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What Is a Boost Converter?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2014
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A boost converter is a type of electrical device that converts voltage from a higher to lower level to accommodate the needs of different kinds of equipment. Such devices are available for sale from electronics suppliers and hardware stores. It is also possible to build one, using components that may be readily available in some regions. Custom-built boost converters are sometimes necessary for specialty projects, such as scientific experiments.

This device takes power from a given source and runs it through an internal switching system to step up the voltage to a higher level. For this reason, the devices are sometimes known as step up power supplies or step up converters. The efficiency of the process can vary, depending on the level of conversion necessary. Like other switching mode power supplies, a boost converter can provide a mechanism for meeting the needs of electrical equipment when the available voltage is incompatible.

Other devices can step voltage down, if necessary, using a similar switching mechanism. In some cases a converter can offer multiple configurable functions for the user. Multifunction equipment tends to be more expensive due to the added technology required to make it work correctly. It can also be more prone to failure if used incorrectly, as for example if someone uses stepped up voltage with a device that requires a lower voltage and damages the equipment.

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There are a range of uses for a boost converter. Travelers sometimes need to carry such devices when they want to bring electronics from home and the supply of current in a foreign country differs from that at home. Sometimes only a plug converter is necessary, but in other instances, plugging electronics directly into the power supply could damage them. A boost converter provides a bridge to allow travelers to access electricity safely.

Such devices are also used with systems that require high voltage to function, ranging from theatrical lighting to scientific equipment. The boost converter may in some cases be wired directly into the electrical supply because of a permanent need. In other instances, it is necessary to plug the device in as needed, especially in the case of traveling equipment like that used by bands on the road. As with other electrical equipment, it is advisable to inspect a boost converter before use to confirm it is in good working condition and to check for any issues that might impair functionality or safety.

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