Converters are the most common form of power electronics. A converter takes one form of electrical
power and converts it into another. AC-AC converters are the simplest. AC-AC conversion is
accomplished by inductive coupling for which the time-varying nature of AC power is well suited.
AC-AC converters also are the means to tap power from the power grid which accomplishes its task at
50Hz or 60Hz frequencies over high-voltage transmission lines.
A cousin to this type of converter is the AC–to–DC converter. Conversion from the bipolar nature of
AC to the unipolar form of DC is accomplished through the artifact of diode rectifier circuits under
such categories as half–wave, full–wave, three-phase, etc.
Considerably more conversion versatility and efficiency can be accomplished by means of transistors
as high-speed switches. These are categorized as ‘switching power supplies’ and are most commonly
employed as DC-DC converters. They also find use as DC-AC converters, also identified as
Since the DC-DC switching technique is simple and straightforward and offers advantages in
adaptability, size, and efficiency, it is rapidly taking the lead over the older linear technologies.
The generic form of the switching converter is DC to DC, for which a unipolar, steady-state source
level ( I1 ,V1 ) is converted to a unipolar steady-state load requirement (I2 ,V2 ). Assuming that it is
lossless, then
I 1V1  I 2V2
The assumption that a converter is lossless is a typical idealization caveat, but not unreasonable. The
basic converter topology is represented by figure 20.11–1 and consists of a series element and a shunt
element. For the direct converter these are switches and for proper operation must be complementary.
Figure 20.11–1(a) and (b): Basic topology. 12V – 9V example
Figure 20.11–1(c): (I,V) waveforms for the 12V – 9V converter
The switching power supply relies on time-averages levels as defined by the duty cycles of its two
switches. The duty cycle D of SW1 defines the average voltage level V2 that is transferred from the
source side to the load side. Switch SW2 keeps the current I2 flowing through the load when switch 1
is off. For the converter represented by figure 20.11–1, switch #1 has a duty cycle D = 0.75 and
switch #2 will therefore have complementary duty cycle (1 – D) = 0.25.
V1 is assumed to be a steady levels of voltage. I2 is assumed to be a continued flow of current, as
afforded by SW2. The action of the switches and time-averaging then yields
V2  V2 (t )  DV1
I 1  I SW1 (t )  DI 2
where x(t ) indicates time averaging. The variation in levels from the switching action are smoothed
over by use of capacitances and inductances. Note that equations (20.11-2a) and (20.11-2b) also obey
the lossless condition (equation (20.11-1)).
The switching is usually executed at sufficiently high frequencies so capacitance and inductances of
modest sizes can be used to smooth out the waveforms. Both of these elements are energy storage
elements, for which capacitances are used to store voltage (in the form Q/C), and smooth out the
voltage waveform and inductances are used to store current and smooth out the current waveform.
The effects of these components in the circuit are realized by the definitions
dV 
dI 
for which the larger the values of C and L, the smaller the ripple.
Equation (20.11-3b) is also emphasizes that an emf (voltage) will be generated across the inductance
with a change in current. This effect is manifested by figure 20.11–2 for which an interruption of
current flow such as that caused by a switch induces an emf of magnitude that can easily break-over
the switch gap. In the early part of the century, when many unwary experimenters would hook up a
DC induction motor to a simple knife switch, a panicky yank on the switch to shut off the motor would
create an enormous, dangerous arc, usually sufficient to melt parts of the switch. In modern circuits,
this effect merely annihilates the switching transistor as the overvoltage surges well beyond junction
breakdown. For this reason, many circuits containing an inductance add a ”snubber” to shunt
destructive overvoltage spikes and arcs. Snubbers are even included in digital integrated circuits, since
at high switching speeds, the small inductances due to long interconnects may be sufficient to cause
large overvoltages.
Figure 20.11–2: Induced voltages in an inductance due to current interruption.
This effect is of advantage in converter circuits because the opening of the controlled switch will
induce sufficient reactive voltage to turn on a reactive switch such as a didoe. This action is illustrated
by figure 20.11–3.
Figure 20.11–3: Inductive complementary switching by means of a diode.
As indicated by the figure the diode is pulled into forward bias by the emf induced across the
inductance. The diode will therefore serve as the complementary switch to that of the controlled
switch (which usually is a transistor)
A complete converter circuit might then be represented by figure 20.11–4, which represents the
topology which we usually call a direct converter.
Figure 20.11–4: The direct converter topology (down converter).
T direct converter topology relies on the switches. For this topology the input voltage is stored on
capacitance C so that the voltage V1 supplied to the switches is = VC. The capacitance is discharged
by current I2 flowing out of it during the interval in which SW1 is on and is supplied continuously by
current I1 flowing from the input source as represented by figure 20.11–5.
