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Ac adapters and power supplies for laptops lcd's and other uses

Ac adapters and power supplies for laptops lcd's and other uses

The AC adapter, AC/DC adapter or AC/DC converter a type of external power supply, often enclosed in a case similar to an AC plug. Other names include plug pack, plug-in adapter, adapter block, domestic mains adapter, line power adapter, or power adapter. AC adapters are used with electrical devices that require power but do not contain internal components to derive the required voltage and power from mains power. The internal circuitry of an external power supply is very similar to the design that would be used for a built-in or internal supply.

External power supplies are used both with equipment with no other source of power and with battery-powered equipment, where the supply, when plugged in, can sometimes charge the battery in addition to powering the equipment.

Use of an external power supply allows portability of battery-powered equipment without the added bulk of internal power components and makes it unnecessary to produce equipment for use only with a specified power source.

Modes of operation

An AC adapter disassembled to reveal a simple, unregulated linear DC supply circuit.
Originally, most AC/DC adapters were linear power supplies, containing a transformer to convert the mains electricity voltage to a lower voltage, a rectifier to convert it to pulsating DC, and a filter to smooth the pulsating waveform to DC, with residual ripple variations small enough to leave the powered device unaffected. Size and weight of the device was largely determined by the transformer, which in turn was determined by the power output and mains frequency. Ratings over a few watts made the devices too large and heavy to be physically supported by a wall outlet. The output voltage of these adapters varied with load; for equipment requiring a more stable voltage, linear voltage regulator circuitry was added. Losses in the transformer and the linear regulator were considerable; efficiency was relatively low, and significant power dissipated as heat even when not driving a load.

In the early twenty-first century, switched-mode power supplies (SMPSs) became almost ubiquitous for this purpose. Mains voltage is rectified to a high direct voltage driving a switching circuit, which contains a transformer operating at a high frequency and outputs direct current at the desired voltage. The high-frequency ripple is more easily filtered out than mains-frequency. The high frequency allows the transformer to be small, which reduces its losses; and the switching regulator can be much more efficient than a linear regulator. The result is a much more efficient, smaller, and lighter device. Safety is ensured, as in the older linear circuit, because there is still a transformer which electrically isolates the output from the mains.

A linear circuit must be designed for a specific, narrow range of input voltages (e.g., 220240VAC) and must use a transformer appropriate for the frequency (usually 50 or 60 Hz), but an SMPS can easily be designed to work efficiently over a very wide range of voltages and frequencies; a single 100240VAC unit will handle almost any mains supply in the world.

However, unless very carefully designed and using suitable components, switching adapters are more likely to fail than the older type, due in part to complex circuitry and the use of semiconductors. Unless designed well, these adapters may be easily damaged by overloads, even transient ones, which can come from lightning, brief mains overvoltage (sometimes caused by an incandescent light on the same power circuit failing), component degradation, etc. A very common mode of failure is due to the use of electrolytic capacitors whose equivalent series resistance (ESR) increases with age; switching regulators are very sensitive to high ESR (the older linear circuit also used electrolytic capacitors, but the effect of degradation is much less dramatic). Well-designed circuits pay attention to the ESR, ripple current rating, pulse operation, and temperature rating of capacitors.

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