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- Reduce power consumption.
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Power Management IC: The Ultimate FAQs Guide
Before you invest in power management ICs, read this guide.
It will give insights about the classification, working principle, components, functions, quality control and new technologies, amongst others.
Here is all you need to know:
- What is Power Management Integrated Circuit?
- What are the Features of Power Management IC?
- Which Types of PMIC are there?
- What are the Functions of the Power Management IC?
- Where can you use PMIC?
- Why do you need a Power Management IC?
- Is Power Management IC a separate IC?
- Does Power Management IC Offer Circuit Protection Functions?
- How do you establish the Functions and Relationships of PMIC?
- Which are the different Timing Strategies in Power Management IC?
- Do you need Dedicated PMIC to Control Basic Sequencing?
- Which are the Main Factors to Consider during Power Sequencing?
- Which are the available Power Supply Sequencing Techniques?
- Why is Power Rail Sequencing Important in Power Management System?
- What is the Function of Power MOSFETs in Power Management IC?
- Which types of MOSFETs are used in PMIC?
- What are the Challenges in Designing a Power Management IC?
- What is the difference between Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and Pulse Frequency Modulation (PFM) in PMICs?
- What is BicMOS Technology in Power Management IC?
What is Power Management Integrated Circuit?
A power management integrated circuit is a semiconductor chip utilized to control power on electronics gadgets or in modules.
In most cases, they may have an array of voltages.
Power management IC
The power management IC manages DC-to-DC conversion, up or down voltage scaling, battery power sleep and charging modes, among other parameters.
A PMIC may comprise of the real-time clocks (RTC), Low-dropout regulators (LDO), power FETs, pulse-width modulation (PWM), and pulse frequency modulation (PFM).
A typical power management IC includes linear regulators such as LDO and one or several switching DC-to-DC converters such as boost or buck converters.
At the center of the PMIC chip is the power-transistor.
This is a big transistor.
It has an area of a couple of square millimeters arranged as several banks of transistors.
Besides, it is essential for these parallel gadgets to maintain very low resistance (also known as RdsON).
This is to reduce heat, power loss and attain better efficiency in power conversion.
In most cases, power management ICs use a 200mm fabrication process. However, some manufacturers are beginning to apply 300mm.
Additionally, some PMICs use panel-level fan-out packagers.
What are the Features of Power Management IC?
As already stated, a power management IC may include voltage regulation, charging functions, and battery management.
Some of the main features of PMIC constitute:
- May integrate a DC to DC converter to enable dynamic voltage scaling.
- Most models feature power conversion efficiency of up to 95 percent.
- Some designs incorporate dynamic frequency scaling is a blend referred to as dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS).
- Maybe fabricated using the BiCMOS process and packed as a QFN package.
- Some have input/output communications interfaces such as SPI or I²C serial bus.
- Have a real-time clock and a low-dropout regulator complementing a backup battery.
- Uses pulse-width modulation (PWM) and pulse-frequency modulation (PFM)
- Can utilize switching amplifier.
In addition to these features, power management ICs are highly compact, take up minimal space and are appropriate for hard to access locations.
The majority of battery-operated gadgets consisting of media players and smartphones include these types of integrated circuits.
Which Types of PMIC are there?
Typically, there are two main types of power management ICs: Low-power PMICs and high-performance PMICs.
Power management ICs
· Low-power Power Management IC
Low-power power management IC offers optimized power control for space-limited applications like IoT devices, wearables, sensors and wearables.
High power conversion efficiency, compact form factors and Low operating current are crucial for gadgets that operate chiefly on small batteries.
PMICs applying the single-inductor, multiple-output architecture utilize one inductor for energy storage for several, separate DC outputs.
Using fewer inductors can reduce the amount of power supply by as much as 50 percent.
Additionally, low quiescent current aids in extending the battery lifespan of your space-limited designs.
Wearable power management ICs supply controllers with single-inductor topologies that enhance efficiency.
Several ultra-low quiescent current controllers having optimal efficiency prolong battery life and minimize general power consumption.
Low-power PMICs incorporate efficient management with smart power control, battery charging, and power-optimized peripherals.
This gives various alternatives to develop space-optimized services for always-on battery-powered gadgets such:
- Smart watches
- Wearable clinical gadgets
- IoT devices
- Fitness monitors
· High-performance Power Management IC
High-performance power management integrated circuits boost functioning per watt whilst enhancing the efficiency of systems.
