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Showing posts with label four quadrant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label four quadrant. 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.

## Tuesday, June 3, 2014

### Upcoming Webinar on High Power Source/Sink Solutions for Testing Bidirectional Energy Devices

Figure 1: The four operating quadrants

Bidirectional and regenerative energy devices that are used in many applications, such as satellite power systems, alternative energy, automotive, and many other areas, operate at kilowatt and higher power levels. These higher power levels have a significant impact on solutions and approaches taken to address their testing.  Also, the nature of these bidirectional and regenerative energy devices are not all the same. This also has an impact in that the capabilities of the test solutions need to be different to address these different types of devices.

In my upcoming webinar on June 18th, titled “Conquering the High Power Source/Sink Test Challenge” I will be exploring the test needs of key bidirectional and regenerative energy devices and then go into the details of various test solutions and approaches for sourcing and sinking power and energy, along with their associated advantages and disadvantages. This is just a couple of weeks away. So if you are involved in this kind of work and are interested, or would just like to learn more, you can register online at the following (click here).  In case you cannot join the live event you will still be able to register and listen to seminar afterward instead, as it will be recorded.  I hope you can join in!

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## Friday, December 21, 2012

### Two-quadrant power supplies are better than one!

Back in October, I posted an explanation about what was a bipolar (four-quadrant) power supply (see post here: http://powersupplyblog.tm.agilent.com/2012/10/what-is-bipolar-four-quadrant-power.html). That post covered two-quadrant supplies as well. Last week, while in Lorton, Virginia, I had an opportunity to meet with some of our U.S. Army customers  - engineers working at Fort Belvoir. Many of the engineers worked in the Counter Measures Research Laboratory (CMRL). While they are very careful to not reveal any details about the specifics of the work they do, one of the engineers shared a story with me about two-quadrant operation that is worth repeating.

The story was told while I was providing a demonstration of one of our power supplies, the N6705B DC Power Analyzer (see Figure 1). I was explaining to a group of engineers that some of the 34 power modules that can be installed in the N6705B are two-quadrant power supplies: they can source current and also sink current at one voltage polarity. Other power modules are four-quadrant power supplies: they can source and sink current, and provide positive or negative voltage. This explanation inspired one of the engineers to tell the group that the N6705B helped him solve a problem!

A battery operated device (he did not mention what it was) came into his lab because it was not functioning properly: it had some type of intermittent problem. In an attempt to reproduce the problem, he removed the battery and connected the device’s power input terminals to a power supply on his lab bench. But even after running the device for long periods of time and through all of its operating modes, he was unable to reproduce the intermittent problem.

One of his colleagues suggested he try connecting the device to a two-quadrant power supply installed in the N6705B they owned. The original power supply he was using was a one-quadrant supply – it could source power, but could not absorb power. The battery that normally powers the device can source and sink (absorb) power, so perhaps a power supply that more closely mimicked the behavior of the battery could help uncover the problem. Well, this worked! With the device connected to the two-quadrant power supply in the N6705B, the intermittent problem showed up again proving that it was related to the battery being able to source and sink power – a power supply with similar characteristics was needed. Apparently, the device has a mode in which it momentarily forces current back out of the battery input terminals. That current is normally absorbed by the battery. And during that time, this intermittent problem must show up. During test, a single-quadrant power supply is unable to absorb the power and therefore does not reveal the problem. A two-quadrant power supply can sink the momentary current, and the problem was back, enabling the engineer to track it down and eliminate it! See Figure 2 for an example of the output characteristic of a two-quadrant power supply.

This example demonstrates the importance of choosing a power supply with the right output characteristics for your test. When testing a device or circuit with a power supply, the closer that power supply’s behavior is to the actual power used with the device or circuit, the more you will reveal about the actual performance of your device or circuit.  There are applications in which a two-quadrant power supply will better replicate a battery’s behavior than a single-quadrant power supply, even if you don’t expect the battery to absorb power during test. One CMRL engineer experienced this firsthand.

## Wednesday, December 5, 2012

### Power supply current source-to-sink crossover characteristics

A two-quadrant power supply is traditionally one that outputs unipolar voltage but is able to both source as well as sink current. For a positive polarity power source, when sourcing current it is operating in quadrant 1 as a conventional power source. When sinking current it is operating in quadrant 2 as an electronic load. Conversely, a negative polarity two-quadrant  power source operates in quadrants three and four. Further details on power supply operating quadrants are provided in a recent posting here in ‘Watt’s Up?”, What is a bipolar (four-quadrant) power supply? Often a number of questions come up when explaining two-quadrant power supply operation, including:
• What does it take to get the power supply operating as a voltage source to cross over from sourcing to sinking current?
• What effect does crossing over from sourcing to sinking current have on the power supply’s output?

For a two-quadrant voltage source to be able to operate in the second quadrant as an electronic load, the device it is normally powering must also be able to source current and power as well as normally draw current and power. Such an arrangement is depicted in Figure 1, where the device is normally a load, represented by a resistance, but also has a charging circuit, represented by a switch and a voltage source with current-limiting series resistance.

Figure 1: Voltage source and example load device arrangement for two-quadrant operation.

There is no particular control on a two-quadrant power supply that one has to change to get it to transition from sourcing current and power to sinking current and power from the device it is normally powering. It is simply when the source voltage is greater than the device’s voltage then the voltage source will be operating in quadrant one sourcing power and when the source voltage is less than the device’s voltage the voltage source will be operating in quadrant two as an electronic load. In figure 1, during charging the load device can source current back out of its input power terminals as long as the charger’s current-limited voltage is greater than the source voltage.