Figure 20.11–5: Discharge current
The drop in voltage on the capacitance over the interval from 0 to DT is then
VC  V1 
 I
 I 1 dt 
I 2  I 1 DT  1 1  I 1 DI 2 T
I2 
which is the same as
VC  V1 
1  DT
since D x I2 = I1.
Equation (20.11–4) represents the decrement of VC during discharge or the magnitude of the ripple.
Figure 20.11–5 illustrates the effect of the capacitance on average voltage V1.
Figure 20.11–6. Ripple on V1 = VC .
The amplitude of this ripple can also be evaluated by evaluating VC when SW1 is open for which the
capacitance is charged up by a flow of current I1 onto the capacitance. This current causes an
increment of voltage across C of value
VC  V1 
 I dt  C 1  D T
and is the same as that of equation (20.11–4).
Which is expected, should be no surprise.
Similarly, a ripple in the current I2 will occur as the inductance discharges through the load while SW2
is closed, i.e.
I 2 
V2 dt  2 1  D T
This ripple will induce a corresponding ripple in V2, i.e.
V2  I 2  R2
EXAMPLE 20.11–1: The circuit of figure 20.11–7 shows a direct converter which is supplied by a
source of value VB = 26 V and internal resistance RB = 0.1. RB also acts as the resistive component
of the R-C input filter. It is assumed that the load can be represented by R2 = 0.1.. It is switched by a
clock at fs =50 kHz.
(a) What are the converter values I2, V1, and I1 and what duty cycle D is required.
(b) What values of L and C are needed to keep the current ripple at the output and the voltage
ripple of the input to less than 2%?
Figure 20.11–7: 26V–to–5V direct converter operating at fs = 50 kHz
SOLUTION: For V2 = 5V, we have: I2 = V2/R2 = 5/0.1 = 50 A.
Assuming V1 x I1 = V2 x I2 = 250 W, and I1 = ( 26 – V1 )/R1, we get the quadratic:
10V1(26 - V1) = 250
which has solutions V1 = 25 and V1 = 1. Only the solution V1 = 25V makes sense since the other
solution is less than V2 (= 5V). For this value, we then get:
I1 = (26 – V1 )/R1 = 10A
The duty cycle D is then: D = V2 / V1 = 0.2
The ripple current at the output is, from equation (20.11–5),
I 2  .02  50 
 5.0  (1  0.2)  20 s
from which the inductance needs to be (at least) L 
5.0  0.8  20u
0.02  50
= 80H
Similarly, from equation (20.11–4)
V1  .02  25 
 10  (1  0.2)  20 s
from which the capacitance will need to be (at least) C 
10  0.8  20u
= 320F
0.02  25
The topology of figure 20.11–4 requires the need of the quadratic equation
V1 V B  V1   PL R B
which has solution
V1 
1  1  4 PL R B
V B2
where only the positive root is valid, required in order that V1 > V2.
The topology represented by figure 20.11–4 is also called the down converter or buck converter, since
it ”bucks” the voltage down to a lower output level. It has a sister topology that uses the same
principles, called the boost converter or up converter, represented by figure 20.11–8.
Figure 20.11–8: The direct converter ‘boost’ topology.
This converter topology takes the energy that is stored in the inductance during the first part of the
duty cycle and dumps it into the right–hand side of the circuit. It does so the higher voltage induced
across the inductance when the current through the transistor is switched off. Assume that D’
represents the duty cycle of the transistor. When it turns off the emf induced across the inductance
rises until it is sufficient to turn the diode on. The interval fraction for which the transistor is off
corresponds to duty cycle (1–D’). The conduction current through the diode is therefore
I D  I 2  (1  D ' ) I 1
Since we require that the circuit be lossless, for which I2V2 = I1V1, then, by equation (20.11–9) the
voltage at the output must be:
V2 
(1  D ' )
Since (1 – D’) is always less than 1, then V2 > V1, and the converter therefore ’boosts’ the voltage.
The voltage across capacitance C is VC = V2. Compare this condition to the buck converter, it was V1
that fell across capacitance C. Therefore, if we designate D = the duty cycle of the series switch,
which for the boost converter the diode and defined by (20.11-9) as 1 – D’, then equations (20.11–10)
and (20.11–2a) are the same.
This is no coincidence, of course. The topologies are exactly the same, except that figure 20.11–8 is a
right–to–left reflection of figure 20.11–4. The only difference is in the arrangement of the controlled
switch and the diode.
