Energy and Power Engineering, 2013, 5, 64-69
doi:10.4236/epe.2013.53B013 Published Online May 2013 (
An Analysis of Buck Converter Efficiency in PWM/PFM
Mode with Simulink
Cheng Peng, Chia Jiu Wang
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Austin Bluffs Parkway,
Colorado Springs, USA
Received 2013
This technical paper takes a study into efficiency comparison between PWM and PFM control modes in DC-DC buck
converters. Matlab Simulink Models are built to facilitate the analysis of various effects on power loss and converting
efficiency, including different load conditions, gate switching frequency, setting of voltage and current thresholds, etc.
From efficiency vs. load graph, a best switching frequency is found to achieve a good efficiency throughout the wide
load range. This simulation point is then compared to theoretical predictions, justifying the effectiveness of computer
based simulation. Efficiencies at two different control modes are compared to verify the improvement of PFM scheme.
Keywords: PFM; PWM; Buck Converter; Efficiency
1. Buck Converter Background
For a buck converter, by varying the duty cycle of the
switch, a desired average voltage output can be achieved.
Figure 1 shows a typical buck converter.
A typical synchronous buck circuit using MOSFETs as
a switch is shown in Figure 2.
Power Width Modulation (PWM) signal is the most
typical control signal applied on a switch in switching
DC converters. It is usually a signal with fixed frequency.
Inside one period, the signal is high for a specific per-
centage of the period (duty cycle) and then turns off; one
would intuitively predict that the output voltage would
Figure 1. A typical buck converter.
Figure 2. Buck converter with MOSFETs imple-
have a relation with inpu
menting switches.
t shown below:
PWM Switching Frequency Selection
ote that with
Vout = VinD, where D is the duty cycle.
Frequency is directly related to output ripple. N
the output voltage ripple assumed to be much smaller
than its average value, most of the inductor current ripple
must go through the capacitor. The output voltage ripple
can be determined by the following equation.
(1 )VDT
where Tsw is the switching period and fsw = 1/Tsw.
t much
Normally the switching frequency should be se
gher than frequency of other LC components, ranging
from 250 kHz to 1.5 MHz with feedback loop’s ac char-
acteristics in consideration [1-3]. International Rectifier
uses 600 kHz for their IR 3840 regulator [6]; National
Semiconductor uses 3 MHz fixed frequency for their
LM3677 DC converter [4]. For simulation in this study:
Vin = 3.6 V, Vout = 1.8 V, C = 10 uF, L =1 µH. Output
ripple =0.014 V (with output voltage being 1.8 V), we
can have the switching frequency equal to 894.42 kHz.
Further simulation study shows that this is not the opti-
mized frequency to achieve the best conversion effi-
ciency. In the next section it is found that when fre-
quency equals to 1600 kHz the PWM converter achieved
the highest efficiency, with a ripple of 0.05 V. So it is a
tradeoff between voltage ripples and efficiency in con-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
C. PENG, C. J. WANG 65
2. PWM Power Loss Analysis
be classified into
2.1. Conduction Losses
duction mode (meaning in-
2.1.1. Conduction Loss on Switches
ower path switches
Then the conduction loss due to on-resistance inside
where RESR is the capacitive resistance.
uency dependent losses. It can
verlap loss)
off, the voltage and the
In a DC-DC converter, the losses can
two types: load dependent conduction losses and fre-
quency dependent switching losses. The recent work in
power loss analysis can be seen in literature [7,8].
During the continuous con
ductor current won’t reach down to zero) where the load
current is relatively large, the main contribution of power
losses are the conduction loss of the on-resistance of
high-side (Ron_PFET) and low-side(Ron_NFET) switches and
the series resistance of the inductor and capacitor (RL,
When in operation the upper path and l
are turned on and off depending on the duty cycle. Hence,
the average resistance for these switches can be ex-
pressed as the on resistance multiplied by the duty cycles.
The on-resistance in one switching cycle can be written
__ _
(1 )
switches onon PFETon NFET
OSFET can be written as:
__ _
witches onon PFETon NFETout
R D PRD I
2.1.2. Conduction Loss on Inductors and Capacitors
a Non-ideal inductor has series resistance consuming extr
power when passing through current. As mentioned be-
fore the average inductor current is also the same as the
load current in Steady-state, the conduction loss can then
be written as the product of this current squared and the
resistance. Industrial experience shows however that
current variation of the inductor also contributes to the
loss. A more accurate empirical equation of inductive
loss is given as follows:
LL load
PR I 2)
I ,
where RL is the inductive resistance, ILOAD s the load i
current and Iinductor is the inductive current variation.
Iinductor can be derived as:
in s
For capacitor, equivalent-series resistance (ESR) is the
main cause for power loss. The empirical capacitive loss
equation is given as follows
C inductorESR
PI R ,
2.2. Switching Losses
Switching losses are freq
break down into two categories: hard switching loss and
soft switching.
2.2.1. Hard Loss (o
As the transistor switches on and
current of the transistor cannot change simultaneously.
Thus, the voltage across drain and source of the MOS-
FET and the current flowing from drain to source would
have a time window during which voltage and current are
nonzero. Thus, hard switching power loss of a switch can
be written as
witchingin loadoffons
Here toff is the time taken for the current to reach down
asitic capacitors at the
zero when ON gate voltage is canceled and VDS goes
to high. ton is the time taken for the current to recover
when ON gate voltage is applied and VDS goes low
again. The losses due to each action are referred to as
turn on loss and turn off loss, respectively.
