Computing stuff tied to the physical world

DC high-side control

In Hardware on Jun 12, 2011 at 00:01

Good news: the “high-side” DC power switch works!

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On the bottom, a DC jack getting 12V power, on the right a cable with a DC plug powering an external USB disk.

The little board in the middle is sort of a breakout board for two SMD chips: a dual P-MOSFET and a low-drop -3.3V linear voltage regulator to power the JeeNode. The rest is boilerplate stuff, i.e. the JeeNode Experimenter’s Pack, a couple of resistors, and some electrolytic caps.

I’ve only tested it with a load of about 1A, but it should work up to 3A without any problem. What’s also nice is that as a high-side switch, it doesn’t really care what voltage is being used as power supply – anything between 3.5V and 16V should work just fine. That means this can also be used for 5V devices and even with devices powered off 1..4 LiPo-batteries. This simply fits between a DC power plug and its device – convenient!

The current consumption is 21 mA with the ATmega and receiver permanently on. Could easily be lowered a few mA by putting the ATmega in “idle” mode.

The current sensing capabilities are definitely working, but the resistance of the P-MOSFET is not quite 0.1 Ω: with a 390 mA current, I see about 90 mV across the MOSFET, indicating that its internal resistance when driven from a 3.3V JeeNode is more like 0.23 Ω. That’s on the high side (pardon the pun), because this would mean a 1A load will get about 0.23V less out of the power supply than it would with a direct connection – and 0.7V less when drawing 3A. Oh well, it’ll be ok for most devices, cheap power bricks don’t always supply exactly 12V anyway.

The question of course is how consistent this MOSFET resistance is. I suspect that there will be quite a bit of variation across different units. But that’s not necessarily a problem: we don’t really care about absolute currents, we just need to see how the device’s current consumption is relative to full power and idle modes, basically. And we can always calibrate the value with a multimeter or power resistor.

The other weak spot in all this is that the voltage levels measured with this setup are very low, and only cover a few percent of the ADC range. It would be nice to have a bit more resolution there.

Ok, let’s throw an op-amp into the mix…

  1. FET Rds(on) will vary with gate voltage, and with temperature. Maybe not enough to matter, but worth checking…

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