Analysis is therefore entirely the same as for the down converter except that subscripts are
interchanged. Ripple equations for voltage across the capacitance and current through the inductance
are the same as (20.11–4) and (20.11–6), except that the subscripts may be interchanged if we adhere
to subscript 1 as being at the input and subscript 2 as being at the output. A comparison is represented
by example 20.11–2.
EXAMPLE 20.11–2: Warrior–brand combat underwear uses a muscle electrostimulation (ESM) unit
which requires 72V at 1A to operate in the superman mode. If it is supplied by a 9V battery belt
capable of supplying 50A of short–circuit current, determine (a) converter values V1, and I1 and duty
cycle D’ of the controlled switch, (b) values of L and C needed to keep the voltage ripple at the output
and the current ripple of the input to less than 2%, assuming that the circuit is toggled at switching
frequency fs = 50 kHz.
SOLUTION: (a) the output requirement is P2 = PL = I2 V2 = 1A x 72V = 72W.
Assuming that the converter is approximately lossless, I1V1 = I2V2.
In this case we have V1 = VB – I1R1, where VB = battery voltage = 9V and R1 = RB = 9V/50A = 0.18W.
(V B  I 1 R B ) I 1  P2  72
Which, with values is of the form
(9  0.18 I 1 ) I 1  72
which has solutions I1 = 10A and 40A. Although both solutions will work, I1 = 10A is the more
reasonable one, and will correspond to
V1 = 7.2V
and D’ = 1 – I2/I1 = 0.9
(b) For ripple of less than 2%,
V2 = VC = .02 x 72 = 1.44 V
According to equation (20.11-4)
1  DT
For the boost converter D’ and (1 - D) are analogous, since both are the fraction of the cycle for which
the two sides are disconnected. I1 is the current flowing off the capacitance, which for the boost
converter corresponds to that through the load = 1.0A, so that
 (0.9  20 s)
= 12.5F
where we have used T = 1/fs = 20
Similarly for a 2% ripple in input current, and evaluating for the condition that SW1 = ON (and for
which the two sides are disconnected)
I 1  I L  .02  10   (7.2  (0.9  20 s))
and which gives L = 648H
The topology of figure 20.11–8 requires the need of the quadratic equation
(V B  I 1 R B ) I 1  PL
for which the required solutions is
I1 
1  1  4 PL R B
V B2
2 RB
Synopsis: For the direct converter (whether up or down), equations (20.11-8) and (20.11-11) are the
benchmarks for the voltage and current transfer from one type of energy storage element to the other
and can be restated as
1  1  4 PL R B
V B2
VC 
IL 
1  1  4 PL R B
V B2
for which VC is the averaged voltage that appears across the capacitance and IL is the averaged current
that flows through the inductance. Equations (20.11-12a) and (20.11-12b) identify the unknown input
level, from which the duty cycle D that is required to accomplish the conversion can then be
The ripple across these elements is defined by the R-C and R-L constants which can be restated in
terms of equations (20.11-4) and (20.11-6a)
Dseries (off )T
Dseries (off )T
VC 
I L 
where the usage identifies that the ripple is stated in terms of current IC that is supplying the
capacitance and voltage VL that is supplying the inductance. The use of Dseries(off) nomenclature
identifies the fraction of the duty cycle for which the two sides of the converter are electrically isolated
from each other as results of the series switch being off.
It is a little more practical to express equations (20.11-13a) and (20.11-13b) in terms of the time
constants C = RC C and L= RL /L, where RC is the resistance in the capacitance path and RL is the
resistance in the inductance path, whether these resistances be in the front end of the converter or the
back end. Using the facts that VC = IC x RC and IL = VL /RL these equations take the form
t (off )
I L
t (off )
IL  L
In the case of the direct-down topology, the resistance in the capacitance path corresponded to RB and
the resistance in the inductance path corresponded to RL. And for the 1-2 nomenclature used with this
topology, I1 corresponded to IC and I2 corresponded to IL.
It is probably not good practice to assume that the resistance RB of the power source be equal to zero,
but if it is assumed then the down-converter will have no need of a capacitance and (apparently) the
up-converter will have no need of an inductance (which is not true). The mathematics does become
simpler since the duty cycle D is sufficient to describe the relationships between input and output,
since both are then either known or identified by the load requirement and the source characteristics..
Another topology is the indirect converter represented by figure 20.11–9. This topology can be either
an ‘up‘ converter or a ‘down’ converter.
Figure 20.11-9. The indirect (buck-boost) converter topology
If we acknowledge that the time average of voltage over the inductance must be zero, then
V1 DT  V2 (1  D)T  0
so that
V1 1  D
where D is the duty cycle of the controlled switch and T is the period of the cycle. Depending on the
value of D, V2 can be either greater or less than V1. We also note that the average capacitance current
must be zero, in which case,
I 2 DT  I 1 (1  D)T
which is the same as
I2 1 D
This result just confirms that the (ideal) net power going into the converter should be zero, assuming
that the converter is approximately lossless.
