There are many applications that can benefit from a multiphase power supply. Some examples include core supplies for ASICs or Processors, car audio supplies or memory applications for servers. Virtually any power supply can take advantage of a multiphase approach. The advantages of a multiphase supply can include thermal performance, size, output ripple and transient response. This approach can be used for simple buck converters, boost converters or even more complicated designs such as active clamp forwards or flyback converters.
Thermal performance related to conduction losses of the power supply is proportional to the current squared. If multiple phases are used these losses can be reduced. If two phases are used, power due to conduction losses is cut in half.
The conduction losses are only a portion of the total losses in a power supply, but at higher currents these losses can be significant.
Reduce power supply size by going to a multiphase approach. Even though more components are required, the sizes of these components are generally smaller. The magnetics can take up a large portion of the power supply footprint, even though more pieces would be required, the overall volume could be reduced. The size issues are not just relevant to really high current supplies; sometimes lower current designs can also benefit and shrink in size.
Perhaps one of the strongest benefits of the multiphase approach is ripple current cancellation. This ripple current cancellation helps out with input and output capacitors. The figures shown below are an example of how ripple current cancellation can reduce the rms current in the input or output capacitors.
Figure 1: Buck Output Caps, Boost Input Caps
Figure 2: Buck Input Caps, Boost Output Caps
The figures are normalized and show how the rms current is reduced based on the number of phases and duty cycle. Figure 1 is for input capacitors in a buck converter or output caps in a boost converter. Figure 2 is for output capacitors in a buck converter or input caps in a boost converter.
Multiple power stages can be used to improve the transient response of power supplies. The main reason for the improvement is the ability to reduce the inductance of the magnetics to allow current to build up faster. The smaller magnetics make for larger ripple currents, but because of the ripple current cancellations, the ripple performance can be kept constant. The smaller magnetics can also help with increasing the bandwidth of the converter.
To illustrate the advantages of a multiphase converter, consider these power supply specifications:
Single phase versus two phase design
Single Phase Design
Two Phase Design
Switching Losses (maintain 500KHz)
RMS Input Ripple Current
RMS Output Ripple Current
Number of Components
17mm x 17mm x 7mm
2 x 10mm x 10mm x 4mm
To conclude, multiphase power supplies offer many advantages over a single phase approach. Thermal performance, input and output ripple current, size and transient response can all improve using a multiphase approach, the only disadvantage being a slightly more complicated design with more components than a traditional single phase approach. The good news is we make multiphase power supplies easy with the following tested PowerLab designs using TI’s controllers designed specifically for multiphase design.
Multiphase Buck Converter power supply designs:
Multiphase Boost Converter power supply designs:
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