Technical Article

Negative Regulator LT3091 Expands Family of Current-Reference Linear Regulators

April 09, 2018 by Dawson Huang

This article highlights Analog Devices Incorporated LT3081 linear regulator with LT3091 as negative counterpart, and LT8582 dual-channel PWM DC/DC converter.

The LT3080, introduced in 2007, represented a new linear regulator architecture featuring a current source as a reference and a voltage follower for the output amplifier. This new architecture has a number of advantages, including easy regulator paralleling for increased output current and operation down to zero output voltage. Since the output amplifier always operates at unity gain without a resistor-setting divider, bandwidth and absolute regulation are constant across the output voltage range. Transient response is independent of output voltage and regulation can be specified in millivolts rather than as a percent of output.

Table 1 summarizes the family of devices that use this architecture. The LT3091, the latest addition to this family, is a 1.5A low dropout negative linear regulator featuring adjustable current limit and current monitor. The LT3091 is similar to the other negative linear regulator in the family, the LT3090, but with more than double the LT3090’s current rating.


  LT3091 LT3090 LT3081 LT3080
Output current 1.5A 600mA 1.5A 1.1A
ISET −50μA −50μA 50μA 10μA
Adjustable current limit/current monitor Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/Yes No/No
LDO (low dropout) Yes Yes No Yes
Positive/Negative voltage Negative Negative Positive Positive
Table 1: Some of Linear’s regulators featuring the current reference architecture.


The LT3091 is useful in high current, negative voltage applications requiring low noise or precision output. It features fast transient response, high PSRR and low output noise. Low dropout helps keep it from overheating when supporting loads up to 1.5A. Built-in protection includes reverse output protection, internal current limit with foldback and thermal shutdown with hysteresis. This versatile negative regulator architecture can operate down to zero volts out and as a negative floating regulator.


How It Works

The negative output voltage is set with a −50μA precision current source driven through a single resistor RSET from ground to the SET pin. The internal follower amplifier forces the output voltage to match the negative voltage of the SET pin. With this architecture, all of the internal operating current flows in from the output pin. Only a 20μAload is required to maintain regulation at all output voltages. Figure 1 shows the basic hookup for the LT3091. It provides 1.5A of output current, can be adjustable to zero output voltage, and features both positive and negative monitors for output current. It is also reverse protected when the output voltage is lower than the input.

The current limit can be reduced below 1.5A by connecting an external resistor RLIM between ILIM and IN pins, as shown in Figure 1. This function can effectively protect the load and limit the temperature of the IC.


Figure 1: 1.5A, negative linear regulator with current limitation and monitor
Figure 1: 1.5A, negative linear regulator with current limitation and monitor


With 3.3V feeding the IMONN pin, the IMONP pin sources current equal to 1/4000 of the output current. This current source is measured by tying a resistor, RMON, to ground in series with the current source and reading the voltage across the resistor. With the IMONP pin tied to VIN, the IMONN pin sinks current equal to 1/2000 of the output current. In this way, the positive or negative output current can be monitored with minimal components, no additional sense resistors or amplifiers required.


Paralleling Devices for More Current

Paralleling LT3091s is easy with this new current source reference regulator. Paralleling is useful for increasing output current or spread-ing heat. Since the LT3091 is set up as a voltage follower, tying all the SET pins together makes the outputs the same voltage. If the outputs are at the same voltage, only a few milliohms of ballast, ROUT1,2, are required to allow them to share current.

Figure 2 shows a schematic of two LT3091s paralleled to obtain 3A output. The set resistor, RSET, now has twice the set current flowing through it, so the output is −100μA times RSET. The 10mΩ output resistors, ROUT1,2 ensure ballasting at full current.


Figure 2: 3A negative linear regulator with paralleled LT3091
Figure 2: 3A negative linear regulator with paralleled LT3091


There is no limit to the number of devices that can be paralleled for higher current.

Figure 3 shows the thermal distribution of the design of Figure 2—U1 and U2 reach similar temperatures, indicating equally shared current.



Figure 3: Thermal performance of two paralleled LT3091s
Figure 3: Thermal performance of two paralleled LT3091s


Low Noise Positive-to-Negative Converter

Inverting converters generate a negative voltage from a positive input and feature low output ripple. If combined with a high bandwidth LDO such as the LT3091, the overall converter can have a very high transient response with even lower noise.

Figure 4 shows a low noise coupled-inductor positive-to-negative converter. The inverting converter is based on LT3581, a PWM DC/DC converter with a built-in power switch. Its 4mm × 3mm DFN package and tiny externals can be combined with the LT3091 in a compact and quiet solution. Figure 5 shows the transient response of the two output voltages. Figure 6 shows the thermal performance of the entire system.


Figure 4: 1.5A low noise and fast transient positive-to-negative converter
Figure 4: 1.5A low noise and fast transient positive-to-negative converter
Figure 5: Transient response for positive-to-negative converter
Figure 5: Transient response for positive-to-negative converter
Figure 6: Thermal image for positive-to-negative converter
Figure 6: Thermal image for positive-to-negative converter


Low Noise Positive and Negative Power Supply

A high current positive-to-positive-and-negative converter can be built with a positive 1.5A LT3081 linear regulator and its negative 1.5A linear counterpart, the LT3091. The LT8582 is a dual-channel PWM DC/DC converter with internal switches in an available 7mm × 4mm DFN package. It can generate both a positive and negative output from a single input.


About the Author

Dawson Huang joined Linear Technology Corporation in 2014 as an applications engineer. His work includes development, evaluation and characterization of new power management ICs. He is also in charge of circuit design and customer support of products related to LED drivers, buck-boost voltage regulators and isolated dc/dc converters. Dawson received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China, and a Ph.D from Virginia Tech.


This article originally appeared in the Bodo’s Power Systems magazine.