidal voltage, as expected, the current was also a sine wave and in phase with the voltage. The power analyzer easily displays these measured waveforms.

What I never had an opportunity to see before was a visualization of the power waveform. For some reason, in all of my 35 years working in the power business, I never looked at a power waveform for a simple resistive load. Voltage? Sure! Current? Many times!! But power? Nope. The IntegraVision power analyzer shows voltage, current, and power waveforms as a typical display (this can be configured in quite a few other ways as well). So I was looking at the waveforms shown below.

The first thing I noticed about the power waveform was that it was sinusoidal and it never went below zero. This quickly made sense to me since I did consider the bulb to be purely resistive meaning it is consuming power 100% of the time, so all of the power flowing to the bulb had to be positive. The bulb is never pushing power back to the AC line as would happen with a reactive load especially for a purely reactive load such as a pure capacitor or inductor. If the load (the bulb) was not purely resistive, some of the power waveform would have dipped below the zero power line indicating that sometimes the load was absorbing power and sometimes it was providing power back to the line.

The next thing I noticed about the power waveform was that its phase was synchronized with the voltage and current, and it showed twice the frequency. Again, this quickly made sense since the power is simply the product of the voltage and the current [P(t) = V(t) * I(t)]. So the positive peaks have to line up (they do), the zero crossings of the voltage and current have to align with zero watts on the power waveform (they do), and the negative peaks in the voltage and current have to line up with another positive peak in the power since a negative voltage times a negative current yields a positive power (they do). This, of course, was the reason for the power waveform being twice the frequency of the voltage and current waveforms.

So I next decided to check the math behind the waveforms. I admit….I had to look up the trigonometric identity, but it was worth it! Since both the voltage and current waveforms are sine waves, and the power is the product of these, I looked up the identity for sine squared:
The voltage is a 120 Vrms, 60 Hz sine wave:
The current is 99.8 VA / Vrms = 0.832 Arms:
The power is V(t) * I(t):
Applying the above sine squared identity:
So you can see there is a 99.8 W fixed offset in the power waveform from which a cosine function is subtracted. The frequency of the cosine is 120 Hz (double the 60 Hz voltage and current waveforms). All of this completely agrees with the power waveform measured by the IntegraVision power analyzer. I am always thrilled when the math agrees with the measurements no matter how simple it is! How about you?

## Monday, February 9, 2015

### Consider using an electronic load for generating fast, high-power current pulses

Often there is the need for generating high-power current pulses, typically of short duration, and having rise and fall times on the order of microseconds. This is a common need when testing many types of power semiconductors, for example.

When looking for a DC power supply capable of generating very fast, high-power current pulses, one will find there are not a lot of options readily available that are capable of addressing their needs. There are specialized products dedicated for specific applications like this; an example of this is Keysight’s B1505A purpose-built semiconductor test equipment. They are capable of generating extremely fast, high-power current pulses.

Apart from specialized products however, DC power supplies generally to not offer this kind of speed when operating in a constant current mode (or current priority mode). One exception that comes to mind that we provide is our N6782A and N6782A DC source measure modules. They can create fast current pulses having just a couple of microseconds of rise and fall time. However, they are limited to 20V, 3A, and 20W of output. Most of the higher power, more general-purpose DC sources are not able to generate these kinds of fast, high-power current pulses and most are really more optimized to operate as voltage sources.

One alternative to consider for generating fast, high-power current pulses when working with general-purpose test equipment is to use an electronic load. You may initially say to yourself “an electronic load is for drawing pulses of current, not sourcing them!” but when coupled to a standard DC power supply operating as a voltage source, the setup is able to source fast, high-power current pulses. Most electronic loads are designed to have very fast current response. To illustrate this, I helped one customer needing to test their high brightness LED (HBLED) arrays with fast pulses of current. This was accomplished with the setup shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Load setup generating fast, high power current pulses for LED array testing

In this setup the power supply operates as a fixed, static voltage source. The power supply’s output voltage is set to the combined total of the full voltage needed to drive the HBLED array at full current plus the minimum voltage needed for the electronic load. The minimum voltage required for the electronic load is when it conducting maximum current and most of the power supply voltage is then applied across the HBLED array. The electronic load’s required minimum voltage is that which supports its operation in its linear range and maintains full dynamic response characteristics. In the case of Keysight electronic loads this minimum voltage for linear dynamic operation is 3 volts.  Conversely the maximum voltage required for the electronic load is when it drops down to minimum current level, where the power supply’s voltage is instead now being dropped across the electronic load instead of the HBLED array. Note that the electronic load may need to maintain a very small amount of bleed current to maintain linear operation in order to provide truly fast rise and fall times. In this way the electronic load is able to regulate the current across the full range with excellent dynamic response. This can be seen in Figure 2 where we were able to achieve approximately 15 microsecond rise time right from the start.

