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Thayer School of Engineering

Dartmouth College

Award-Winning High-Efficiency
Power Supply Design

Efficiency Challenge 2004, Best in Class C2, Open Category.

Round dots mark the winning entries in each class. The magenta trendline is a fit to the data of the "open-class" winners. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University entry won the "Grand Champion" award for beating the 54% minimum efficiency for class A (up to 2.5 W) by a huge margin. The Dartmouth entry also stands out as being well above the trendline.
Plot of efficiency as a function of power
  level.

Our Design Approach

  • Efficient Magnetics.  In most power supplies, the magnetic components—transformers and inductors—are responsible for the largest fraction of the loss. Our approach was to accurately model all the losses in the main high-frequency transformer, and to optimize the design to minimize losses. The transformer uses litz wire to achieve very low winding losses. Litz wire requires careful design—it can make losses worse if it's not used carefully. We used the LitzOpt program, available for free download or use online on our software page. LitzOpt provides the user with a wide range of design options with different cost/loss tradeoffs. To enter in the “open class” competition, we of course selected a high-cost, low-loss design, but the software also provides other options with slightly higher loss at much lower cost.
  • Conventional Topology.  The circuit is a flyback converter—a standard circuit. Using a single conversion step helps minimize losses.
  • Attention to Details.  Every section of a power supply—indeed virtually every component—dissipates some power. Thus, it can be important to consider efficiency in every design decision. Although our design included many careful choices, and some innovations such as a low-power synchronous rectifier control circuit on the input, time constraints prevented us from implementing all the improvements that are possible using only well-known techniques. Thus, we believe that substantially higher efficiency is feasible.

Design team members:

  • Jennifer D. Pollock, Project Leader, PhD Candidate
  • Xi Nan, PhD Candidate
  • Magdalena Dale, MS Student
  • Satish Prabhakaran, PhD Candidate
  • Charles R. Sullivan, Associate Professor

For comments or questions e-mail: Charles.R.Sullivan@dartmouth.edu.
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