An Integrated, Lossless, and Accurate Current-Sensing Technique for High-Performance Switching Regulators
Forghani-zadeh, Hassan Pooya
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Switching power converters are an indispensable part of every battery-operated consumer electronic product, nourishing regulated voltages to various subsystems. In these circuits, sensing the inductor current is not only necessary for protection and control but also is critical to be done in a lossless and accurate fashion for state-of-the-art advanced control techniques, which are devised to optimize transient response, increase the efficiency over a wide range of loads, eliminate off-chip compensation networks, and integrate the power inductor. However, unavailability of a universal, integrable, lossless, and accurate current-sensing technique impedes the realization of those advanced techniques and limit their applications. Unfortunately, use of a conventional series sense resistor is not recommended in high-performance, high-power switching regulators where more than 90% efficiency is required because of their high current levels. A handful of lossless current-sensing techniques are available but their accuracies are significantly lower than the traditional sense resistor scheme. Among available lossless but not accurate techniques, an off-chip, filter-based method that uses a tuned filter across the inductor to estimate current flow and its accuracy is dependent on the inductance and its equivalent series resistance (ESR) was selected for improvement because of its inherent continuous and low-noise operation. A schemes is proposed to adapt the filter technique for integration by automatically adjusting bandwidth and gain of an on-chip programmable gm-C filter to the off-chip power inductor during the system start-up through measuring the inductance and its ESR with on-chip generated test currents. The IC prototype in AMI s 0.5-um CMOS process achieved overall DC and AC gain errors of 8% and 9%, respectively, at 0.8 A DC load and 0.2 A ripple currents for inductors from 4 uH-14 uH and ESR from 48 mOhm to 384 mOhm when lossless, state-of-the-art schemes achieve 20 40% error and only when the nominal specifications of power component (power MOSFET or inductor) are known. Moreover, the proposed circuit improved the efficiency of a test bed current-mode controlled switching regulator by more than 2.6% at 0.8 A load compared to the traditional sense resistor technique with a 50 mOhm sense resistor.