12 April, 2018

Power regulator works as polarity protection

Step-down converter based on LM2596. Note the damaged chip
Ok, now I've done the test. My QRPLabs U3S runs off a 12 Volt power supply. There are two step-down converters, one for 5 Volts for the processor and another adjustable one for the power amplifier, if one can call 0.2-0.5 Watts a power amplifier. See picture of these voltage converters in this post.

I happened to make a new cable for 12 Volts which had the polarities inverted - and puff - there was a noise and absolutely no response from the U3S. I feared that I had blown the entire circuit. As my power amplifier was turned off, only the 5 Volts supply was affected and upon inspection I found that the voltage converter had a destroyed chip.

Since since these step-down converter modules are so cheap, I had a spare. Luckily for me, the U3S worked as it should after the replacement. So the LM2596 can take a reversed polarity and sacrifices itself in order to protect the rest of the electronics. Nice!

This post first appeared on the LA3ZA Radio & Electronics blog.