Figure 2: Pulsed current rise time in HBLED array

One advantage of this setup is the wide range of voltage and power that can be furnished to the DUT using a relatively low power electronic load. A common characteristic of electronic loads is that they can dissipate a given amount of power over an extended range of current and voltage. When the electronic load is at maximum current it is at minimum voltage. Conversely when it is near or at zero current it is then at its maximum voltage. In both cases there is only a small amount of power that the electronic load needs to dissipate. For an HBLED array it does not conduct a lot of current until it reaches about 75% of its full operating voltage. As a result the electronic load does not see a lot of power even on a transient basis. For this particular situation we chose to use the Keysight N3303A 240V, 10A, 250W electronic load. This gave a wide range of voltage, current, and power for testing a comparably wide range of different HBLED array assemblies.

So next time you need to source fast, high-power current pulses, you may want to think “load” instead of “source”!

## Friday, January 30, 2015

### Using the Passthrough Command in IVI drivers

Hi everybody!

I was working on a customer question yesterday and I thought that it would make an enlightening blog post.  We have a feature for our IVI-COM and IVI-C drivers that allows you to directly send SCPI commands to your instrument.  This is really useful if you run into a situation where you think there is a function is missing from our driver or you run into something unexpected.  Overall, it is pretty easy to use once you know where to find it.

Let's look at the IVI-COM driver first.  You can find the passthrough in the Systems Interface under the IO property.  One you get to the IO level, you can just use the standard VISA-COM commands to send commands to the instrument and read responses back.  For my little example here I am just going to send a voltage measurement and read back the response:

In the code above, agDrvr is the name I gave to the instrument when I initialized it.

We also provide an IVI-C driver.  The IVI-C driver also has a passthrough command that is just a little more complicated than the IVI-COM version.. To send SCPI commands, you use the AgN67xx_SystemWrite function and to read data back you would use the AgN67xx_SystemRead function.  The same example as above would look like this:

In this IVI-C code:
status is where the IVI-C driver will report an error if there is an unsuccessful call
session is the handle that I gave to this instrument when I initialized
32 was my best guess at the size of the response string.  I like to overestimate.
strResp is where I want the response to be stored
respSize is the actual size of the response and is returned by the program

All in all it's not too difficult and will definitely come in handy.

That all I have for you this month.  As always, let us know if you have any questions.

Matt

## Friday, December 12, 2014

### Why Does Over Current Protect (OCP) have a Programmable Delay Value in the First Place?

Since I am on a roll about over current protect (OCP), having just completed a two-part posting “Why does the response time of OCP vary on the power supply I am using and what can I do about it?” (Review part 1) (Review part 2) there is yet another aspect about OCP that is worth bringing up at this time. And that is “why does OCP have a programmable delay value in the first place?” This actually came up in a discussion with a colleague here after having read my part posting.

It may seem a bit ironic that OCP has a programmable delay in that in my posting on OCP I shared ideas on how one can minimize the response time delay encountered. But this is not contradictory. One may very well want to minimize it, eliminating extra delay being encountered, but not necessarily eliminate it altogether. As can be seen in my previous postings, I had programmed the OCP delay time to 5 ms.

The programmable OCP delay does serve a purpose, and that is to prevent false OCP trips. Adding some delay time prevents these false trips.  For someone who knows the root cause of false OCP tripping they might be half right. There are actually been two main causes of false OCP trips which are prevented by adding some delay time.

The original problem with OCP was that it would be falsely tripped when output voltage settings were changed on the power supply, due to capacitive loading at the test fixture or within the DUT. This is especially prominent with inrush current when first bringing up the voltage to power the DUT. An OCP delay prevents false triggering under these conditions. To correct the false tripping the delay would be invoked when output programming changes were made. As one example, the OCP delay description in our manual for our 663x series power supplies states:

This command sets the time between the programming of an output change that produces a constant
current condition (CC) and the recording of that condition by the Operation Status Condition register. The
delay prevents the momentary changes in status that can occur during reprogramming from being
registered as events by the status subsystem. Since the constant current condition is used to trigger
overcurrent protection (OCP), this command also delays OCP.”

Under this situation the momentary overcurrent is induced by the power supply. Although not nearly as much as in issue in practice, momentary overcurrents can also be DUT-induced as well. This is the second situation that can cause a false tripping of the OCP. The DUT may be independently turned on after the bias voltage has already been on and draw a surge of current. Or the DUT may change mode of operation and draw a temporary surge of current.  If the OCP delay is invoked only by an output programming change it does not have any effect in these situations.

