Boost Converter Design
The Design of Boost DC to DC Converters
Before reading this section, please read
Introduction to DC to DC Converter Design.
the circuits in this tutorial can be simulated in
LTspice®. If you are new to
LTspice, please have a
look at my
Consider the architecture of a boost converter,
shown in FIG 1.
Ignore components C1, C2, R3. The MOSFET, Q1,
switches on creating a short circuit between the
right hand side of the inductor, L1, and 0V. Thus a
fixed voltage of 3.3V is applied across the
inductor, so its current will ramp up according to
or 1.5 million amps per second. Thus if the MOSFET
switches off after 1us, the current through the
inductor will have ramped up by 1.5A.
When the MOSFET switches off, the inductor tries to
maintain its current flow. It
does this by generating a voltage across its
terminals very similar to a battery, where the
current flows from the negative terminal, through
the battery, to the positive terminal.
In the circuit of FIG 1, we can see that to maintain
current flow, the right hand side of the inductor
has to increase in voltage with respect to the left
hand side. The left hand side is connected to the
input voltage (so cannot change), thus the right
hand side voltage increases above the input voltage
and continues to do so until something conducts.
Theoretically, this voltage will rise to an infinite
value, making the inductor very good at generating
high voltages from low voltages.
In FIG 1, the inductor voltage increases until diode
D1 conducts after which the energy in the inductor
flows into the output capacitor C3, causing the
voltage across C3 to increase slightly. It is worth
noting that even before the MOSFET has started to
switch, there is a dc path flowing from the input,
through L1 and diode D1 into C3, so at startup C3
will have a voltage across it (equal to Vin – Vdiode).
When the MOSFET switches off and the inductor
discharges, the inductor still behaves according to
except this time, the voltage across the inductor is
equal to Vout – Vin (ignoring the diode drop).
When the inductor has discharged, the MOSFET
switches on and the process starts again. Repeating
this process produces pulses of energy from the
inductor into the output capacitor making the
voltage across the output capacitor rise. In FIG1,
resistors R1 and R2 monitor the output voltage and
when the voltage at the FB pin reaches a certain
point, the chip terminates the drive to the MOSFET
until the voltage on the output capacitor droops.
The LTspice model of this circuit can be downloaded
here (right click over the link and save as a '.asc'
LTC3872 Boost Converter
The LTspice simulation results are shown in FIG 2. Here we
are looking at the part operating once the output
voltage has ramped up to 5V.
The blue waveform is the Gate voltage to the MOSFET.
When the FET turns on, the inductor current (in red)
ramps up from 1.09A to 2.18A in 739ns (this can be
measured in LTspice), or at a rate of 1.474 million
Amps per second, close to what we calculated above.
The discrepancy is due to the fact that the FET does
not provide a true short circuit to ground and
actually has a voltage across it of approximately
50mV when switched on, thus reducing the voltage
across the inductor.
Likewise when the FET switches off, the current
ramps from 2.18A to 1.09A in 1.083us. From the
once the output has reached regulation the voltage
across the inductor is [(5+Vd) - 3.3], where Vd is
the voltage across the diode (approx. 0.5V), so we
can calculate the current ramp to be
or 1 million amps per second. Over a period of
1.083us, the current ramps down by 1.083A, so again
our LTspice simulation is very close to the
It is interesting to note that the value of di/dt
is determined ONLY by the inductance
value and the voltage across the inductor. The controller IC has nothing to do with
setting the inductor ramp current.
It is also useful to calculate the duty cycle (the
ratio of the ON time of the FET to the total period
Again from the equation
we can see that during ramp up, the inductor current
di is represented by
where dt1 is the ON time of the FET and
Vin is the input voltage.
During ramp down, the inductor current is
where Vout is the output voltage and dt2
is the OFF time of the FET. To make life easier, we
have neglected the diode voltage drop.
For a fixed input voltage and a fixed output
voltage, di is the same when ramping up as ramping
Thus, equating di gives
From this we can calculate
Now, our duty cycle, DC is represented by
So from there we can work out that
Again, the duty cycle is set by the input and output
voltages only. The inductor value does not
feature in setting the duty cycle, nor does the
The above is true as long as the current in the
inductor does not fall to zero. This is called
Continuous Conduction Mode (CCM). If the inductor
current falls to zero, the duty cycle equation above
does not hold and the controller enters
Discontinuous Conduction Mode (DCM).