They are majorly important in computationally extensive platforms like FPGAs, systems-on-chip (SoCs) and application processors.
Typically, High-performance PMICs offer power management functions and multiple power rails whilst consuming power up to 40 percent less than ordinary solutions.
These types of power management ICs prolong the lifespan of the battery in the greatest compact form factor.
High-performance power management IC supports a myriad of applications ranging from:
- Industrial IoT
- Virtual reality/augmented reality
- Handheld gadgets such as cameras
What are the Functions of the Power Management IC?
Power management integrated circuit
There exist no formal or official description of the functions of a power management IC, and the answer differs from the situation and supplier.
Generally, a PMIC can perform one or more of these tasks:
- Actual DC-to-DC conversion;
- Battery charging and management;
- Power-source selection;
- Power-rail sequencing; and
- Voltage scaling
Where can you use PMIC?
Power management IC is primarily used in the following devices and industries:
- Consumer Electronics
- Automotive Industry
- Telecom and Networking industry
These PMICs come in different varieties ranging from:
- Voltage regulators
- Battery management IC
- Integrated ASSP PMIC
- Microprocessor supervisory IC
- Linear regulators
- Switching regulator, among others.
Why do you need a Power Management IC?
Using power management IC on your power management system comes with a lot of benefits. Here are the main advantages of PMICs:
Power management IC chips
· Integration of Digital and Analog and Logic
The most obvious benefit of using a power management IC within an embedded processor setup is the high degree of integration.
However, this normally translated only as a minimized PCB size.
This feature does away with the need for extra ICs like temperature sensors, supervisors and sequencers.
All these can increase the size and complexity of a distinct power management system.
At times, it is hard to comprehend the benefits of integrating these massive features into one IC.
· External Event Detection
Most systems depend on certain exterior events, such as:
- Line-power application
- General-purpose IO assertion or push-button press
- Power on or reset the system
A power management IC can sense these events and power on the system or signal the processor of an incident utilizing I 2C and interrupt communication.
The detection of external events is not always restricted to digital signals.
For instance, the majority of PMICs incorporate comparators that are instrumental in detecting prompt power failure of the primary power supply.
They then signal the processor promptly to start the chosen power-down process.
· Power-Up and Power-Down timing
Power-up and power-down sequencing are specifically critical for the application processor.
This is because of the crucial timing dependencies of the several functional blocks in the processor.
Intelligent PMICs can as well manage the increasing amount of channels.
The sequence-up step is commonly started by one enable signal or a mix of external events.
Also, the regulated rails of the power management IC power-up with the right order and timing.
The controlled supplies of the PMIC sequence-up with the correct timing and order.
All power rails should surpass a power-good minimum within the programmed time-out value.
In case any independent voltage rail fails to power on correctly, a sequence fault arises, and all regulated rails are switched off.
When all the power rails hit their sequence up limit, the supply monitor starts.
Power management ICs incorporate the power sequencing within their digital core.
Therefore, the system only needs one power-good signal for all the voltage rails.
The integrated attribute eliminates the necessity for external supervisors and sequencers to manage the system power sequencing.
· Fault handling and System Monitoring
Fault and power supply monitoring are essential for any system.
Faults such as over-voltage, under-voltage, over-temperature, over-current and leading supply thresholds may be harmful to the system.
A PMIC has the capability to sense all these faults and execute instant measures without awaiting the primary processor to assume control to prevent power or system failure.
On detection of a fault, it is relayed to the main processor.
Correspondingly, the power management IC initiates a shutdown sequence to avoid system damage.
Is Power Management IC a separate IC?
Power management IC development module
This vary based on the situation.
In some instances, some or majority of the power management integrated circuit functions implanted in the power-related integrated circuit, like a DC-to-DC regulator.
Alternatively, they may be placed in the load supplied by the rails.
In other instances, the PMIC is an independent IC and functions separately from the other integrated circuits.
When the power management IC is implanted in the bigger IC, you may require additional power management devices to cater to other rails and components of the system.
Due to this fact, you may still need a separate PMIC.
You should realize that the functions of power management ICs are not only limited to bigger ICs and systems. E
ven a small integrated circuit like op-amps having several supplies may require sequencing.
Does Power Management IC Offer Circuit Protection Functions?
Those functions need abilities and procedures that may not be well-matched with ICs.
Moreover, in many scenarios, the power-related integrated circuit (not the PMIC) offers these services.
