What is voltage ripple and why is it important?

Published: 22 November 2022

What is voltage ripple and why is it important?

Depending on the application voltage ripple is often a key factor when designing a system and selecting a power supply, however minimising the output voltage ripple value has advantages whether or not you are working with sensitive electronics.  

In terms of power converters, voltage ripple refers to the AC component of the DC output. For example, a 12V output may have a 100mV (0.1V) peak to peak ripple. This means the voltage fluctuates between 11.95V to 12.05V, often at the supply frequency (50Hz/60Hz) or a multiple of it. A voltage ripple will also have a corresponding current ripple, depending on their losses are generated in the wires and circuit components connected to the output of the power converter. These losses are in the form of heat and are essentially wasted power, this can also affect component lifetime or in extreme cases cause the component to fail prematurely/unexpectedly.  

For battery charging applications, poor ripple voltage management can reduce the lifetime of the battery. It can even cause the battery to become unexpectedly warm due to the internal resistance of the battery and I2R losses, depending on the type of battery this may further increase the internal resistance and further increase losses leading to a runaway effect.

For sensitive applications such as those found in the computing and instrumentation industry, it can cause systems to operate unexpectedly due to data corruption. It can cause errors in digital circuits if the magnitude is large enough and can cause incorrect outputs in logic circuits. Modern day CPUs and GPUs are often extremely sensitive to inputs and determine their clock speed using voltage, having a ripple voltage with a large peak can cause a CPU to operate at a higher-than-expected clock speed causing the component to be worn out much faster. If it is supplied with a lower voltage it may not operate at an optimal speed, which can be critical for high speed sensing applications.  

Modern day switch mode power supplies can achieve very low voltage ripple values, using innovative topologies, control schemes or filtering options. Here at Display Technology Ltd we have a wide range of power converters which come as standard with low voltage ripple, we can offer custom-mod solutions to improve ripple performance such as increasing switching frequency. Depending on your application this may reduce the size of filtering components, thereby size/weight of the system and have a positive effect on output current ripple.  

Get in touch to discuss your requirements or have a browse through a sample of our product range.

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