In CCM, if the load current increases, the duty
cycle remains unchanged (in steady state). The
circuit reacts to the increase in load current by
keeping the duty cycle constant, but the midpoint of
the inductor current (its dc offset) increases. The
switching frequency and the amplitude of the
inductor ripple current remain unchanged. In FIG 2,
the midpoint of the inductor current is
approximately 1.65A and the ripple amplitude is
1.1A. If the load increases the midpoint of the
current will increase, but the inductor ripple
current will still be 1.1A.
In a boost converter, the average input
current is equal to the average inductor current.
The circuit of FIG 1 produces a 5V output into 5
Ohms (1A), so we have a 5W load. If we assume the
efficiency of the converter is 90%, this means we
need an input power of
With an input voltage of 3.3V, this implies a
current of 1.68A. We can see from FIG 2 that the
average input current is roughly 1.68A.
Boost Converter Design
Below is a worked example using the theory outlined
above. It is based on the general purpose boost
converter, the LT3757 (LT3757
Our brief is to design a boost converter that
converts 5V to 12V and supplies a load of 1A. The
switching frequency needs to be approx. 500kHz. This
switching frequency might be imposed on us to ensure
that the dc/dc converter is not operating at the
same frequency as other sensitive electronics in the
circuit. Also, generally a faster switching
frequency leads to a smaller inductor size, but the
switching losses in the circuit increase, so 500kHz
is normally a sweet spot to ensure good efficiency,
but small components.
With a 12V/1A output, this represents a load of 12W.
Page 1 of the datasheet shows that our efficiency is
going to be about 90%, implying that our input power
With a 5V input, this represents an average input
The optimal ripple current of the inductor is 40% of
the output current. This is a good rule of
thumb for most dc/dc converters and represents a
trade off between small inductor size and low
Our inductor current is 2.67A, so for 40% ripple the
peak current needs to be (2.67 x 1.2 = 3.2A). Our
minimum inductor current needs to be (2.67 x 0.8 =
2.14A). This gives a change in current of (3.2 –
2.14 = 1.06A).
We know our duty cycle is represented by
A switching frequency of 500kHz has a period of 2us,
so the MOSFET switches on for
(at this point, it is worth checking the
controller’s minimum ON time to see if we are
comfortably within the specification. The LT3757 has
a minimum ON time of 220ns, so we are OK).
We have calculated that our current needs to change
by 1.06A, so our change in current with time is
When the MOSFET is on, the voltage across the
inductor is equal to our input voltage (5V), so from
this we can work out the inductor value from
So our inductor value calculates to be 5.47uH.
Now, if too much current flows in the inductor, the
ferrite that it is wound on saturates with the
effect that its inductance rapidly decreases. From
the equation above, if the inductance decreases the
change in current with time increases, worsening the
effect of the over current, so we must ensure that
the inductor we choose is rated to handle the
current. Thus the saturation rating of the inductor
needs to be in excess of the peak current of 3.2A. A
saturation rating of 3.5A should suffice.
Wurth Electronics have 2 suitable solutions (which
can be found
Wurth Electronics Component
744774047 4.7uH 5.5A
744774068 6.8uH 5A
There is little difference in either of these
components, so the 4.7uH will be chosen as this is
The sense resistor feeds into the PWM engine inside
the controller as well as determining the maximum
current that can flow through the inductor. The
inductor current flows through the sense resistor,
creating a ramp voltage across it. If this voltage
exceeds 100mV (see the datasheet), the MOSFET is
switched off to protect the surrounding circuitry
from over current.
We have calculated above that our peak inductor
current is 3.2A, so our sense resistor has to be
selected such that this current does not exceed the
sense threshold of 100mV (worst case spec).
To allow a 20% margin, let’s assume that the current
sense trip threshold is 80mV. For a peak current of
3.2A, this means a sense resistor value of 25mOhms.
