A switched-mode power supply, switching-mode power supply or SMPS, is an electronic power supply unit (PSU) that incorporates a switching regulator. While a linear regulator maintains the desired output voltage by dissipating excess power in a "pass" power transistor, the SMPS rapidly switches a power transistor between saturation (full on) and cutoff (completely off) with a variable duty cycle whose average is the desired output voltage. The resulting rectangular waveform is low-pass filtered with an inductor and capacitor. The main advantage of this method is greater efficiency because the switching transistor dissipates little power in the saturated state and the off state compared to the semiconducting state (active region). Other advantages include smaller size and lighter weight (from the elimination of low frequency transformers which have a high weight) and lower heat generation from the higher efficiency. Disadvantages include greater complexity, the generation of high amplitude, high frequency energy that the low-pass filter must block to avoid electromagnetic interference (EMI), and a ripple voltage at the switching frequency and the harmonic frequencies thereof.
SMPS can be classified into four types according to the input and output waveforms, as follows.
|Linear power supply||Switching power supply||Notes|
|Size and weight||If a transformer is used, large due to low operating frequency (mains power frequency is at 50 or 60 Hz). Small if transformerless.||Smaller due to higher operating frequency (typically 50 kHz - 1 MHz)||A transformer's power handling capacity of given size and weight increases with frequency provided that hysteresis losses can be kept down. Therefore, higher operating frequency means either higher capacity or smaller transformer.|
|Output voltage||With transformer used, any voltages available; if transformerless, not exceeding input. If unregulated, voltage varies significantly with load.||Any voltages available. Voltage varies little with load.||A SMPS can usually cope with wider variation of input before the output voltage changes.|
|Efficiency, heat, and power dissipation||If regulated, output voltage is regulated by dissipating excess power as heat, which is inefficient; if unregulated, transformer iron and copper losses significant.||Output is regulated using duty cycle control, which draws only the power required by the load. In all SMPS topologies, the transistors are always switched fully on or fully off.||The only heat generated is in the non-ideal aspects of the components. Switching losses in the transistors, on-resistance of the switching transistors, equivalent series resistance in the inductor and capacitors, and rectifier voltage drop will lower SMPS efficiency. However, by optimizing SMPS design, the amount of power loss and heat can be minimized. A good design can have an efficiency of 95%.|
|Complexity||Unregulated may be diode and capacitor; regulated has a voltage regulating IC or discrete circuit and a noise filtering capacitor.||Consists of a controller IC, one or several power transistors and diodes as well as a power transformer, inductors, and filter capacitors.||Multiple voltages can be generated by one transformer core. For this SMPSs have to use duty cycle control. Both need a careful selection of their transformers. Due to the high operating frequencies in SMPSs, the stray inductance and capacitance of the printed circuit board traces become important.|
|Radio frequency interference||No high-frequency interference. Some mains hum induction into unshielded cables, problematical for low-signal audio.||EMI/RFI produced due to the current being switched on and off sharply. Therefore, EMI filters and RF shielding are needed to reduce the disruptive interference.||Long wires between the components may reduce the high frequency filter efficiency provided by the capacitors at the inlet and outlet.|
|Electronic noise at the output terminals||Unregulated PSUs may have a little AC ripple superimposed upon the DC component at twice mains frequency (100-120 Hz). Can cause audible mains hum in audio equipment or brightness ripples or banded distortions in analog security cameras.||Noisier due to the switching frequency of the SMPS. An unfiltered output may cause glitches in digital circuits or noise in audio circuits.||This can be suppressed with capacitors and other filtering circuitry in the output stage.|
|Electronic noise at the input terminals||Causes harmonic distortion to the input AC, but no high frequency noise.||Very low cost SMPS may couple electrical switching noise back onto the mains power line, causing interference with A/V equipment connected to the same phase. Non power-factor-corrected SMPSs also cause harmonic distortion.||This can be prevented if a (properly earthed) EMI/RFI filter is connected between the input terminals and the bridge rectifier.|
|Acoustic noise||Faint, usually inaudible mains hum, usually due to vibration of windings in the transformer and/or magnetostriction.||Inaudible to humans, unless they have a fan or are unloaded/malfunctioning.||The operating frequency of an unloaded SMPS is sometimes in the audible human range.|
|Power factor||Low for a regulated supply because current is drawn from the mains at the peaks of the voltage sinusoid.||Ranging from low to medium since a simple SMPS without PFC draws current spikes at the peaks of the AC sinusoid.||Active/Passive power factor correction in the SMPS can offset this problem and are even required by some electric regulation authorities, particularly in Europe.|
|Risk of electric shock||Supplies with transformers allow metalwork to be grounded, safely. Dangerous if primary/secondary insulation breaks down, unlikely with reasonable design. Transformerless mains-operated supply dangerous. In both linear and SM the mains, and possibly the output voltages, are hazardous and must be well-isolated.||Common rail of equipment (including casing) is energised to half mains voltage, but at high impedance, unless equipment is earthed/grounded or doesn't contain EMI/RFI filtering at the input terminals.||Due to regulations concerning EMI/RFI radiation, many SMPS contain EMI/RFI filtering at the input stage before the bridge rectifier consisting of capacitors and inductors. Two capacitors are connected in series with the Live and Neutral rails with the Earth connection in between the two capacitors. This forms a capacitive divider that energises the common rail at half mains voltage. Its high impedance current source can provide a tingling or a 'bite' to the operator or can be exploited to light an Earth Fault LED. However, this current may cause nuisance tripping on the most sensitive residual-current devices.|
