The designs of microscopic toroidalcore inductors in integrated circuits of DC-to-DC voltage converters would be modified, according to a proposal, by filling the gaps in the cores with permanent magnets that would apply bias fluxes (see figure). The magnitudes and polarities of the bias fluxes would be tailored to counteract the DC fluxes generated by the DC components of the currents in the inductor windings, such that it would be possible to either reduce the sizes of the cores or increase the AC components of the currents in the cores without incurring adverse effects. Reducing the sizes of the cores could save significant amounts of space on integrated circuits because relative to other integrated-circuit components, microinductors occupy large areas — of the order of a square millimeter each.
An important consideration in the design of such an inductor is preventing magnetic saturation of the core at current levels up to the maximum anticipated operating current. The requirement to prevent saturation, as well as other requirements and constraints upon the design of the core are expressed by several equations based on the traditional magnetic-circuit approximation. The equations involve the core and gap dimensions and the magneticproperty parameters of the core and magnet materials.
The equations show that, other things remaining equal, as the maximum current is increased, one must increase the size of the core to prevent the flux density from rising to the saturation level. By using a permanent bias flux to oppose the flux generated by the DC component of the current, one would reduce the net DC component of flux in the core, making it possible to reduce the core size needed to prevent the total flux density (sum of DC and AC components) from rising to the saturation level. Alternatively, one could take advantage of the reduction of the net DC component of flux by increasing the allowable AC component of flux and the corresponding AC component of current. In either case, permanent-magnet material and the slant (if any) and thickness of the gap must be chosen according to the equations to obtain the required bias flux.
In modifying the design of the inductor, one must ensure that the inductance is not altered. The simplest way to preserve the original value of inductance would be to leave the gap dimensions unchanged and fill the gap with a permanent magnet material that, fortuitously, would produce just the required bias flux. A more generally applicable alternative would be to partly fill either the original gap or a slightly enlarged gap with a suitable permanent- magnet material (thereby leaving a small residual gap) so that the reluctance of the resulting magnetic circuit would yield the desired inductance.
This work was done by Udo Lieneweg and Brent Blaes of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.