Putting this back into the datasheet specification
of 100mV, this means our worst case inductor current
will be 4A, well below the 5.5A rating of our
The MOSFET needs to be able to handle the peak
inductor current so in this design a drain source
current rating (Id) of 10A is more than sufficient.
The Drain–Source voltage (Vds) needs to be in excess
of the output voltage + diode drop, so anything
above 20V is suitable for a 12V output.
The Gate-Source turn on voltage of the MOSFET (Vgs)
needs to be less than the input voltage, to ensure
that the voltage coming out of the Gate pin can
actually activate the MOSFET. Logic level MOSFETs
have a low turn on voltage, are widely available and
usually perfect for low voltage dc/dc converters.
The above parameters represent the bare minimum
characteristics of the MOSFET. However, to get a
good design, we must ensure that the losses in the
MOSFET are as low as possible. The MOSFET switch
presents 2 losses in the circuit: switching losses
and conduction losses.
The switching losses result from current flowing
through the MOSFET at the same time that a voltage
is across the MOSFET (so power is generated in the
MOSFET), during the turn on and turn off times of
the MOSFET. For a given gate drive coming out of the
controller IC, the lower the Gate-Source capacitance
of the MOSFET, the quicker the MOSFET will turn on.
Thus the Qg specification of the MOSFET is important
and should be as low as possible. The Qg of the
MOSFET will also have an impact on the heat
dissipation of the chip, especially if the input
voltage to the chip is high.
Charge is dictated by the equation:
Charge (Q) = Current (I) x Time (s)
Since Frequency is the inverse of Time, we can write
So we can calculate the current needed to flow into
the chip, just to charge the gate capacitance of the
FET. Since heat is the product of voltage and
current, if the gate charge is high and/or the
switching frequency is high, the heat dissipation in
the chip will be high if the input voltage is high.
Once the MOSFET has switched on, the MOSFET presents
a small dc resistance between its Drain and Source
terminals. This is the MOSFETs ‘Drain Source on
resistance’ or Rdson. Again, this needs to be as low
Now, MOSFET manufacturers reduce the ON resistance
of the MOSFET by constructing many parallel
conduction paths between the Drain and Source. Thus,
like connecting resistors in parallel, the ON
resistance comes down with more parallel paths.
However, in connecting Drain Source paths in
parallel, a negative effect is that the Gate Source
capacitance (Qg) is also connected in parallel, so a
low ON resistance (and hence low conduction loss)
sometimes implies a high gate source capacitance
(hence high switching loss). Thus the MOSFET that is
chosen should be a compromise between these two
characteristics. In addition, high current MOSFETs
tend to come in much larger packages, so meeting the
ideals of low ON resistance and low Qg might violate
a space requirement spec, so the selection process
has to start over. Engineering, as ever, is a
Indeed looking at the selection tables of the MOSFET
manufacturers, it is better to select a MOSFET with
a low ON resistance (less than 10mOhms), then filter
this selection to remove MOSFETs with a Qg of
greater than 10nC, then select a MOSFET from this
list, as long as the Gate turn on voltage, Vds and
Id can be met. Starting by selecting MOSFETs with a
Vds of between 20V and 30V might rule out some
higher voltage FETs that are better suited to lower
Failing that, download all the results to a
spreadsheet and sort from there. I have never had
much luck with the parametric searches on MOSFET
Alternatively, download all the MOSFET
characteristics into a spreadsheet, remove the ones
that don't meet the VDS and ID requirements, then
add a column called FOM (Figure of Merit). This
column should contain the value RDSON x QG. Then
sort by this column and pick the FET with the lowest
FOM. This part will be the best compromise between
RDSON and QG and ideal for the top MOSFET.
ideal of low ON resistance and low Qg cannot be met,
look at the duty cycle. If the output voltage is not
much higher than the input voltage then the duty
cycle will be low, so the ON time of the FET will be
small as a proportion of the total switching period.
Therefore low Qg is of more importance and low ON
resistance is of less importance. Likewise, a high
output voltage implies a high duty cycle hence low
ON resistance is of more importance then low Qg.
The Fairchild FDS6680 represents a good compromise
between low ON resistance and low gate charge, but
its SO8 package is large and therefore might be
unsuitable for compact designs.