On later generation products, such as our N6700, N6900, and N7900 series, the user also has the ability to programmatically select between having the OCP delay activate from either an output change, or from going into CC condition. This gives the user a way to remain consistent with original operation or have OCP delay effective for momentary DUT-induced overload currents as well!

## Friday, December 5, 2014

### Why does the response time of OCP vary on the power supply I am using and what can I do about it? Part 2

In the first part of this posting (click here to review) I highlighted what kind of response time is important for effective over current protection of typical DUTs and what the actual response characteristic is for a typical over current protect (OCP) system in a test system DC power supply. For reference I am including the example of OCP response time from the first part again, shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Example OCP system response time vs. overdrive level

Here in Figure 1 the response time of the OCP system of a Keysight N7951A 20V, 50A power supply was characterized using the companion 14585A software. It compares response times of 6A and 12A loading when the current limit is set to 5A. Including the programmed OCP delay time of 5 milliseconds it was found that the actual total response time was 7 milliseconds for 12A loading and 113 milliseconds for 6A loading.  As can be seen, for reasons previously explained, the response time clearly depends on the amount of overdrive beyond the current limit setting.

As the time to cause over current damage depends on the amount of current in excess of what the DUT can tolerate, with greater current causing damage more quickly, the slower response at lower overloads is generally not an issue.  If however you are still looking how you might further improve on OCP response speed for more effective protection, there are some things that you can do.

The first thing that can be done is to avoid using a power supply that has a full output current rating that is far greater than what the DUT actually draws. In this way the overdrive from an overload will be a greater percentage of the full output current rating. This will normally cause the current limit circuit to respond more quickly.

A second thing that can be done is to evaluate different models of power supplies to determine how quickly their various current limit circuits and OCP systems respond in based on your desired needs for protecting your DUT. For various reasons different models of power supplies will have different response times. As previously discussed in my first part, the slow response at low levels of overdrive is determined by the response of the current limit circuit.

One more alternative that can provide exceptionally fast response time is to have an OCP system that operates independently of a current limit circuit, much like how an over voltage protect (OVP) system works. Here the output level is simply compared against the protect level and, once exceeded, the power supply output is shut down to provide near-instantaneous protection. The problem here is this is not available on virtually any DC power supplies and would normally require building custom hardware that senses the fault condition and locally disconnects the output of the power supply from the DUT. However, one instance where it is possible to provide this kind of near-instantaneous over current protection is through the programmable signal routing system (i.e. programmable trigger system) in the Keysight N6900A and N7900A Advanced Power System (APS) DC power supplies. Configuring this triggering is illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Configuring a fast-acting OCP for the N6900A/N7900A Advanced Power System

In Figure 2 the N7909A software utility was used to graphically configure and download a fast-acting OCP level trigger into an N7951A Advanced Power System. Although this trigger is software defined it runs locally within the N7951A’s firmware at hardware speeds. The N7909A SW utility also generates the SCPI command set which can be incorporated into a test program.

Figure 3: Example custom-configured OCP system response time vs. overdrive level

Figure 3 captures the performance of this custom-configured OCP system running within the N7951A. As the OCP threshold and overdrive levels are the same this can be directly compared to the performance shown in Figure 1, using the conventional, current limit based OCP within the N7951A. A 5 millisecond OCP delay was included, as before. However, unlike before, there is now virtually no extra delay due to a current limit control circuit as the custom-configured OCP system is totally independent of it. Also, unlike before, it can now be seen the same fast response is achieved regardless of having just a small amount or a large amount of overdrive.

Because OCP systems rely on being initiated from the current limit control circuit, the OCP response time also includes the current limit response time. For most all over current protection needs this is usually plenty adequate.  If a faster-responding OCP is called for minimizing the size of the power supply and evaluating the performance of the OCP is beneficial. However, an OCP that operates independently of the current limit will ultimately be far faster responding, such as that which can be achieved either with custom hardware or making use of a programmable signal routing and triggering system like that found in the Keysight N6900A and N7900A Advanced Power Systems.

## Tuesday, November 18, 2014

### Why does the response time of OCP vary on the power supply I am using and what can I do about it? Part 1

In a previous posting of mine “Providing effective protection of your DUT against over voltage damage during test”(click here to review), an important consideration for effective protection was to factor in the response time of the over voltage protect (OVP) system. Due to the nature of over voltage damage, the OVP must be reasonably fast. The response time can typically be just a few tens of microseconds for a reasonably fast OVP system on a higher performance system power supply to hundreds of microseconds on a more basic performance system power supply. This response time usually does not vary greatly with the amount of over voltage being experienced.

Just as with voltage, system power supplies usually incorporate over current protect (OCP) systems as well. But unlike over voltage damage, which is almost instantaneous once that threshold is reached, over current takes more time to cause damage. It also varies in some proportion to the current level; lower currents taking a lot longer to cause damage. The I2t rating of an electrical fuse is one example that illustrates this effect.

