Converter And Inverter Output Filtering | Avnet Abacus

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Converter And Inverter Output Filtering | Avnet Abacus

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Keeping the noise down: Converter and inverter output filtering

Adam Chidley Photo

Most modern power conversion topologies use switched-mode techniques for highest efficiency and smallest size and cost.


Most modern power conversion topologies use switched-mode techniques for highest efficiency and smallest size and cost. Inevitably, switching noise is produced and output filters are required to minimise EMI and provide reliable operation of the power converter and load. This article looks at the effects of noise and some of the filtering techniques that can be used.

Common power conversion applications include AC-DC and DC-DC converters seen in many commercial and industrial products and AC-AC or DC-AC inverters found in motor drives, UPS units and more. Conversion topologies use switched-mode techniques for highest efficiency and smallest size and cost. Inevitably, switching noise is produced and output filters are required to minimise EMI and provide reliable operation of the power converter and load.

Filtering for DC outputs is well understood and usually comprises simple LC networks to provide energy storage where necessary and reduce differential noise down to acceptable levels. Figure 1 shows a typical output stage for a forward or ‘buck’ converter used at high power. L1 is sized in inductance to give a fixed ripple current for fixed frequency giving a ripple voltage across the ESR of C1. L1 has to pass the peak output current without saturation. This means it is often quite a large component comprising a powdered iron or gapped ferrite core. However, noise spikes may pass through with little attenuation due to the inductor’s high self-capacitance. L2 and C2/C3 form a low pass filter to attenuate noise. L2 can be quite small in value but must still pass the full output current without saturation. In fact, L2 should not be oversized in inductance as operating load current-steps through it produce unwanted voltage steps according to E = -Ldi/dt. C3 is sometimes added, as a parallel combination of an aluminium electrolytic and film capacitor provides low impedance across a wider range of frequencies. Sometimes filtering is also added to reduce common mode noise between output and local ground. At lower power, when a flyback or buck converter is used, energy is stored in an inductive component equivalent to L1 further back up the power train. L2 and C2/C3 may still be included though to reduce noise.

Suitable components for the inductor and capacitors can be found in the TDK EPCOS range. For example, L1 and L2 can be formed from windings on its extensive range of gapped ferrite E-cores. C1 and C2 could be from its B41890 series of long life, low ESR aluminium electrolytics.

AC output Inverters, sometimes with variable frequency, have similar considerations for noise filtering but complicated by the fact that the filter is also passing low frequency high current AC. Motor drives are a good example where the inverter typically produces three-phase AC outputs with variable frequency and amplitude for fine speed and torque control. The outputs are generated from a three-phase bridge of IGBTs or MOSFETs under high frequency PWM control, the pulse width being modulated at the low AC frequency required by the motor. Without filtering, the connections to the motor, which may be some distance away, would comprise high voltage, high frequency square waves with fast rise times and variable pulse width. The motor winding inductance acts as a filter for the high frequencies, effectively leaving only the average, low frequency AC. Although this basic scheme works has some major drawbacks:

  • Along extended cable lengths to the motor, differential and common mode noise from the switching waveforms produces EMI usually way over acceptable limits as set by international standards such as EN 55011, Class A/Group 1 or EN 61800-3 Category C2. Shielding the motor cables helps but is expensive and may not limit common mode emissions
  • Fast edges of the waveform produce ringing with the inductance and self-capacitance of the cable producing voltages, which can break down the motor winding insulation
  • The common-mode element of the switching waveform can find a path to ground through the bearings of the motor, causing damage and premature failure. The mechanism is metal transfer from the bearing balls and races called ‘electrical discharge machining’ or EDM. This causes erosion and bearing failure in as little as four weeks after installation with peak bearing currents of up to 20 amps being reported
  • Audible noise can also be an issue, if the PWM switching frequency is in the audible range, below about 20 kHz, and the inverter output is not filtered, stator lamination vibration can cause an annoying ‘whine’
     

Filters on the output of the inverter are the solution to these problems with several types available depending on the severity of the effects. Simple in-line chokes as shown in Figure 2 (above) reduce the differential noise by increasing the rise time of voltage pulses which limits stress on the motor insulation and reduces motor noise but without reducing common mode electrical noise. Shielded cables to the motor are typically still required to meet EMC standards. Common-mode leakage currents through motor bearings are also not reduced. This simple solution can be effective though, with cable lengths up to about 50 m if bearing currents are minimised by careful earthing arrangements. The filter does have to pass the full motor drive current without saturation or overheating. Parts in the B86301U*R000/S000 range from TDK EPCOS would be suitable examples with current ratings up to 1500 amps.

A solution for longer cable lengths up to about 100 m is a ‘dV/dt filter’ shown in Figure 3. This is effectively a low-pass filter on each phase with a cut-off frequency greater than the inverter switching frequency. It operates to limit motor insulation stress and noise even further but again does not reduce bearing wear and common-mode EMI, so a screened motor cable is still required. 