|Risk of equipment damage||Very low, unless a short occurs between the primary and secondary windings or the regulator fails by shorting internally.||Can fail so as to make output voltage very high. Can in some cases destroy input stages in amplifiers if floating voltage exceeds transistor base-emitter breakdown voltage, causing the transistor's gain to drop and noise levels to increase. Mitigated by good failsafe design. Failure of a component in the SMPS itself can cause further damage to other PSU components; can be difficult to troubleshoot.||The floating voltage is caused by capacitors bridging the primary and secondary sides of the power supply. A connection to an earthed equipment will cause a momentary (and potentially destructive) spike in current at the connector as the voltage at the secondary side of the capacitor equalises to earth potential.|
If the SMPS has an AC input, then the first stage is to convert the input to DC. This is called rectification. The rectifier circuit can be configured as a voltage doubler by the addition of a switch operated either manually or automatically. This is a feature of larger supplies to permit operation from nominally 120 volt or 240 volt supplies. The rectifier produces an unregulated DC voltage which is then sent to a large filter capacitor. The current drawn from the mains supply by this rectifier circuit occurs in short pulses around the AC voltage peaks. These pulses have significant high frequency energy which reduces the power factor. Special control techniques can be employed by the following SMPS to force the average input current to follow the sinusoidal shape of the AC input voltage thus the designer should try correcting the power factor. A SMPS with a DC input does not require this stage. An SMPS designed for AC input can often be run from a DC supply (for 230V AC this would be 330V DC), as the DC passes through the rectifier stage unchanged. It's however advisable to consult the manual before trying this, though most supplies are quite capable of such operation even though nothing is mentioned in the documentation. However, this type of use may be harmful to the rectifier stage as it will only utilize half of diodes in the rectifier for the full load. This may result in overheating of these components, and make them fail as shortcircuits.
If an input range switch is used, the rectifier stage is usually configured to operate as a voltage doubler when operating on the low voltage (~120 VAC) range and as a straight rectifier when operating on the high voltage (~240 VAC) range. If an input range switch is not used, then a full-wave rectifier is usually used and the downstream inverter stage is simply designed to be flexible enough to accept the wide range of dc voltages that will be produced by the rectifier stage. In higher-power SMPSs, some form of automatic range switching may be used.
If a DC output is required, the AC output from the transformer is rectified. For output voltages above ten volts or so, ordinary silicon diodes are commonly used. For lower voltages, Schottky diodes are commonly used as the rectifier elements; they have the advantages of faster recovery times than silicon diodes (allowing low-loss operation at higher frequencies) and a lower voltage drop when conducting. For even lower output voltages, MOSFETs may be used as synchronous rectifiers; compared to Schottky diodes, these have even lower "on"-state voltage drops.
Simpler, non-isolated power supplies contain an inductor instead of a transformer. This type includes boost converters, buck converters, and the so called buck-boost converters. These belong to the simplest class of single input, single output converters which utilize one inductor and one active switch (MOSFET). The buck converter reduces the input voltage, in direct proportion, to the ratio of the active switch "on" time to the total switching period, called the duty cycle. For example an ideal buck converter with a 10V input operating at a 50% duty cycle will produce an average output voltage of 5V. A feedback control loop is employed to maintain (regulate) the output voltage by varying the duty cycle to compensate for variations in input voltage. The output voltage of a boost converter is always greater than the input voltage and the buck-boost output voltage is inverted but can be greater than, equal to, or less than the magnitude of its input voltage. There are many variations and extensions to this class of converters but these three form the basis of almost all isolated and non-isolated DC to DC converters. By adding a second inductor the Ćuk and SEPIC converters can be implemented or by adding additional active switches various bridge converters can be realised.
Other types of SMPSs use a capacitor-diode voltage multiplier instead of inductors and transformers. These are mostly used for generating high voltages at low currents. The low voltage variant is called charge pump.
Open-loop regulators do not have a feedback circuit. Instead, they rely on feeding a constant voltage to the input of the transformer or inductor, and assume that the output will be correct. Regulated designs work against the parasitic capacity of the transformer or coil, monopolar designs also against the magnetic hysteresis of the core.
The feedback circuit needs power to run before it can generate power, so an additional non-switching power-supply for stand-by is added.
SMPS transformers run at high frequency. Most of the cost savings (and space savings) in "off-line" power supplies come from the fact that a high frequency transformer is a lot smaller than the 50/60 Hz transformers used before SMPS.
