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Active and Passive Start-Up Circuits


VIT University


If the auxiliary supply is used only to power the power supply converter circuits, it will not
be required when the converter is off. For this special case, the main converter transformer
can have extra windings to provide the auxiliary power needs.
However, for this arrangement, some form of start-up circuit is required. Since this start
circuit only needs to supply power for a short start-up period, very efficient start systems are


Figure 1.8.1 shows a typical dissipative start system. The high-voltage DC supply will be dropped
through series resistors R1 and R2 to charge the auxiliary storage capacitorC3. A regulating zener
diode ZD1 prevents excessive voltage being developed on C3.The charge on C3 provides the
initial auxiliary power to the control and drive circuits when converter action is first established.
This normally occurs after the soft-start procedure is completed.
The auxiliary supply is supplemented from a winding on the main transformerT1 when the
converter is operating, preventing any further discharge of C3 and maintaining the auxiliary
supply voltage constant.
A major requirement for this approach is that sufficient start-up delay must be provided in
the main converter to permit C3 to fully charge. Further, C3 must be large enough to store
sufficient energy to provide all the drive needs for correct start-up of the converter.
In this circuit, R1 and R2 remain in the circuit at all times. To avoid excessive dissipation the
resistance must be high, and hence the standby current requirements of the drive circuit must
be low, prior to converter start-up. Since C3 may be quite large, a delay of two or three hundred
milliseconds can occur before C3 is fully charged. To ensure a good switching action for the first
cycle of operation, C3 must be fully charged before start-up, and this requires a low-voltage
inhibit and delay on the start-up control and drive circuits.
To its advantage, the technique is very low cost, and resistors R1 and R2 can replace the
normal safety discharge resistors which are inevitably required across the large storage
capacitors C1 and C2
FIG. 1.8.1 Resistive, dissipative start circuit, providing initial low-voltage auxiliary power needs
from the 300-V DC supply


Figure 1.8.2 shows the basic circuit of a more powerful and fast-acting start
system, incorporating a high-voltage transistor Q1. In this arrangement, the
resistance of R1and R2 and the gain of Q1 are chosen such that transistor Q1
will be biased into a fully saturated “on” state soon after initial switch-on of
the supply.
As C1 and C2 charge, current flows in R1 and R2 to the base of Q1, turning
Q1fully on. Zener diode ZD1 will not be conducting initially, as the voltage on
C3 and the base of Q1 will be low. With Q1 turned on, a much larger current
can flow in the low-resistance R3 to charge C3.
In this circuit, resistor R3 can have a much lower value than R1 and R2 in
the circuit shown in Fig. 1.8.1. This will not result in excessive dissipation or
degrade the efficiency, as current will flow in R3 only during the start-up
period. TransistorQ1 will turn off after C3 has charged and will be operating in
a saturated “on” state throughout the start-up period; hence its dissipation
will also be very low. R3 should be chosen to have a high surge rating (i.e., it
should be wirewound or carbon composition).
After switch-on, capacitor C3 will charge up relatively quickly and the
voltage on Q1 emitter and base will track this rising voltage +V be until the
voltage on the base of Q1 approaches the zener voltage ZD1. At this point
ZD1 starts to conduct, tending to pinch off Q1 and reducing the charge
current into C3. The voltage and dissipation will now build up across Q1.
However, once converter action is established, regenerative feedback from
the auxiliary winding on the main transformer will provide current via D6
and resistor R4 to capacitor C3.Hence the voltage on C3 will continue to
increase until the base-emitter of Q1 is reversed-biased and it is fully turned
At this point, diode D5 is brought into conduction and the voltage across C3
will now be clamped by the zener diode ZD1 and diode D5. The dissipation in

FIG. 1.8.2 Lower-dissipation, active transistor start circuit, providing initial low-voltage auxiliary
supply needs from the 300-V DC supply
depends on the values of R4 and the maximum auxiliary current. With Q1 off,
the current in R3 ceases, and its dissipation and that of Q1 will fall to zero.
As the start-up action is fast, much smaller components can be used for R3
andQ1 than would otherwise be neccessary, and heat sinks will not be
required. To prevent hazardous dissipation conditions in Q1 and R3 in the
event of failure of the converter, R3 should be able to support continuous
conduction, or “fail safe.”Fusible resistors or PTC thermistors, with their
inherent self-protection qualities, are ideal for this application.
This circuit is able to supply considerably more start-up current and gives
greater freedom in the design of the drive circuit.
Figure 1.8.3 shows a typical impulse start circuit which operates as follows.
Resistors R1 and R2 (normally the discharge resistors for the reservoir
capacitorsC1 and C2) feed current into capacitor C3 after switch-on. The
auxiliary supply capacitor C4 will be discharged at this time.

FIG. 1.8.3 Diac impulse start circuit, providing initial low-voltage auxiliary needs
from the 300-V DC supply

The voltage on C3 will increase as it charges until the firing voltage of the
diac is reached. The diac will now fire and transfer part of the charge from C3
into C4, the transfer current being limited by resistor R3.
The values of capacitors C3 and C4 and the diac voltage are chosen such
that the required auxiliary voltage will be developed across C4 and the
converter will start via its normal soft-start action.
Once again, by regenerative feedback (via D5 and the auxiliary winding),
the auxiliary power is now provided from the main transformer. As C4 is
further charged and its voltage increases, the diac will turn off since the
voltage across it can no longer reach the firing value (because of the clamping
action of ZD1 on C3).
This arrangement has the advantage of supplying a high current during the
turn-on transient, without excessive dissipation in the feed resistors R1 and
R2. In the rare event of the converter failing to start on the first impulse, the
start-up action will repeat as soon as capacitor C4 has discharged and C3
recharged to the appropriate firing value for the diac.
The choice of diac is important. It must be able to deliver the required turn-
on current, and its firing voltage must be less thanV1-Vstart and greater
thanV1-V2;*otherwise lockout can occur after the first impulse. It is possible
to replace the diac with a small SCR and the appropriate gate drive circuit.

* WhereV1 is the ZD1 clamp voltage,Vstart the control circuit start voltage, andV2 the
voltage on C4 when the converter is running