Correspondingly, like OVP, power supply OCP systems also have a response time. And also like OVP, the test engineer needs to take this response time into consideration for effective protection of the DUT.  However, unlike OVP, the response time of an OCP system is quite a bit different. The response time of an OCP system is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Example OCP system response time vs. overdrive level

Here in Figure 1 the response time of the OCP system of a Keysight N7951A 20V, 50A power supply was characterized using the companion 14585A software. It compares response times of 6A and 12A loading when the current limit is set to 5A. Including the programmed OCP delay time of 5 milliseconds it was found that the actual total response time was 7 milliseconds for 12A loading and 113 milliseconds for 6A loading.

This is quite different than the response time of an OVP system. Even if the OCP delay time was set to zero, the response is still on the order of milliseconds instead of microseconds for the OVP system. And when the amount of overdrive is small, as is the case for the 6A loading, providing just 1A of overdrive, the total response time is much greater. Why is that?

Unlike the OVP system, which operates totally independent of the voltage limit control system, the OCP system is triggered off the current limit control system. Thus the total response time includes the response time of the current limit as well. The behavior of a current limit is quite different than a simple “go/no go” threshold detector as well. A limit system, or circuit, needs to regulate the power supply’s output at a certain level, making it a feedback control system. Because of this stability of this system is important, both with crossing over from constant voltage operation as well as maintaining a stable output current after crossing over. This leads to the slower and overdrive dependent response characteristics that are typical of current limit systems.

So what can be done about the slower response of an OCP system? Well, early on in this posting I talked about the nature of over current damage. Generally over current damage is much slower by nature and the over drive dependent response time is in keeping with time dependent nature of over current damage. The important thing is understand what the OCP response characteristic is like and what amount of over current your DUT is able to sustain, and you should be able to make effective use of the over current protection capabilities of your system power supply.

If however you are still looking how you might further improve on OCP response speed, look for my follow up to this in my next posting!

## Friday, November 7, 2014

### Providing effective protection of your DUT against over voltage damage during test

The two most common ways DUTs can be electrically damaged during test are from current-related events or voltage-related events that mange to over-stress the DUT. Sometimes the cause can be an issue with the DUT itself. Other times it can be an issue stemming from the test system. The most common voltage-related damage to a DUT is an over voltage event, beyond a maximum level the DUT can safely tolerate. While there are a number of things that can cause this, most invariably it was an issue with the test system power supply, either from inadvertently being set too high or from an internal failure.

To protect against accidental over voltage damage, test system power supplies incorporate an over voltage protect (OVP) system that quickly shuts down the output upon detecting the voltage has gone above a preset threshold value. More details about OVP have been written about here in a previous posting “Overvoltage protection: some background and history”(click here to review).

The critical thing about over voltage damage is, in most all cases, that it is virtually immediate once the voltage threshold where damage to the DUT occurs is exceeded. It is therefore imperative that you optimize the test set up and settings in order to provide effective protection of your DUT against over voltage damage during test. To start with, the OVP trip threshold needs to be set at a reasonable amount below the threshold where DUT damage occurs and at the same time be set to a reasonable amount above the maximum expected DUT operating voltage. This is depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1: OVP set point

However, to understand what are “reasonable amounts” above the maximum operating voltage and below the DUT damage voltage levels you need to take into account the dynamic response characteristics of the power supply output and OVP system, as depicted in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Power supply output and OVP dynamic response characteristics

It is important to have adequate margin above the maximum operating voltage to account for transient voltages due to the DUT drawing current from the power supply and resulting voltage response of the power supply in correcting for this loading, in order to prevent false OVP tripping. It is likewise important to adequate margin below the DUT damage threshold as it takes a small amount of time, in the range of 10’s to 100’s of microseconds, for the OVP system to start shutting down the power supply’s output once the OVP trip point has been crossed. At the same time the power supply typically has a maximum rate the output voltage can slew in. In practice these “reasonable amounts” typically need to be a few tenths to several tenths of a volt as a minimum.

Generally these margins are not difficult to manage, except when the DUT’s operating voltage is very small or the DUT operating current is very large producing a correspondingly large voltage drop in the power supply wiring. This is because the OVP is traditionally sensed on power supply’s output power terminals, so that it provides protection regardless of what the status and condition of the remote voltage sense wiring connection is. To improve on this we also provide OVP sensing on the remote sensing wires as an alternative to, or in addition to, the traditional sensing on the output power terminals. More details about this are described in another posting here “Protect your DUT: Use sense leads for over voltage protection (OVP)”(click here to review).

By following these suggestions you should be able to effectively protect your DUT against over voltage damage during test as well!