There are several differences in the design of transformers for 50 Hz vs 500 kHz. Firstly a low frequency transformer usually transfers energy through its core (soft iron), while the (usually ferrite) core of a high frequency transformer limits leakage. Since the waveforms in a SMPS are generally high speed (PWM square waves), the wiring must be capable of supporting high harmonics of the base frequency due to the skin effect, which is a major source of power loss.
Simple "off-line" switched mode power supplies incorporate a simple full wave rectifier connected to a large energy storing capacitor. Such SMPSs draw current from the AC line in short pulses when the mains instantaneous voltage exceeds the voltage across this capacitor. During the remaining portion of the AC cycle the capacitor provides energy to the power supply. As a result, the input current of such basic switched mode power supplies has high harmonic content and relatively low power factor. This creates extra load on utility lines, increases heating of the utility transformers and standard AC electric motors, and may cause stability problems in some applications such as in emergency generator systems or aircraft generators. Harmonics can be removed through the use of filter banks but the filtering is expensive, and the power utility may require a business with a very low power factor to purchase and install the filtering onsite.
In 2001 the European Union put into effect the standard IEC/EN61000-3-2 to set limits on the harmonics of the AC input current up to the 40th harmonic for equipment above 75 W. The standard defines four classes of equipment depending on its type and current waveform. The most rigorous limits (class D) are established for personal computers, computer monitors, and TV receivers. In order to comply with these requirements modern switched-mode power supplies normally include an additional power factor correction (PFC) stage.
Putting a current regulated boost chopper stage after the off-line rectifier (to charge the storage capacitor) can help correct the power factor, but increases the complexity (and cost).
|Type||Power [Watts]||Typical Efficiency||Relative cost||Input range [Volts]||Isolation||Energy storage||Voltage relation||Features|
|Buck||0–1000||75%||1.0||5–1000*||N||Single inductor||Out < In|
|Boost||0–150||78%||1.0||5–600*||N||Single inductor||Out > In|
|Buck-boost||0–150||78%||1.0||5–600*||N||Single inductor||Up or down||Inverted output voltage|
|Split-Pi (Boost-Buck)||0-2000||95%||>2.0||10-100||N||Two inductors + three capacitors||Up or down||Bidirectional power control In or Out|
|Flyback||0–150||78%||1.0||5–600||Y||Transformer||Up or down||Multiple outputs|
|Half-Forward||0–250||75%||1.2||5-500||Y||Transformer + inductor|
|Forward||78%||60-200||Y||Transformer + inductor||Multiple outputs|
|Resonant, zero voltage switched||>1000||>2.0|
|Ćuk||N||Capacitor + two inductors||Up or down||Negative voltage for positive input.|
|Ćuk isolated||Y||One (pure AC) transformer + two capacitors + two inductors||Up or down||Negative or positive voltage output.|
|Inverting charge-pump (Modified Ćuk)||N||Single inductor||Output voltage negative and higher-magnitude than positive input voltage.|
|SEPIC||N||Two inductors||Up or down|
|Charge pump||N||Capacitors only||Charge pumps used to generate very high voltages are usually called voltage multipliers.|
Switched-mode PSUs in domestic products such as personal computers often have universal inputs, meaning that they can accept power from most mains supplies throughout the world, with rated frequencies from 50 Hz to 60 Hz and voltages from 100 V to 240 V (although a manual voltage "range" switch may be required). In practice they will operate from a much wider frequency range and often from a DC supply as well. In 2006, Intel proposed the use of a single 12 V supply inside PCs, due to the high efficiency of switch mode supplies directly on the PCB.
Most modern desktop and laptop computers already have a DC-DC converter on the motherboard, to step down the voltage from the PSU or the battery to the CPU core voltage -- as low as 0.8 V for a low voltage CPU to typically 1.2-1.5 V for a desktop CPU as of 2007. Most laptop computers also have a DC-AC inverter to step up the voltage from the battery to drive the backlight, typically around 1000 Vrms.
Certain applications, such as in automobile industry and in some industrial settings, DC supply is chosen to avoid hum and interference and ease the integration of capacitors and batteries used to buffer the voltage. Most small aircraft use 28 volt DC, but larger aircraft often use 120 V AC at 400 Hz, though they often have a DC bus as well. Some submarines like the Soviet Alfa class submarine utilised two synchronous generators providing a variable three-phase current, 2 x 1500 kW, 400 V, 400 Hz.
In the case of TV sets, for example, one can test the excellent regulation of the power supply by using a variac. For example, in some models made by Philips, the power supply starts when the voltage reaches around 90 volts. From there, one can change the voltage with the variac, and go as low as 40 volts and as high as 260 (known such case that voltage was 360), and the image will show absolutely no alterations.
Wipo Publishes Patent of Fujitsu Technology Solutions Intellectual Property, Peter Busch for "Switched-Mode Power Supply Unit, Method of Operation and Use of a Switched-Mode Power Supply Unit in a Computer" (German Inventor)
Dec 31, 2012; GENEVA, Dec. 31 -- Publication No. WO/2012/171788 was published on Dec. 20.Title of the invention: "SWITCHED-MODE POWER SUPPLY...