It is assumed that load device’s load and charge currents are lower than the positive and negative current limits of the voltage source so that the voltage source always remains in constant voltage (CV) operation. A step change in current is the most demanding from a transient standpoint, but as the voltage source is always in its constant voltage mode it handle the transition well as its voltage control amplifier is always in control. This is in stark contrast to a mode cross over between voltage and current where different control amplifiers need to exchange control of the power supply’s output. In this later case there can be a large transient while changing modes. See another posting, Why Does My Power Supply Overshoot at Current Limit? Insights on Mode Crossover” for further information on this.  There is a specification given on voltage sources which quantifies the impact one should expect to see from a step change in current going from sourcing current to sinking current, which is its transient voltage response.  A transient voltage response measurement was taken on an N6781A two-quadrant DC source, stepping the load from 0.1 amps to 1.5 amps, roughly 50% of its rated output current.

Figure 2: Agilent N6781A transient voltage response measurement for 0.1A to 1.5A load step

However, the transient voltage response shown in Figure 2 was just for sourcing current. With a well-designed two-quadrant voltage source the transient voltage response should be virtually unchanged for any step change in current load, as long as it falls within the voltage source’s current range.  The transient voltage response for an N6781A was again capture in Figure 3, but now for stepping the load between -0.7A and +0.7A.

Figure 3: Agilent N6781A transient voltage response measurement for -0.7A to +0.7A load step

As can be seen in Figures 2 and 3 the voltage transient response for the N6781A remained unchanged regardless of whether the stepped load current was all positive or swung between positive and negative (sourcing and sinking).

While the transient voltage response addresses the dynamic current loading on the voltage source there is another specification that addresses the static current loading characteristic, which is the DC load regulation or load effect.  This is a very small effect on the order of 0.01% output change for many voltage sources. For example, for the N6781A the load effect in its 6 volt range is 400 microvolts for any load change. In the case of the N6781A being tested here the DC change was the same for both the 0.1 to 1.5 amp step and the -0.7 to +0.7 amp step change.

There are two more scenarios which will cause a two-quadrant power supply transition between current sourcing and sinking.  The first is very similar to above with the two-quadrant power supply operating in constant voltage (CV) mode, but instead of the DUT changing, the power supply changes its voltage level instead.  The final scenario is having the two-quadrant power supply operating in constant current with the DUT being a suitable voltage source that is able to source and sink power as well, like a battery for example. Here the two-quadrant power supply can be programmed to change from a positive current setting to a negative current setting, thus transitioning between sourcing and sinking current again, and its current regulating performance is now a consideration.  Both good topics for future postings!

## Friday, October 26, 2012

### What is a bipolar (four-quadrant) power supply?

To answer this question, I have to start with a basic definition of polarity conventions. Figure 1 shows a simple diagram of a power supply (a two-terminal device) with the standard polarity for voltage and current. A standard power supply typically is a source of power. To source power, current must flow out of the positive voltage terminal. Most power supplies source energy in this way by providing a positive output voltage and positive output current. This is known as a uni-polar power supply because it provides voltage with only one polarity. By convention, the “polarity” nomenclature typically refers to the polarity of the voltage (not the direction of current flow).
If current flows into the positive voltage terminal, the power supply is sinking current and is acting like an electronic load – it is absorbing and dissipating power instead of sourcing power. Most power supplies do not do this although many Agilent power supplies can sink some current to quickly pull down their output voltage when needed – this is known as a down-programmer capability – see this post for more info: http://powersupplyblog.tm.agilent.com/2012/03/if-you-need-fast-rise-and-fall-times.html.

To fully define power supply output voltage and current conventions, a Cartesian coordinate system is used. The Cartesian coordinate system simply shows two parameters on perpendicular axes. See Figure 2.  By convention, the four quadrants of the coordinate system are defined as shown. Roman numerals are typically used to refer to the quadrants. For power supplies, voltage is normally shown on the vertical axis and current on the horizontal axis. This coordinate system is used to define the valid operating points for a given power supply. A graph of the boundary surrounding these valid operating points on the coordinate system is known as the power supply’s output characteristic.
As mentioned earlier, some power supplies are uni-polar (produce only a single polarity output voltage), but can source and sink current. These power supplies can operate in quadrants 1 and 2 and can therefore be called two-quadrant supplies. In quadrant 1, the power supply would be sourcing power with current flowing out of the more positive voltage terminal. In quadrant 2, the power supply would be consuming power (sinking current) with current flowing into the more positive voltage terminal.

Some power supplies can provide positive or negative voltages across their output terminals without having to switch the external wiring to the terminals. These supplies can typically operate in all four quadrants and are therefore known as four-quadrant power supplies. Another name for these is bipolar since they are able to produce either positive or negative voltage on their output terminals. In quadrants 1 and 3, a bipolar supply is sourcing power: current flows out of the more positive voltage terminal. In quadrants 2 and 4, a bipolar supply is consuming power: current flows into the more positive voltage terminal. See Figure 3.
Agilent’s N6784A is an example of a bipolar power supply. It can source or sink current and the output voltage across its output terminals can be set positive or negative. It is a 20 W Source/Measure Unit (SMU) with multiple output ranges. See Figure 4 for the output characteristic of the N6784A.
To summarize, a bipolar or four-quadrant power supply is a supply that can provide positive or negative output voltage, and can source or sink current. It can operate in any of the four quadrants of the voltage-current coordinate system.