Hence they would be unnecessary when in the power management IC.
Nevertheless, the UVLO role is, in essence, executed by the PMIC.
This is because the integrated circuit establishes UVLO and “power good” as a component of the sequencing process.
How do you establish the Functions and Relationships of PMIC?
There exist power management ICs that are set with the respective timing and relationship amongst the different rails.
On the other hand, some are more totally user-programmable, normally through a PM or I2C serial bus interface.
This enables the user to program the parameters of the sequencing and other variables being managed by the PMIC.
In some situations, the power management IC may require a couple of external components like capacitors or resistors.
Moreover, very complex systems may use a dedicated microcontroller with the exclusive purpose of offering PMIC functions.
Which are the different Timing Strategies in Power Management IC?
There are three primary types of timing Power management IC systems; simultaneous, ratiometric and sequencing, together with their variations.
In sequential timing, there are three operating stages namely: up-sequencing, monitoring and down-sequencing.
In up-sequencing, the second rail powers up only after the initial one have attained its nominal modulated value.
Subsequently, during the monitoring stage, each power rail stays within set over- and under-voltage borders.
In down-sequencing, every power rail must wait its time then turn off within an assigned time limit.
There is a possibility of something going wrong at any point, leading to a fault within the system.
· Ratiometric Timing
In ratiometric timing, the voltage rails rise at differing ramp rates, however, the higher power rail has a quicker slew rate.
Due to this fact, they hit their nominal regulation value at the same time.
This power rail timing method has the advantage of keeping the differential in voltage between voltage rails to a minimum.
Its biggest drawback, however, is that the timing strategy may as well need more system power-up currents because all voltage rails turn on concurrently.
This type of power rail timing needs a voltage regulator having a controllable soft-start alternative.
· Simultaneous Timing
In a simultaneous start-up, all power rails start concurrently and stop after reaching their nominal regulation value.
The rails equally rise at a similar rate, this prevents bus contention, latch-up and unnecessary transistor states.
Therefore, simultaneous timing is considered the best sequencing technique.
However, the setback is that simultaneous voltage rail sequencing may need more system power-up currents.
This is because all power rails throughout the system startup at the same time.
Special circuitries, like voltage regulators having simultaneous sequencing alternatives, are needed for implementation.
Do you need Dedicated PMIC to Control Basic Sequencing?
Some DC-to-DC regulators come with additional pins meant for enable and sequencing, which allows hardwiring of their relative timing.
This helps in saving on expenses and board space since you do not need a separate power management IC.
However, you may restrict the flexibility achievable though maybe not required.
You must consider the tradeoffs and objectives of the power rails.
Which are the Main Factors to Consider during Power Sequencing?
It is crucial to bear in mind that during power sequencing, there exist two main issues to tackle:
- Control signal relayed by the sequencer
- Reciprocal control input at every DC regulator
For the first consideration, your chosen sequencer should have adequate control outputs.
Or provide some room for increasing the number if need be.
In most cases, the ports are basic, single general-purpose input/output (GPIO) ports.
Power management integrated circuits
For the second consideration, the DC regulator should come with a single-pin enable input, or you must incorporate an electronic switch.
Commonly a MOSFET, the switch is added between the physical power output it drives and the regulator output.
Consequently, control this MOSFET switch.
It is recommended, in most instances, to select a DC regulator with an uncomplicated logic-level to enable control.
Alternatively, you can use a power management IC.
It can directly drive the power rail with appropriate voltage/current ratings in the absence of an independent MOSFET driver.
Which are the available Power Supply Sequencing Techniques?
Power sequencing is a vital component of any design, particularly in sophisticated systems that use several power rails.
Present high-performance processing gadgets such as microcontrollers, ASICS, ADCs, FPGAs, DSPs and PLDs require a number of voltage rails to power their internal circuitry.
Applications of these types require definite voltage rail power-down and power-up sequencing.
This is to ensure better efficiency, reliable operation, and general system health.
The most common power rail sequencing methods include:
· RC-based Sequencing
In a resistor-capacitor based approach, also known as the RC-based method, sequencing is performed by utilizing the enable pins on every voltage rail (VR).
You can stagger the voltage rails by looping back the preceding rail output voltages to the enable input of the subsequent rail.
If necessary, you can implement small RC-based delays circuitries to produce timing delays for powering the next VR.
RC-based techniques have several setbacks in terms of complexity and cost.