2.2.2. Soft Loss (gate drive loss)
Soft loss is mainly due to the par
switching nodes. Since the switch size has to be rela-
tively large to handle the load current with proper on-
resistance, the capacitance associated with it at the
switching node could be quite significant.
The parasitic capacitance at the switching node, C
can be express as follows:
totaloxgb d
s sb gdgs db
Thus, the gate driver loss for each stage can beui-
Under the conmode, the most
onverter im-
Basic Theory
t low load,
ely given by Pgate_drive = CtotalV2fs
tinuous conduction
minate switching loss is due to the hard switching loss,
since it is proportional to both current and switching fre-
quency. However, under the light load condition, the
most dominated switching loss is due to the gate drive
loss since the current is small.
2.3. PWM Loss Simulink V
Figure 3 shows the PWM controlled buck c
plemented in Simulink. Figure 4 shows power loss of
this converter. Figure 5 shows the conversion efficiency
versus switching frequency.
3. PFM Control Mode
In order to tackle the dissatisfactory efficiency a
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
Figure 3. The PWM Buck Converter in Simulink.
0200 400600 800
90 Conversion E ffici ency VS Load c urrent
Load c urrent (m A)
Conv ersion Ef f i c i ency (%)
4008001200 16002000 2400 28003200 36004000
Conversi on E ffic i ency VS S wi t chi ng frequenc y
Swit chi ng frequency (kHz)
Conversion Efficiency (%)
Figure 5. Conversion efficiency in a PWM buck converter
vs. switching frequency.
Figure 4. Conversion efficiency in a buck converter i
PWM control m o d with variant load current. n
C. PENG, C. J. WANG 67
we need a control scheme with lower switching frequency
or conduction current. Note also the minimum frequency
is needed to maintain a demanded output ripple. Pulse
Frequency Modulation (PFM) scheme is designed to suf-
ficiently decrease the switching frequency and conduc-
tion current at light load while maintaining required out-
put voltage ripple [5].
3.1. Control Scheme
Unlike PWM where the P gate and N gate is controlled
with duty cycle to be on and off, in PFM they are con-
trolled by Thresholds. To be specifically, the thresholds
used in PFM control are High Vout Threshold, Low Vout
Threshold, Mode Transit Threshold and Inductor Current
Peak Limit. Figure 6 shows how this control scheme
advances in time axis. PFM scheme is designed for ligh
would be drawn below a thresh-
During this phase both switches
for output power is all from the
all losses could have occurred
load so when the load current increases beyond a certain
point, the output voltage
old, which is shown in the figure as “Mode Transit
Threshold”. When this happens, the circuit switches back
to PWM mode to keep up with the load demand.
3.2. PFM Power Loss Analysis
The reason for loss saving in this control mode is mainly
due to the “sleep phase”.
are turned off, the source
capacitor charge, saving
on switches and the inductor. During the PFM operation,
the output is being charged as needed. Thus, the average
inductor current and load current would be smaller than
the ripple current and the conduction loss would only
occur during “pump phase”, resulting in less power loss.
The detail equations are omitted in the paper due to space
3.3. PFM Loss Simulink Verification
LM3677 is a DC converter from National Semiconductor
using PFM/PWM control mode. In this device output
voltage thresholds are set between ~0.2% and ~1.8%
above nominal PWM output voltage. In order to compare
conversion efficiency under same criteria, The PFM
mode also has to set the same output ripple the same as
the one in PWM (1.77 V to 1.82 V). Also the typical
peak current in PFM mode is:
112 /20
peak in
In our study, Vin = 3.6 V. The result is 192 mA. With
LM3677 as benchmark, the thresholds of simulation in
this study are set to be: High Vout Threshold = 1.814 V;
Low Vout Threshold = 1.809 V; Inductor peak current
limit = 200 mA; Mode Transit Threshold = 1.804 V. Fig-
ure 7 shows the PFM controlled buck converter in Simu-
4. Loss and Efficiency Comparison
The blue curves dotted with x are PWM mode, red
curves dotted with o is PFM mode. It’s easily seen that
the loss in PFM is much lower than that in PWM mode at
light load (10 mA - 40 mA), and rapidly increases with
the load going high. Figure 8 shows the loss comparison
curves with all losses summed up.
The efficiency is measured with load from 10 mA -
110 mA as shown in Figure 9.
Figure 6. PFM mode operation and transfer to PWM mode.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
Figure 7. Shows the PFM c o ntrolled buck converter in Simulink.
10 2030 40
0. 1
0.11 P WM and PF M overall l os s c om pare
Load c urrent (m A)
Overall loss (W)
Figure 8. Shows the loss comparison curves with all losses
(PWM is indicated by x; PFM is indicated by o).
Figure 9. Efficiency comparisons between PWM and PFM
mode control. (PWM is indicate d by x; PFM is indicated by
From the graph we can
rovement at light load varies from 0 - 30%. Note in
PWM the frequency has been fine-tuned at 1600 kHz so
the improvement is pretty significant.
Computer based simulation proved the effectiveness of
theoretical prediction on conversion power losses. The
proposed PFM control scheme is also verified to have a
see that the efficiency im-5. Conclusions
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. EPE
C. PENG, C. J. WANG 69
significant improvement on conversion efficiency at light
load (as high as 30%).
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