Electronic voltage regulatorsare found in devices such as computer power supplies where they stabilize the DC voltages used by the processor and other elements. In automobile alternators and central power station generator plants, voltage regulators control the output of the plant. In an electric power distribution system, voltage regulators may be installed at a substation or along distribution lines so that all customersreceive steady voltage independent of how much power is drawn from the line.
Measures of regulator quality
The output voltage can only be held roughly constant; the regulation is specified by two measurements:
* load regulation is the change in output voltage for a given change in load current (for example: "typically 15mV, maximum 100mV for load currents between 5mA and 1.4A, at some specifiedtemperature and input voltage").
* line regulation or input regulation is the degree to which output voltage changes with input (supply) voltage changes - as a ratio of output to input change (for example "typically 13mV/V"), or the output voltage change over the entire specified input voltage range (for example "plus or minus 2% for input voltages between 90V and 260V, 50-60Hz").
Otherimportant parameters are:
* Temperature coefficient of the output voltage is the change in output voltage with temperature (perhaps averaged over a given temperature range), while...
* Initial accuracy of a voltage regulator (or simply "the voltage accuracy") reflects the error in output voltage for a fixed regulator without taking into account temperature or aging effects on output accuracy.* Dropout voltage is the minimum difference between input voltage and output voltage for which the regulator can still supply the specified current. A Low Drop-Out (LDO) regulator is designed to work well even with an input supply only a Volt or so above the output voltage. The input-output differential at which the voltage regulator will no longer maintain regulation. Further reduction ininput voltage will result in reduced output voltage. This value is dependent on load current and junction temperature.
* Absolute maximum ratings are defined for regulator components, specifying the continuous and peak output currents that may be used (sometimes internally limited), the maximum input voltage, maximum power dissipation at a given temperature, etc.
* Output noise (thermal whitenoise) and output dynamic impedance may be specified as graphs versus frequency, while output ripple noise (mains "hum" or switch-mode "hash" noise) may be given as peak-to-peak or RMS voltages, or in terms of their spectra.
* Quiescent current in a regulator circuit is the current drawn internally, not available to the load, normally measured as the input current while no load is connected(and hence a source of inefficiency; some linear regulators are, surprisingly, more efficient at very low current loads than switch-mode designs because of this).
* Transient response is the reaction of a regulator when a (sudden) change of the load current (called the load transient) or input voltage (called the line transient) occurs. Some regulators will tend to oscillate or have a slowresponse time which in some cases might lead to undesired results. This value is different from the regulation parameters, as that is the stable situation definition. The transient response shows the behaviour of the regulator on a change. This data is usually provided in the technical documentation of a regulator and is also dependent on output capacitance.
Electronic voltage regulators