Rectifier Diode Choice
When the MOSFET switches off, the inductor voltage
ramps rapidly in order to maintain current flow.
Many diodes are not fast enough to react to this
voltage change, resulting in a large spike on the
Drain of the MOSFET. This can (and does) destroy the
Therefore Schottky diodes should be used in all
dc/dc converter designs where the inductor voltage
has to be rectified. Ultra fast diode have a
response time of 10’s of nanoseconds, standard
rectifier diodes have a response time of several
microseconds, whereas a Schottky has a response time
in the order of a few nanoseconds. Schottky diodes
also have a much lower forward voltage drop (0.3V)
compared with standard rectifiers (0.6V) so half the
power is wasted as a result of VxI losses.
When choosing a Schottky diode, the key parameters
are: forward voltage drop (should be as low as
possible), forward current (this should be greater
than the peak inductor current) and reverse voltage
rating. When the FET is charging the inductor, the
anode of the Schottky diode will be at 0V and the
cathode will be at Vout, so the reverse voltage
rating of the Schottky should be greater than Vout.
In this design example, the MBRS340 is a good choice
with a reverse voltage rating of 40V and a forward
voltage of 0.53V at 3A peak current.
Unlike the buck
converter that has a continuous current flowing from
the inductor into the output capacitor, the boost
converter output capacitor has to keep the output
voltage alive when the inductor is being charged
(and is hence disconnected from the output).
Therefore there will be a component of the output
ripple due to the discharge of the output capacitor.
In addition, when the
inductor is discharging, the output capacitor will
experience an inrush of current and any ESR
(effective series resistance) in the capacitor will
also result in ripple.
Therefore the output ripple is
made up of 2 components: the ripple caused by the
output capacitor discharging when the
inductor is being charged and the ripple caused by
the inrush current from the inductor into the ESR of
the output capacitor.
The ripple caused by
the discharge of the output capacitor while the
inductor is charging is dictated by
where i is the
load current in Amps, C is the output capacitance in
Farads and dv/dt is the change in output
voltage with time.
Earlier we calculated
that the MOSFET switches on for a period of 1.16us.
If we require a discharge ripple of 1% (120mV) with a
load current of 1A, this implies we need a capacitance
when the inductor is charging, there is zero current
flowing in the rectifier diode. When the MOSFET
switches off, the diode current jumps from 0A to the
peak inductor current, so it is the peak inductor
current, not the ripple current amplitude that
determines this component of the output ripple
(compare this with the ripple in a buck converter
that is determined by the ripple current amplitude,
not the peak inductor current).
ripple caused by the ESR is a product of the peak
inductor current and the ESR. In our example the
peak current is 3.2A and the ESR is of a typical
tantalum capacitor is 70m Ohms, giving a ripple of
224mV. Two capacitors in parallel yields an
effective ESR of 35m Ohms and halves the ESR ripple
Low ESR tantalum capacitors normally have an ESR of
<100m Ohms and ceramic capacitors are
significantly less. Putting 2 capacitors in parallel
will double the value and half the ESR.
capacitors of 6.8uF should ensure we meet a spec of
2% ripple (240mV).
Other points to note
feedback resistor values can be calculated using the
Feedback Resistor Calculator:
Feedback Resistor Calculator
The feedback resistors were picked as 11k and 71.5k
so that a 12V output keeps the feedback point at
1.6V. Some engineers make these resistor values way
too big in the hope of conserving wasted current in
the feedback loop. However, this can have a negative
effect in that too high resistor values (over 500k
Ohms) can cause a
phase shift created by the internal capacitance of
the feedback pin and the large external resistor
values which will lead to poor stability. In lower
power designs (where feedback current is important),
bypassing the top feedback resistor with 100pF
overcomes this issue by providing a phase lead that
counteracts the phase lag created by the input
Please refer to the datasheet for information on how
to set the Under Voltage Lockout (UVLO) and switching
LTspice circuit is shown in FIG 3
LTspice circuit can be downloaded here
(right click over the link and save as a '.asc'
This text has explained the basics of boost
converter switched mode power supply design
and is applicable to most boost converters. Refer to
the individual datasheets for a complete guide to
designing with that particular part.
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