It presents a high overhead because of the board area cost and external components.
While you can execute up-sequencing, you will have a hard time and limited alternatives for power-down.
When accuracy is needed with regard to inter-relay delays, the resistor-capacitor based delay technique is not ideal.
It does not provide any means to manage faults.
Basically, a defect in any of the voltage rails should switch off other VRs to hinder the damaging of the system by the power solution.
There is no organized down-sequencing when a defect is detected.
In a nutshell, this sequencing method fails if you require sophisticated sequencing and monitoring.
It is not possible to configure this technique of sequencing. You will need to replace RC components every time you need new delays or sequences.
· GPIO Sequencing
With a general-purpose input/output (GPIO) sequencing, you can assign single or several voltage rails to an independent GPIO.
Besides, maybe element of other voltage rails via programmable settings.
It is possible to stagger the VRs utilizing programmable delay bits.
The role of these programmable delay bits is to determine delay from general-purpose IO going down to the voltage rail being disabled.
Or, GPIO going up to the VR to be enabled.
You can store the programmable settings in the non-volatile memory of the Power management IC.
The GPIO power sequencing method has just a few drawbacks. Normally, the main disadvantage is the cost since GPIO pins are very expensive.
Furthermore, the system needs an exterior controller to switch general purpose IO pins either low or high.
In addition, GPIO sequencing has logic redundancy.
For instance, you will need to replicate the delay counters for each VR to have staggered rails.
Also, down-sequencing will be impossible in case of a system reset or default.
· Serial Communication-based Sequencing
This is a simple power rail sequencing technique applied for serial peripheral interface (SPI) and/or inter-IC (I2 C).
In serial communication-based sequencing, the primary processor or controller can enable or disable power rails on the power management IC via an SPI.
Or an I2 C in any layout needed for turning the system down or up.
Nonetheless, this method of power supply sequencing has one major limitation.
In this sequencing technique, the primary processor or controller must be turned-up in a specific state to transmit across an SPI or an I2 C before powering up the voltage rails.
This is not usually the scenario since the processor or controller may be reliant on the power management IC to supply the needed power.
Moreover, the down-sequencing is not assured in case of resets or faults in the system.
· Time-slot/Strobe-based Sequencing
In time-slot or strobe-based power rail sequencing, the sequencer within the power management IC produces several strobes partitioned a programmable delay.
Of course this happens during power-down and power-up.
You can assign the task of configuring any voltage rail to any strobe via programmable register bits.
This provides total flexibility with respect to sequencing order and delay.
All the settings of the programmable register bit are found in the non-volatile memory chip.
There is one main disadvantage of time-slot sequencing.
It cannot manage multiple up-and down-sequencing in the same power management IC for separate power-up and power-down sequencing.
For instance, in case of fault and reset incidents need a different down-sequencing, it will not be possible to have two different down-sequencings – each for a specific event.
Likewise, in case there are different up-sequencing, for example, regular boot and a cold boot, a time-slot based sequencer will fail.
This is because you cannot program it for many power-up sequences.
· Instruction Processor-based Sequencing
With the instruction processor-based power rail sequencing method, a simple instruction processor found in the power management IC executes commands from a specified memory section.
Commands like ENABLE, DISABLE and WAIT are stored in the non-volatile memory of the chip.
Based on the incident, the event sensor module sets up the memory pointer to a specified position from which a preconfigured set of commands are fetched.
The instruction processor has the role of decoding the commands from the non-volatile memory of the PMIC.
It is the decoding that set or reset the register to enable or disable rails and create POWER GOODs and RESETs following a programmable delay via WAIT commands.
One drawback of this power rail sequencing method is the high cost of the non-volatile memory for storing commands.
Nevertheless, this technique offers total configurability and flexibility with respect to sequencing requirements.
Why is Power Rail Sequencing Important in Power Management System?
Sequencing in power management IC
Power rail sequencing is an important component of any design in need of power management.
Sequencing is most essential in sophisticated systems that employ multiple power rails.
For instance, microprocessors, FPGAs and ASICs need multiple voltage rails to power the input-output, memory and the core.
Having a definite and deterministic power-up and power-down sequencing of voltage rail is essential for the efficient operation of any power management system.
It helps in ensuring that a voltage rail is turned on or off in the right order, in relation to other rails.
Furthermore, power supply sequencing determines whether or not a VR is within a functioning regulating window.
