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A Fixed-Frequency Sliding-mode Control in a

Cascade Scheme for the Half-bridge
Bidirectional DC-DC Converter
Xavier Dominguez, Oscar Camacho, Paulo Leica, Andres Rosales
Departamento de Automatización y Control Industrial, Facultad de Ingeniería Eléctrica
Escuela Politécnica Nacional
{xavier.dominguez, oscar.camacho, paulo.leica, andres.rosales}

Abstract — For the Half-bridge Bidirectional DC-DC power The control of the buck mode is relatively simple to
converter focused on electric traction applications, this paper accomplish [4]. However, special attention has to be
develops a fixed-frequency Sliding-mode control (SMC) based on considered for the boost operation as a direct voltage control
a cascade structure. First, the use of cascade control is justified
by means of the state space small-signal averaged equations. in this mode results in unstable zero dynamics [5]. This lies in
Then, the design of the proposed cascade SMC scheme is the fact of the control input appearing simultaneously in the
detailed. Lastly, the simulation results showed that the developed voltage and current equations which is typical in a non-
control strategy outperforms the sole use of SMC for different minimum phase structure [6] and denotes a challenging highly
comparison scenarios. nonlinear system having a right half-plane (RHP) zero. To
overcome this issue when controlling the output voltage with a
Index Terms — Bidirectional DC-DC converter, Cascade
single regulator, a cascaded scheme having two nested control
Control, Fixed-frequency Sliding-mode Control.
loops, each one of them controlling a first-order system, have
I. INTRODUCTION been exposed in the literature as a reliable solution for its
Bidirectional power converters have gained notorious improved performance and disturbances rejection capability
acceptance in modern industrial applications such as in hybrid [7].
and electric vehicles (HEV) and renewable energy systems The typical approach to implement a cascade control is by
where bidirectional power flow is a crucial aspect. To achieve means of two PI controllers [8], an outer one regulating the
this double-way energy exchange, some isolated and non- high-side capacitor voltage and an inner one controlling the
isolated power converter topologies have been proposed [1]. inductor current. However, to improve the performance and
Isolated configurations provide galvanic separation but may dynamic response of the cascade control, in recent years the
also imply bigger size and weight resulting in lower well-known PI regulator has been used in combination with
performance and greater costs [2]. For this reason, the non- non-linear control techniques derived from the theory of
isolated half-bridge DC-DC converter is consolidating as an Variable Structure Control (VSC) such as Sliding-mode
attractive option, especially in electric traction applications, Control (SMC) which has shown promising features such as
because of its reduced number of components and improved robustness, excellent dynamic response, large signal stability
efficiency compared to other common non-isolated schemes as well as simple and intuitive implementation as the SMC can
such as the Cuk and SEPIC topologies [3]. naturally act on power converters with two discrete switching
states (on-off) in order to track the desired sliding surface. In
The half-bridge bidirectional DC-DC converter can be this context, for a boost converter it has been proposed the use
understood as a combination of the classic buck and boost of a PI regulator to control the capacitor voltage in the outer
unidirectional converters where diodes have been replaced by loop while the inductor current is controlled with a SMC in the
controllable IGBT or MOSFET switches. By doing so for an inner loop [9]-[10]. This arrangement has shown appropriate
electric vehicle power system, the boost mode can be used in responses but also exhibits one of the biggest drawbacks of the
one direction to step-up the voltage from the battery to the SMC which is known as chattering [11] and it may lead the
DC-bus and the buck mode can be employed in the other switching devices to operate at extreme high varying speeds
direction to step-down the voltage from the DC-bus to the even if a dead-band is employed. Furthermore, the command
battery which is required when performing regenerative of IGBTs or MOSFETs at very high varying frequencies
braking or in downhill driving. Thus, to ensure the correct provoke significant switching losses, inductor and transformer
power flow of this type of converter while maintaining the low core losses, electromagnetic interference (EMI) issues and
and high side voltages under desired references, a versatile difficult design of input and output filters [12]. Therefore, for
and robust control technique is required to properly handle the the practical control of a power converter, its switching
buck and boost actions. frequency should be fixed or maintained within a predefined

