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Bulk metal foil current sensing resistors for Li-ion batteries in avionics

-September 11, 2013

Editor’s note: With all the  bad press Li-ion batteries have been getting recently, especially with the Boeing 787 power issues, I see the industry stepping up to ensure safety and reliability of these systems in a big way. The jury is still out on the 787 details, but whatever the case, the electronics power design community is pumping out all kinds of great solutions and , I am sure, there will be many more to come. The following product review of VPG’s  metal foil resistors is a case-in-point.

Vishay Precision Group, Inc. (VPG) announced that it has completed tests showing that its Bulk Metal® Foil current sensing resistors meet the accuracy and stability required by its aircraft customers for charging of Li-ion batteries in avionics applications. VFR resistors provide a variety of device configurations and ultra-high-precision specifications to help ensure the efficient and safe charging of Li-ion batteries. They include the surface-mount Z-Foil VCS1610Z and VCS1625ZP and the high-power VCS331Z and CSNG (offering 3- or 6-chip constructions). 

The Li-ion battery charging process goes through several critical phases to ensure the battery is charged to its maximum capacity, while at the same time following certain safety rules to avoid explosion or fire. Li-ion battery chargers require accurate current and voltage settings and monitoring, as well as a constant current and constant voltage. If these accuracy requirements are not met, the charger will undercharge or overcharge the battery. A failure to completely charge the battery results in reduced battery life, while overcharging can cause batteries to fail due to overheating.

Precision current sensing resistors are required to charge and monitor the Li-ion battery at a known current level until it reaches its final voltage. At this point, the charger circuitry switches over to constant voltage mode, providing the current necessary to hold the battery at this final voltage. For both phases, Bulk Metal Foil resistors provide higher accuracy than other technologies, such as thin film, thick film, and wirewound resistors.

"Li-ion batteries are well established in portable consumer electronics and are now becoming more popular in military and advanced civilian avionics. As the scope of their applications has expanded, so have the stringent requirements they must meet, especially in terms of cell safety and lifetime. For designers, the main challenge in meeting these requirements is in finding the optimal point between undercharging and overcharging through continuous accurate and stable monitoring of input and output current," said Yuval Hernik, senior director of application engineering for VFR.

Hernik added, "The need for safety was emphasized in the latest near-catastrophic incident involving the charging of Li-ion batteries, in which a Dreamliner caught fire while parked at Heathrow. Luckily, no passengers were on board. In our opinion, designers in the avionics industry have every motivation to look for more precise and reliable commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) resistors to accurately monitor the battery voltage when connected to the charger. Bulk Metal Foil current sensing resistors provide the low TCR and thermal EMF required to meet this need. They also provide wide resistance ranges, and unlike most COTS resistors, any resistance value within their given range is available with no additional cost or lead time effect."

There are five important phases that need to be considered when choosing a current sense or shunt resistor for any application: connection errors, external and internal temperature errors, frequency, drift over time, load life stability and thermal EMF. VFR's Bulk Metal Foil current sense resistors offer a four-terminal Kelvin connection for increased accuracy.

 

They feature an ultra-low TCR of ±0.05 ppm/°C typical (0°C to +60°C) and ±0.2 ppm/°C typical (-55°C to +125°C, +25°C ref.). The surface-mount VCS1610Z and VCS1625ZP offer load-life stability of ±0.015% at 70°C for 2,000 hours at rated power while the VCS331Z power resistor features load-life stability down to ±0.005% (50 ppm) typical at 3 W and +25°C for 2,000 hours (mounted on a heatsink) and thermal EMF of 0.05 μV/°C typical.

Featuring a non-inductive (<0.08 μH), non-capacitive design, Bulk Metal Foil resistors offer a rise time of 1.0 ns with effectively no ringing, a thermal stabilization time of < 1 s to within 10 ppm of steady state value, current noise of 0.010 µVrms per volt of applied voltage (<-40 dB), voltage coefficient of <0.1 ppm/V, and resistance tolerance down to ±0.01%. 

Further information about Vishay Foil Resistors products is available at www.vishayfoilresistors.com.

Related articles:

NASA Ames: Prognostics Center of Excellence (PCoE)

Boeing 787 battery/charging system solutions---Good design or not?

Boeing 787 and Lithium Ion battery failure

Proper Lithium-Ion battery charging and safety

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