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  • 5 Functions of Power Supply in Electronics

    Have you ever considered what breathes life into your electronic devices? The unsung hero, often overlooked, is the power supply. This fundamental component is not just an energy conduit; it’s the heart of all electronics, dictating performance, reliability, and longevity. This article delves into the five key functions of power supplies, elucidating their significance in the broad spectrum of electronics.

    1. Voltage Transformation

    The primary function of a power supply is to adjust voltages to suitable levels. This involves either stepping up or down the voltage through a transformer to match the specific requirements of the electronic device. Voltage transformation is crucial as inappropriate voltage levels can damage the device or result in suboptimal performance.

    In essence, the power supply acts as a mediator, ensuring that the voltage supplied is neither excessive nor insufficient for the device’s needs​​​.

    The Essence of Voltage Transformation

    At its core, voltage transformation involves either elevating or reducing the voltage through a transformer. This process aligns the voltage output with the specific demands of the electronic device it powers.

    The precision of this adjustment is vital; a misaligned voltage can lead to operational failures or, in severe cases, damage to the device. For instance, power supplies for PCBs must consider the intricacies of different currents, voltages, frequencies, and waveform characteristics.

    Converters in Voltage Transformation

    Voltage transformation in power supplies often involves various types of converters. These converters are critical in adapting the power supply to a device’s specific needs. For instance, DC-DC converters adjust the input voltage to the required output levels without altering the current’s nature.

    The adjustment is essential in modern electronics, where devices may require multiple voltage levels, such as 30/24, 300/24, 5000/24, and 60 24, for different power nets. Converters like the AC-AC and hybrid types further expand the versatility of power supplies, catering to large-scale systems and integrating with extensive electrical circuits.

    Linear Regulators and Switched-Mode Power Supply Design

    Linear regulators and switched-mode power supply designs offer different approaches to voltage transformation. Linear regulators, though less energy-efficient, provide a stable voltage waveform with minimal electromagnetic interference (EMI) issues.

    They function as a resistive load, dissipating power in the form of heat to lower the output voltage from a higher input. In contrast, switching-mode power supplies are known for their flexibility and energy efficiency, making them a substantial component of modern power designs.

    2. Voltage Division

    Voltage division in power supplies is a critical function that enables the distribution of different voltage levels within an electronic system. This process is achieved through voltage dividers, typically incorporated in integrated power supply circuits and switching and linear regulator ICs. Voltage dividers adjust the output voltage based on a predefined ratio of two resistance values.

    The internal reference voltage and the desired output voltage determine the ratio. For instance, the reference voltage could be 1.2 V, 0.8 V, or even 0.6 V, which sets the lowest limit for the output voltage.

    Optimal Resistance Values for Voltage Dividers

    The selection of resistance values in a voltage divider is a delicate balance. If the values are too low, there can be significant power loss due to continuous current flow, leading to inefficiencies. Conversely, excessively high resistance values can result in high feedback node impedance, which is problematic, especially in switching regulators.

    This is because high impedance can allow noise to couple to the feedback node, affecting the power supply’s control loop and potentially leading to instability. Typically, helpful resistance values range between 50 kΩ and 500 kΩ, depending on factors such as expected noise, output voltage value, and the need to minimize power loss​​.

    Strategic Placement and Power Efficiency

    The physical placement of the voltage divider on the board layout is also crucial. The feedback node, where the voltage divider is connected, should be designed with minimal size to reduce noise coupling.

    The resistors in the voltage divider should be positioned close to the feedback pin of the power supply IC, with considerations for impedance and trace length.

    In ultra-low power applications, like energy harvesting, specific ICs feature advanced output voltage setting functions that reduce power loss by minimizing continuous current flow through the voltage divider, enhancing overall efficiency.

    3. AC to DC Conversion

    Most electronic devices operate on direct current (DC), while the main supply is typically alternating current (AC). The power supply plays a pivotal role in converting AC into DC, a process known as rectification. This conversion is fundamental for the functionality of a vast array of electronic devices. Rectifiers within the power supply unit carry out this function, either through half-wave or full-wave rectification, thus transforming the input AC into a pulsating DC voltage​​.

    4. Filtering

    After rectification, the pulsating DC voltage must be smoothened into a stable DC output. This is where filtering comes into play. Filters in the power supply unit reduce the fluctuations in the DC voltage, ensuring consistent and smooth production. This step is crucial as it prevents damage to sensitive components of the electronic device due to voltage ripples.

    5. Regulation of Power Supply Output

    Finally, regulating the power supply output is imperative for maintaining consistent performance under varying load conditions. Regulators in the power supply adjust the output to match the load, ensuring that the device receives stable power regardless of changes in demand. This regulation protects delicate electronics from voltage surges or drops, possibly leading to irreversible damage.​​


    Power supplies are not just peripheral components but are central to the practical and safe operation of electronic devices. The functions of stepping voltage up or down, voltage division, AC to DC conversion, filtering, and regulation are critical in delivering the right amount and type of power to electronic devices.

    Understanding these functions is essential for selecting the correct power supply and ensuring the longevity and reliability of electronic equipment.

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