A similar-looking solution but with better performance is a ‘sine-wave’ filter which has the same schematic as the dV/dt filter but with a much lower cut-off frequency, between the output AC frequency and the inverter PWM frequency. This allows cables lengths of more than 100 m to be used but uses larger inductor and capacitor values making it more expensive and bulkier. Again, bearing wear and common-mode EMI is not significantly reduced so the motor cable must still be shielded. An example from TDK EPCOS would be in the B84143V*R227 series with current ratings up to 720 A.

A complete solution is a filter such as the SineFormer™ type from TDK EPCOS, in its B84143V*R127 range, with rated current and voltage up to 320 A and 520 VAC (shown in Figure 4). Here, an extra common mode choke L4 and ‘Y’ capacitors C4, C5 and C6 are employed to dramatically reduce common mode currents. L1, L2 and L3 along with C1, C2 and C3 reduce differential noise. The result is a reduction of dV/dt on waveforms to less than 500 V/µs, lower motor noise, significant reduction in bearing currents and lowest EMI. Benefits are that unshielded cables can be used up to perhaps 1000 m, the motor’s life is extended and there is even the possibility of using a smaller motor for a given application. The filter is maintenance-free and can be easily retrofitted to existing applications.

Although the SineFormer™  may seem like an expensive solution, it can remove the need for costly shielded cabling with its associated complex termination. Calculations by TDK have shown that for motor cables lengths of greater than 50 m, the combination of unshielded cable and SineFormer™ can be overall lower system cost. If the cost of early failure, downtime and replacement of a motor is factored in, the SineFormer™ wins every time. Figure 5 summarises the performance of the filters discussed.

Filter type Line to line voltage Line to ground voltage Radiated interference Motor bearing current reduction
dV/dt filter Almost no improvement None
Sine-wave filter Little improvement Low
SineFormer™ Almost eliminated Optimal

Figure 5: Summary of TDK EPCOS filter properties

For applications where bi-directional converters are used, the same filtering issues apply. TDK also has products to suit including its B84143A**R410 and B84143G*405 series.

Avnet Abacus has developed a new interactive tool help you navigate TDK’s range of products for inverters and drives. Use the tool to explore the individual stages of a drive circuit and identify the most suitable products for your design. Click here to go straight to the output filtering section, where you can access datasheets and technical information for the products mentioned in this blog and more. Alternatively, if you have any questions about output filter circuits, or you would like to discuss your power conversion design in more detail, get in touch with our product specialists.

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Adam Chidley

Adam joined Avnet Abacus in 2006 as a Sales Consultant, moving into Product Management 18 months lat...