These guarantee reliability and safety of operations.
What is the Function of Power MOSFETs in Power Management IC?
Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistors, commonly known as Power MOSFETs.
They are three-terminal silicon gadgets that operate by sending an impulse to the gate that regulates conduction of current between source and drain.
The current conduction potential of power MOSFETs is up to multiple tens of amperes, having breakdown voltage ratings of 10V to 1000V.
Normally, it is performed through a simple, low on-resistance MOSFET located between the load and the rail source.
The power management IC controls the MOSFET and hence its resistance, the same as a load switch.
Also, the timing and power-on/off is managed by the PMIC through these MOSFETs, one for each rail.
Which types of MOSFETs are used in PMIC?
MOSFETs utilized in ICs are lateral gadgets with gate, source and drain positioned on top of the gadget.
The flow of current assumes a parallel route to the surface.
The MOSFET utilizes the gadget substrate as its drain terminal.
Power management IC MOSFETs have high on-resistance compared to discrete MOSFETs.
What are the Challenges in Designing a Power Management IC?
There exist a couple of major challenges in the designing of PMICs:
- Reduction of the size/area and cost of the integrated circuits so that it is suitable for portable applications.
- Minimizing the thermal dissipation and enhanced reliability/lifetime.
- Noise integration between power FET gadgets to other sensitive gadgets within the chip via ground/power and substrate networks.
- Advanced latch-up/ ESD robustness and reducing electromagnetic induction radiation from powering regulators.
Other new innovations such as wireless charging present new challenges such as interference.
What is the difference between Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and Pulse Frequency Modulation (PFM) in PMICs?
Pulse Width Modulation designates the most commonly applied method of voltage control in power management ICs.
Pulse width modulation
In PWM, at set cycles the quantity of power equivalent to the power that should be output is turned on to draw it from the input.
As a result, the duty cycle adjusts as a function of the needed output power.
An advantage of pulse width modulation is that since it has fixed frequency, you can predict any switching noise that emanates, hence enabling the filtering operation.
The main disadvantage of PWM is that because of the fixed frequency, the number of switching operations stays constant regardless of the load being low or high.
Therefore, there is no change in the self-consuming current.
Consequently, the switching loss gets predominant during light loads, which minimizes the efficiency substantially.
There is two types of pulse-frequency modulation: fixed-on time and fixed-off time types.
Pulse frequency modulation
With fixed-on time PFM, the on-time is predetermined with an adjustable off-time.
This implies that there is variation in the duration needed for the power to switch on next time.
When there is an increase in the load, the amount of on-times in a specified length of time is multiplied to correspond to the load.
Therefore, the frequency goes up under a heavy load and decreases under a light load.
The advantage of pulse-frequency modulation is that you are not required to add too much power during light load process.
This reduces the switching frequency and a number of needed switching procedures thus decreased switching losses.
As a result, the PFM technique guarantees high efficiency even during a light load.
Pulse-frequency modulation main disadvantage comes from the variable frequency.
Since there is variation in frequency, the switching noise remains constant.
This makes it difficult to control the filtering process, thus difficulty in eliminating the noise.
In addition, in case noise goes below 20 kHz (audible band), PFM may result in the problem of ringing, which generates an adverse effect on S/N in sound devices.
In relation to noise concerns, the pulse width modulation method may be the best option in many applications.
Whether to use PWM or PFM needs a proper understanding of the features of the two techniques and entails trade-offs.
There is one sure way to attain the best of the two methods and sustain high efficiency.
You can choose PMICs that function in PWM through steady-state operations and alternate to PFM to manage light loads.
What is BicMOS Technology in Power Management IC?
BiCMOS technology is a method of manufacturing power management IC that blends CMOS and Bipolar transistors in one integrated circuit.
By keeping the advantages of CMOS and Bipolar, BicMOS is capable of achieving VLSI PMICs.
That is, having speed-power-density capability previously unachievable with either technology independently.
CMOS technology provides high packing density, smaller noise margins and less power dissipation.
On the other hand, bipolar technology guarantees high switching and input-output speed and better noise performance.
Therefore, by combining the two technologies, the fabrication of power management IC using BiCMOS process achieves both.
That is, you lower the dissipation of power over bipolar technology and enhanced speed due to CMOS.
However, the main disadvantage of BiCMOS technology comes from higher costs because of the extra process complexity.
With the information in this guide, you should be able to evaluate the various types of power management ICs.
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