Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Ultra low power supply

In Hardware on Nov 27, 2011 at 00:01

This is another post about my quest for an ultra low power supply for the JeeNode and JeeNode Micro, directly connected to AC mains (and hence dangerous, I can’t stress that enough).

To reiterate: the goal is to create a supply using at most 0.4 mA for powering a device at roughly 2.5 .. 3.5 V. With a capacitive transformer-less circuit, this should lead to a 230V power drain of under 0.1 W.

The zener diode approach doesn’t work for voltages under 6V. Low voltage zeners are too leaky.

Neither does a low-power linear regulator – maybe – driven from say a 12V zener + cap. It probably draws too much current on power-up.

A possible solution was mentioned in a 2008 article by Bob Chao, titled “Voltage clamp circuits for ultra-low-voltage apps”. It’s based on a special type of MOSFET called an “EPAD”.

There’s a chip called the ALD111933 (scary name!) which includes two of these. Here are some specs:

Screen Shot 2011 11 17 at 16 46 14

So its gate threshold is very strictly specified as 3.3V, and it can only drain just a few milliamps. Still plenty for me, though. Another design limit is that the device only supports up to 10V between source and drain.

Here’s what I have in mind as my next attempt for the ultra low power supply:

JC s Doodles page 24

The 9.1V zener will have no more than 10 µA of leakage, and the leakage of the MOSFET is negligible as long as the supply voltage remains under 3.3V. Which means all the surplus current can be used by the JeeNode – at last!

Note that there are no other voltage levels of this thing, so there’s not much leeway for charge on the capacitor to drop during high power use, i.e. packet transmission. I can think of two ways to improve on that: go back to a 470 µF cap, which will hold more charge, or add an extra diode in the MOSFET’s gate to increase the voltage level at which it triggers. Either way, I think this circuit ought to finally give me that constant trickle to keep going!

I’ve ordered the necessary parts. To be continued…