But as is true for the power amplifiers, the converter is not lossless, since some power is dissipated in
the switching components themselves. For the cases represented by figure 20.11–4 and its cousins,
these are the transistor(s) and the diode(s). Although considerably better than mechanical switches,
these components will have finite turn–on and turn–off times during which significant power levels
are dissipated in the switches. The principle is represented by figure 20.11–10.
Figure 20.11–10: Power dissipation in the switches.
Assuming that a switching transition can be represented by an approximately linear behavior over
transition interval (0 < t < tON) as represented by Figure 20.11–8, then during this transition time
I (t )  I ON 
t ON
V (t )  VOFF  VON 1 
 t ON
  VON
The power dissipated in the switch during transition is the time–average P(t ) over the switching
interval 0 < t < tON for which
P(t ) 
I (t )V (t )dt 
t  1 1 VON 
 
T  6 3 VOFF 
where t is the transition time (= either tON or tOFF) and T = 1/fS, with fS = switching frequency.
Equation (20.11-17 is the same for either the ON-OFF or the OFF-ON transition.
The current ION that passes through either one of the switches is always the current through the
inductance. The voltage VOFF across a switch is always the voltage across the capacitance. It should
be no surprise that the energy–storage elements define the levels of voltage and current that are
switched on/off by the two complementary switching elements to yield the desired I1,V1 -> I2, V2
Furthermore, the power dissipated when the switch is on is
 DT  t ON 
PD (ON )  I ON VON  
where D is the duty cycle for the switch, whether defined by external control or defined by the
reflexive nature of the circuit.
Turn–on and turn–off times tON and tOFF are a function of the levels of current and voltage, since
these switches must usually be ”charged up” for minority–carrier injection or the depletion of a drift
region. tON and tOFF are on the order of s for large power transistors and diodes . These response
times are the fundamental limit to the switching speed fs. Also the switches themselves will have a
finite voltage drop, which, as we noted in section 20.3. These may on the order of 1 to 6V for a power
BJT in the ”ON” state. A power diode will have an ”ON” voltage drop on the order of 0.6V to 2.0V.
For low–voltage converters, as represented by examples 20.11–1, and 20.11–2, common off–the–
shelf, large BJTs and diodes may be used, for which the voltage drop across the devices is less severe.
EXAMPLE 20.11–3: Assume that the controlled switch (= BJT) of example 20.11–1 has VCE (on) =
1.0V, and that the diode has V(on) = 0.6 V. Assume that tON = 1.0s = tOFF for both devices.
Determine the power dissipated in the switches.
SOLUTION: The switching frequency fS = 50kHz, for which 1/fS = 20s. From the example ION = IL
= I2 = 50A and VOFF = VC = V1 = 25V. From equation (20.11–8) the power dissipated during switch
transitions is then
PD1 (transition)  50  25  
1.0s  1.0s  1 1 1.0 
 
20 s
 6 3 25.0 
= 22.5W
PD 2 (transition)  50  25 
1.0s  1.0s  1 1 0.6 
 
20 s
 6 3 25.0 
= 21.8W
The power dissipated during the time when the switches are ‘ON is
(0.2  20 s)  1.0s
20 s
(0.8  20 s)  1.0s
PD 2 (ON )  50 A  0.6V  
20 s
PD1 (ON )  50 A  1.0V  
Therefore the power dissipated budget due loss in the switches is
= 7.5W
= 22.5W
PD1  PD1 (trans )  PD1 (ON )
= 30W
PD 2  PD 2 (trans )  PD 2 (ON )
= 44.3W
This loss represents a total PD of 74.3 W. Since the power load requirement was 250W, it is necessary
to factor this power loss into the analysis, for which it is apparent that duty cycle D will have to be
increased in order to compensate for the loss in the switches. The process is iterative. If iterations are
carried back and forth between examples 20.8.1 and 20.8.2, with the modification
I 1V1  I 2V2  PD
where PD = PD1 + PD2, we find that the duty cycle must be slightly increased, to D = 0.203. And with
this change, we find also that V1 must be increased to= 24.62 V
In example 20.11–3, the change in the duty cycle D due to the power loss in the switches is relatively
minor. The analysis does alert us that we need to have a BJT and a diode capable of dissipating
approximately 30W and 44.3W, respectively. Allowing for safety margins and de-rating via the heat
sinks, this converter can probably be constructed using a 75W power transistor and a 100W diode the