In this era of high-efficiency switching power supplies and voltage regulators, low dropout (LDO) regulators seem almost out of place. Contrary to popular belief, low dropout regulators are small components, simple to use, and cost-effective for obtaining an output of regulated voltage from an input of higher voltage.
For system designers, low dropout regulators offer a simple method of obtaining a voltage from a source that is very close to the output voltage. This is one major reason designers use LDO regulators widely. The second reason is LDO regulators are analog devices, and unlike switching regulators, introduce very low noise into the system.
Small LDO regulator devices such as those from Diodes Incorporated offer a variety of features such as high-power supply rejection ratio, ultra-low quiescent current, wide input voltage handling capability, physically small footprint, and high output current supply capability.
Keeping in line with other SMT components, manufacturers are making LDO regulators in smaller form factors, enabling designers to use PCB space more effectively. Designers can make better use of the newer families of LDO regulators in highly dense PCBs as these components are of very small size, and occupy the minimum space, while they offer the same high-quality performance.
Not all power supply sources offer clean and regulated outputs. LDO regulators help filter out most of the noise from unregulated power sources with their high-power supply rejection ratio specifications. By rejecting the noise from the power source, LDO regulators provide noiseless and spike-free DC power to ensure the system operates reliably.
Many systems do not require continuous power. In remote areas, where it is difficult to deliver power, engineers rely on batteries to power their equipment. LDO regulators with ultra-low quiescent current consumption are a boon, as they consume the minimum amount of power when the system is idle, resulting in a significant increase in the life of the battery.
LDO regulators can handle a wide range of input voltages, in some cases, up to as high as 40 VDC. In multi-voltage systems, which are now common-place, such LDO regulators are very cost-effective, and they make the design more robust and reliable.
Sensors and related electronics work better with clean power supplies. Noise from switching regulators can limit the sensitivity of sensors drastically, resulting in reduced coverage or misleading measurements. LDO regulators supplying clean and efficient power with high current output allow using components for sensitive measurements, without the introduction of ripple and noise. Even with their high current output, LDO regulators work with voltage differentials as low as 350 mVDC.
Automotive applications require high-temperature reliability, and LDO regulators are available that cover a wide temperature range of -40 ºC to +125 ºC. This is a necessary feature in an automobile, as many applications must work concurrently to keep the vehicle operational.
The new family of LDO regulators are ideal for portable and small consumer devices, such as smartwatches, smartphones, wearables, wireless earphones, smart homes, smart offices, and different sensor applications. The industry uses these LDO regulators for other applications such as healthcare devices, smart meters, and other devices powered by batteries.