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What Is a Buck–Boost Converter?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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A buck-boost converter is a type of power controlling device that makes it possible to adjust the output of the voltage to more or less than the amount of voltage input received by the converter. This type of technology is often utilized in the process of regulating the flow of current from on direct current or DC power source to another, adjusting the output voltage in a manner that helps to reduce the potential for overload situations. A buck-boost converter is often utilized in the design of the electrical systems in automobiles, and can also be used in a number of other situations in which there is a need to regulate the flow of DC current through some type of machinery or equipment.

One of the benefits of a buck-boost converter is the ability to combine the functions of a step-up converter and step-down converter with relative ease. Essentially, the converter will receive DC current from a power source, then regulate the flow of that current to other devices. The design of the converter allows it to identify the amount of current necessary to provide adequate voltage to the receiving components and adjust that current to match the need. Depending on the devices involved, this may involve boosting or stepping up the transfer of power, or bucking or stepping down the voltage to meet the current need.

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Another advantage of this type of converter is the simplicity the device brings to the task of modulating or controlling the flow of current. Essentially, the converter is able to perform the tasks of several other individual devices, allowing for a more compact design to an electrical system. This not only saves space, but can also help to increase the overall efficiency of the system as well as provide a single point to monitor the conversion activity, versus having several points that must be addressed when and if something should go wrong with how the DC power supply is being managed.

One potential drawback with a buck-boost converter is that the design of the device usually does not account for any type terminal at the ground point with the switch. Depending on the actual application, this aspect of the design may not have any real impact on the efficiency of the converter. At other times, this can require the inclusion of additional circuitry that will complicate the overall system design. Typically, this potential drawback is offset by the efficient function of the buck-boost converter in managing the allocation of power to connected devices.

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