A switching voltage regulator is one of my favorite circuits. In school, they were the first circuits I built where I understood how transistors worked. In fact, they were the first circuit I saw an inductor being useful! Switching regulators are incredibly efficient when designed properly. Of course, this detail about design is important. They are not as simple as a linear regulator, which is basically an IC and two caps.
To understand the basics of a switching regulator, I released AddOhms #18 this week. This is video tutorial dedicated the Switching Voltage Regulator. If video tutorials aren’t your thing, then keep reading for my written tutorial.
Switching Voltage Regulator Introduction
There are two major types of Voltage Regulators: Linear and Switching. For a higher level introduction, check out my earlier Voltage Regulator Tutorial.
Linear regulators only need a small number of components, are simple to add to a board, but are not very efficient. Switching regulators can be made to be very efficient for a particular circuit, but can be difficult to design.
Back on AddOhms #17, we talked about how Linear Regulators work. In this tutorial, we are looking at switching regulators.
Switch-Mode Converter Core Components
There are 4 core components needed in a switching voltage regulator.
Capacitors store energy in an electric field. When a voltage is applied, the capacitor charges up. When the voltage goes away, the capacitor discharges.
Inductors store energy in a magnetic field. When current flows through the inductor, a magnetic field is created. When the current stops, the magnetic field collapses generating current.
Switching voltage regulators work by making use of the energy storage properties of a capacitor and an inductor. To control the charge and discharge of these components, we use diodes and transistors.
Read more: Basic Switching Voltage Regulator Tutorial