Choosing the Right Buck Converter to Solve the Power Challenges of the IIoT

Choosing the Right Buck Converter to Solve the Power Challenges of the IIoT

For Internet of Things (IoT), especially Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices, power consumption can be a major obstacle. High-efficiency linear regulators and step-down converters can better help save energy and reduce consumption.

For Internet of Things (IoT), especially Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices, power consumption can be a major obstacle. High-efficiency linear regulators and step-down converters can better help save energy and reduce consumption.

With the growing need for improved productivity, efficiency and workplace safety in industrial and manufacturing operations, several industries are adopting IoT systems in their processes.

More specifically, IIoT has multiple benefits in industrial facilities, including reducing costs, reducing downtime, and enhancing the safety of employees and assets. However, a significant barrier to widespread adoption of the IIoT is inefficient power conversion and utilization. With proper research and development, engineers can provide solutions to improve power conversion and optimize utilization efficiency.

In this article, we will describe some of the power utilization challenges of the IIoT, the disadvantages of linear regulators, DC/DC buck converters for IIoT applications, and ROHM’s power solutions for the IIoT.

Power Utilization Challenges in the IIoT

A common IIoT application is remote data monitoring. The real-time data analysis required for this application requires increasing power. While large-scale applications such as smart homes and smart factories can tap the grid directly, many other applications are battery powered.

Regardless of the power source, energy-efficient solutions are critical for optimizing power conversion and utilization in IIoT systems due to limited power sources. Therefore, engineers must address this challenge by designing low-power solutions for IIoT systems to reduce power consumption and/or extend battery life.

Designing low-power solutions often starts at the component level. Configurations for IIoT sensing applications typically include a CPU, sensors, and wireless modules for overall control, environmental data collection, and communication.

Choosing the Right Buck Converter to Solve the Power Challenges of the IIoT
Block diagram of a typical wireless sensor configuration.Image courtesy of Sendra et al.

Because these devices operate in multiple power modes, including active and standby, they require constant power to efficiently transition between modes. For example, an IIoT sensing application can transition from a low-power standby mode to a high-power wireless data transfer mode.

By integrating power ICs, such as DC/DC buck converters that provide ultra-low power (ULP) modes, engineers can ensure that power consumption is optimized in battery-powered IIoT applications.

Challenges of Traditional Power ICs: Disadvantages of Linear Regulators

Power electronics, including linear regulators and switching converters, are often integrated into battery-operated electronics.

Linear regulators use linear non-switching techniques to modulate the output voltage of a power supply. Some of the advantages of linear regulators in battery-driven applications include low cost, minimized circuit complexity, and low external component count.

Because of these advantages, linear regulators remain an integral part of many applications.

Choosing the Right Buck Converter to Solve the Power Challenges of the IIoT
Circuit diagram of a linear regulator.Image courtesy of Roma

However, linear regulators have several drawbacks, the most important being that they are not efficient enough, resulting in reduced battery life and the need for auxiliary cooling, while linear regulators cannot boost the voltage.

Heating of Linear Regulators

A major disadvantage of linear regulators is the high heat generation. Typically, using a linear regulator to power Electronic devices causes the IC to generate a lot of heat well above its operating temperature range. This in turn leads to IC instability.

Additionally, to meet the higher input current and voltage requirements in many applications, bulky heat sinks are required to ensure that the IC remains within the specified temperature range. Therefore, in addition to having constant output voltage capability, excessive heat generation in linear regulators can lead to inefficiencies that make it difficult to meet the low power and power saving requirements of battery-powered IIoT applications.

Linear Regulator and Cell Count

Another disadvantage is that using a linear regulator usually results in a higher cell count.

In battery-driven applications that include linear regulators, engineers must meet stringent cell count requirements: higher output voltages require a sufficient number of cells in series. For example, a 3.3 V output requires at least three additional 1C1.5 V alkaline, NiCd or NiMH cells.

Lithium-based applications may require fewer battery packs due to the higher voltages provided by lithium-ion batteries.

As a result, battery-driven applications based on linear regulators exhibit high battery counts regardless of battery type, resulting in additional issues such as high design cost, large device footprint, and inefficient power utilization.

Based on an assessment of the shortcomings of linear regulators, we can see that higher efficiency solutions are needed to ensure high performance and power optimization in IIoT applications.

Power Optimization for IIoT Applications: DC/DC Buck Converters

By integrating DC/DC buck converters into IIoT devices, designers can achieve higher efficiencies in battery-powered IIoT applications.

Unlike linear regulators, DC/DC buck converters generate low heat and do not require bulky heat sinks. With the help of switching elements, these power ICs can convert input power into pulsed voltages. Buck converters use inductors, capacitors, and other components to smooth the pulsed voltage.

Choosing the Right Buck Converter to Solve the Power Challenges of the IIoT
Circuit diagram of a typical switching converter.Image courtesy of Roma

Integrating a DC/DC buck converter into a battery-powered IIoT application can significantly extend battery life and reduce power consumption. By maximizing the switching efficiency of the converter, designers can ensure low power consumption and low heat generation.

Power ICs ensure optimal power consumption by temporarily storing input energy and releasing it at the desired output voltage. In addition, some buck converters offer additional features such as ultra-low power (ULP) mode, which provides transient response and optimal constant on-time control for IIoT sensing applications.

ULP-capable buck converters transition between normal and ULP modes by monitoring the output voltage pulse-by-pulse. Designers can use two comparators, such as the main comparator and the ULP comparator, to monitor the IC’s output voltage. Furthermore, by detecting voltage-induced impedance changes in these comparators, the IC can switch from normal mode to ULP mode and vice versa.

Choosing the Right Buck Converter to Solve the Power Challenges of the IIoT
Transition between normal and ULP mode.Image courtesy of ROHM

These seamless transitions are also an important source of power optimization in IIoT applications.

ROHM Power Solutions for IIoT Applications

One of the suppliers looking for IIoT solutions is ROHM, which offers high-performance solutions including Nano Energy technology that increases productivity and reduces costs in a variety of industrial IoT applications.

Using enhanced analog circuit design, process and layout, ROHM utilizes this technology to develop advanced power IC solutions that provide unprecedented low power capabilities in IIoT applications.

ROHM’s Nano Energy-based BD70522 DC/DC buck converter can effectively meet the remote monitoring needs of various industries while achieving lower power consumption.

Choosing the Right Buck Converter to Solve the Power Challenges of the IIoT
Comparison of ROHM and other companies’ products.Image courtesy of ROHM

More specifically, the BD70522 DC/DC buck converter can deliver the lowest quiescent current (Iq) of 180 nA compared to other buck converters, supporting standby currents as low as 50 nA. This specification makes the solution suitable for battery-powered IIoT applications, minimizing power consumption and extending battery life.

Additionally, its ultra-low power (ULP) mode and constant-on-time (COT) control provide transient response and power savings.

These features also provide advanced light-load efficiency, reducing the load range down to 10µA.

All in all, ROHM’s power solutions are also suitable for other applications including wearables, thermostats, smoke detectors, energy harvesters and low Iq applications without standby switches.

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