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As LED luminaires have continued to develop in complexity and range and the number of different fixtures on the market has increased, lighting designers have begun to demand more flexibility from their driver hardware.
Programmable drivers add flexibility to LED lighting
By Don Schriek   -   December 8, 2016
As LED luminaires have continued to develop in complexity and range and the number of different fixtures on the market has increased, lighting designers have begun to demand more flexibility from their driver hardware.
If the feedback circuitry in a secondary-side regulated flyback converter could somehow be integrated into the switcher IC while maintaining isolation, the circuit would use fewer components and be smaller, simpler and cheaper overall.
Simplifying SMPS design with the right switching IC plus easy custom magnetics
By Philip Lechner   -   November 5, 2016
If the feedback circuitry in a secondary-side regulated flyback converter could somehow be integrated into the switcher IC while maintaining isolation, the circuit would use fewer components and be smaller, simpler and cheaper overall.
When Murata purchased Finnish MEMS specialist VTI Technologies and renamed it Murata Electronics Oy at the start of 2012, it gained the company’s unique 3D MEMS technology which has outstanding performance and reliability in harsh environments.
Second Generation MEMS Enables Impressive Performance for Automotive and Industrial IMUs
By Adam Chidley   -   August 18, 2016
When Murata purchased Finnish MEMS specialist VTI Technologies and renamed it Murata Electronics Oy at the start of 2012, it gained the company’s unique 3D MEMS technology which has outstanding performance and reliability in harsh environments.
If you’re adding wired Ethernet to a design, you will of course have to consider magnetics.
Ethernet magnetics – Discrete or integrated?
By Adam Chidley   -   July 29, 2016
If you’re adding wired Ethernet to a design, you will of course have to consider magnetics.
Selecting the right cable and/or connector assembly for a fibre optic installation need not be complex, but it is important to understand the requirements of the environment and the application.
Selecting fibre optic cables
By Marco Enge   -   July 12, 2016
Selecting the right cable and/or connector assembly for a fibre optic installation need not be complex, but it is important to understand the requirements of the environment and the application.
Since the 1990s, the external power supply has become the target of a series of regulations that are gradually being tightened around the world.
The power regulations spiral
By Andrew Hutton   -   May 24, 2016
Since the 1990s, the external power supply has become the target of a series of regulations that are gradually being tightened around the world.
Industry 4.0 and the digitisation of the manufacturing sector will have repercussions for all sectors of industrial electronics.
Evolving component technologies will make Industry 4.0 viable
By Martin Keenan   -   May 22, 2016
Industry 4.0 and the digitisation of the manufacturing sector will have repercussions for all sectors of industrial electronics.
Thermal management is of critical importance in LED lighting systems. LEDs themselves give off heat when lit due to their own inefficiencies, and knock on effects of that heat can rapidly reduce the LEDs’ lifespan if it isn’t managed carefully.
Calculating LED heatsinks
By Giovanna Monari   -   May 22, 2016
Thermal management is of critical importance in LED lighting systems. LEDs themselves give off heat when lit due to their own inefficiencies, and knock on effects of that heat can rapidly reduce the LEDs’ lifespan if it isn’t managed carefully.
Specifying medical power supplies can be particularly challenging because of the standards and jargon surrounding this application.
Deciphering datasheets for medical PSUs
By Philip Lechner   -   April 29, 2016
Specifying medical power supplies can be particularly challenging because of the standards and jargon surrounding this application.
Aluminium electrolytic and polymer wound aluminium electrolytic capacitors may seem similar at first glance, but the technologies offer very different performance characteristics.
‘Wet’ aluminium and polymer aluminium capacitors – what’s the difference?
By Ekaterina Rachel   -   April 1, 2016
Aluminium electrolytic and polymer wound aluminium electrolytic capacitors may seem similar at first glance, but the technologies offer very different performance characteristics.
Selecting batteries for Internet of Things connected systems can be tricky, as there is such a wide variety of application types.
Design trends: Batteries for IoT
By Tim Parker   -   March 11, 2016
Selecting batteries for Internet of Things connected systems can be tricky, as there is such a wide variety of application types.
Although they’ve been superseded in some applications by newer technologies such as solid state relays (SSRs), electromechanical relays (EMRs) still have a lot to offer.
Modern electromechanical relays meet today’s reliability demands
By Giovanna Monari   -   February 2, 2016
Although they’ve been superseded in some applications by newer technologies such as solid state relays (SSRs), electromechanical relays (EMRs) still have a lot to offer.
LEDs are widely touted as the perfect solution for lighting applications because, in theory at least, they last forever.What’s less frequently spoken about is that circuit protection can make or break the design.
Circuit protection is vital for long lifetimes in LED lighting
By Adam Chidley   -   January 7, 2016
LEDs are widely touted as the perfect solution for lighting applications because, in theory at least, they last forever.What’s less frequently spoken about is that circuit protection can make or break the design.
Today, supercapacitors are widely used in transport applications to help stabilise the output power of a main power source and improve fuel efficiency.
Supercapacitors: Making transport more efficient
By Adam Chidley   -   September 7, 2015
Today, supercapacitors are widely used in transport applications to help stabilise the output power of a main power source and improve fuel efficiency.
The various types of capacitors all have their advantages and disadvantages, but polymer capacitors offer a host of desirable electrical characteristics.
The unstoppable rise of polymer capacitors
By Ekaterina Rachel   -   August 10, 2015
The various types of capacitors all have their advantages and disadvantages, but polymer capacitors offer a host of desirable electrical characteristics.
Lithium batteries have been in the news again recently, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.
How to impose a smoking ban on lithium batteries
By Tim Parker   -   July 9, 2015
Lithium batteries have been in the news again recently, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.
The invention of the micro switch goes back over 80 years to 1932 and is attributed to one Peter McGall of Freeport, Illinois, USA. Who knows how many billion of these handy little components have been manufactured since, but there can hardly be a ho
Understanding micro switches and hysteresis
By Giovanna Monari   -   June 12, 2015
The invention of the micro switch goes back over 80 years to 1932 and is attributed to one Peter McGall of Freeport, Illinois, USA. Who knows how many billion of these handy little components have been manufactured since, but there can hardly be a ho
Fans are often looked at like insurance policies – they’re something you need, rather than something you want.
Fans have few fans, but perhaps they should?
By Mathias Goebel   -   May 28, 2015
Fans are often looked at like insurance policies – they’re something you need, rather than something you want.
Supercapacitors are an alternative to using a battery or indeed the more common-or-garden variety of capacitor in many energy storage applications, perhaps as backup power or for high-surge demand applications.
What’s super about supercapacitors?
By Adam Chidley   -   May 18, 2015
Supercapacitors are an alternative to using a battery or indeed the more common-or-garden variety of capacitor in many energy storage applications, perhaps as backup power or for high-surge demand applications.
Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications has undergone phenomenal growth in recent years and connectivity is becoming increasingly reliant upon wireless networks.
Latest developments in antennas for M2M communications
By Marco Enge   -   April 30, 2015
Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications has undergone phenomenal growth in recent years and connectivity is becoming increasingly reliant upon wireless networks.
Keenly associated to the trend of greater computing power and complexity is a technology that is making a move into industrial from the communications field: that of advanced power system architectures.
Advanced power architectures move into industry
By Philip Lechner   -   April 20, 2015
Keenly associated to the trend of greater computing power and complexity is a technology that is making a move into industrial from the communications field: that of advanced power system architectures.
Thermal management is a key element of LED lighting design, ensuring reliable operation, better performance and extended device lifetimes.
LED thermal management: Is it just me or is it getting hot in here?
By Giovanna Monari   -   March 19, 2015
Thermal management is a key element of LED lighting design, ensuring reliable operation, better performance and extended device lifetimes.

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