Tektronix - Power Supply Measurement and Analysis Primer

Our thanks to Tektronix for allowing us to reprint the following article.


A power supply is a component, subsystem, or system that converts electrical power from one form to another; commonly from alternating current (AC) utility power to direct current (DC) power. The proper operation of electronic devices ranging from personal computers to military equipment and industrial machinery depends on the performance and reliability of DC power supplies.

There are many different kinds and sizes of power supplies from traditional analog types to high-efficiency switch-mode power supplies. All face a complex, dynamic operating environment. Device loads and demands can change dramatically from one instant to the next. Even a commodity switch-mode power supply must be able to survive sudden peaks that far exceed its average operating levels. Engineers designing power supplies or the systems that use them need to understand their supplies behavior under conditions ranging from quiescent to worst-case.

Historically, characterizing the behavior of a power supply has meant taking static current and voltage measurements with a digital multimeter and performing painstaking calculations on a calculator or PC. Today most engineers turn to the oscilloscope as their preferred power measurement platform...

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