range. In this context, for the half-bridge bidirectional power ̂

converter with focus in HEV applications, the contribution of ̂ ̂
this paper is twofold. First, the converter is studied and the use ̂
of cascade control is justified by means of the state space
small-signal averaged equations. Then, a SMC in a cascade
scheme which is able to handle fixed switching frequency is ̂
developed. The simulation results show that this proposal ̂
successfully manages the high-side and low-side voltages of
the converter working in continuous conduction mode (CCM)
and at the same time it permits a bidirectional current flow. ̂
The half-bridge bidirectional power converter topology is
shown in Fig. 1. This converter can be divided into buck and
boost mode. The buck mode transfers the energy from the
high-side voltage to the low-side voltage , while In the previous equations , IL and D represent the DC-
the boost mode does the opposite. For the boost mode RL and components of the high-side voltage, the inductor current and
RH represent the internal battery resistance and the load the duty cycle respectively. Additionally, ̂ , ̂ , ̂ and
respectively. On the other hand, for the buck mode RL acts as ̂ stand for the perturbed small-ac signals around the DC-
the load and RH stands for the internal resistance of the high- components for their corresponding variables. Equations (1)-
voltage source. For instance, two dc sources can be (3) suggest that the controller design is not straightforward and
considered, the high-side voltage source VH and the low-side is quite complex as we are in the presence of a third-order
battery source VL. In addition, and stand for the high and model. To simplify the analysis however, for the case of
low voltage capacitors respectively. Finally, for the inductor, electric traction applications, there is no need to regulate the
RLP stands for its parasitic resistance and for its inductance. low-side voltage as it is a robust DC source having slow
voltage variations which is the case of industrial battery packs.
Therefore, for hybrid and electric vehicles it is primarily
required to control the high-side voltage (through the use of
the boost mode) and of course permit bidirectional current
flow. As it is later detailed, this can be successfully achieved
by the use of a cascade control scheme as an inner current
loop acts as an intrinsic feed-forward element of the outer
voltage loop. For the boost operation, RH acts as the load, VH is
not present and as the low-side battery internal resistance is in
Fig. 1. Half-bridge bidirectional DC-DC converter topology
the order of miliohms; RL and CL can be neglected. Hence, the
To permit the two-way power flow, the switch cells must be boost equivalent circuit can be attained as Fig. 2 exposes.
able to carry the inductor current on both directions. This is
the reason for unidirectional semiconductor power switches
such as power MOSFETs or IGBTs to be placed in parallel
with a diode. As a consequence of doing so, we get not only a
boost converter by modulating Q2 when observing the
circuitry from the battery side, but also a buck converter when
modulating Q1 if looking the system from the high voltage
capacitor point of view. It should be noted that the two modes
have opposite inductor current directions to achieve both Fig. 2. Converter simplification at boost mode
motoring and regenerative braking in the case of an electric The circuitry of the boost operation during the ON and OFF
vehicle for example. In this paper, the approach of a unified states is as follows:
current controller is used provided that the boost and buck
operations share the same power plant transfer function [13].
This is achieved by the use of complementary switching
between upper and lower switches. This technique present
some advantages such as having a single controller for buck
and boost modes, less heat sinking requirements, reduction of
the inductor size and smooth mode transition. By means of the
small-signal ac model, the transfer functions of the converter
Fig. 3. Boost operation: (a) ON state: Q2 on – Q1 off, (b) OFF state:
can be obtained [13] as Equations (1)-(3) detail: Q2 off – Q1 on

Consequently, state-space Equations (4) and (5) describe III. THE NEED OF CASCADE CONTROL
the behavior of the converter during the ON and OFF state Equation (11) represents a second order system with a right
respectively. half-plane (RHP) zero which provokes some difficulties
related to transient response and stability problems when
controlled by a single regulator. Furthermore, when looking to
Equation (8), it can be seen that the only control input of the
̇̇ system which is the duty cycle D is present in both, the
( ) ( )( ) ( )
̇ voltage and current equations. This feature denotes a non-
minimum phase condition [6] which implies the system to be
highly nonlinear. An appropriate approach to solve these
issues is to control the output voltage by the use of two nested
control loops, each one of them controlling a first-order
̇̇ system as it is illustrated in Fig. 4. There, the duty ratio D to
( ) ( )( ) ( )
̇ be applied in the switching device Q2 can be found with the
converter being in equilibrium by means of expression (9):
The averaged matrices are:

The use of the cascade scheme decouples the control of the

inductor current from the high-side voltage provided that the
( ) inner current loop is designed to be much faster than the outer
voltage loop. Another benefit of the employment of this type
( ) of control in the bidirectional converter is the natural and
automatic selection of the operation mode. Indeed, the voltage
difference between the high-side and low-side voltages and
Then, the state-space average equations can be written: the duty ratio define the current extraction (boost mode) or the
current injection (buck mode) in the battery with no need of
separate controllers for the two modes [14].

( ) ( ) ( )
( )
The equation that defines the converter in equilibrium
̇ is:

Now, the small-signal ac model is constructed by Fig 4. Cascade control with two nested loops
linearizing the system around the steady state operating point
by the use of Equation (10) so that the transfer functions of the IV. A FIXED-FREQUENCY SLIDING MODE CONTROL WITH
systems can be later inferred. CASCADE SCHEME
The conventional approach to employ the cascade technique
̂ ̂ ̂ structure is by the use of one PI regulator for each control
[ ] ̂ loop, this is one for the inductor current and one for the high-
side voltage. However, to improve the overall robustness and
dynamic response of the system against severe variations of
Solving the previous equation by the use of Laplace load and line, a fixed-frequency SMC in a cascade scheme is
transform, assuming ̂ and RLP to be zero for being very developed in this section.
small, obtaining the equilibrium (DC) state vector and doing
some mathematical treatment, the small-signal model of the The initial step when using SMC is to select a sliding
system that provides the transfer function gets the following surface for the state-space to “slide” and lead toward the
expression: equilibrium point. For our particular case, the goal is to adjust
the high-side voltage to a reference voltage .
However, the direct use of the switching surface
for the boost converter has been exposed to
̂ reach zero value only if the inductor current increases
continuously [15] which of course is not viable. Thus, the
desired voltage regulation must be prioritized in terms of the

current control. This is why the SMC should be in charge of using the equivalent control (related with the sliding surface
controlling the inductor current as its variations are employed for the inner current loop), is substituted in
considerably faster than those of the voltage, so that the Equation (17):
switching device is mainly activated with the current
oscillations of the inner loop of the cascade control scheme. ̇
Therefore, in function of the voltage error, a linear PI
regulator will be used in an outer loop to generate the Now, for steady-state conditions we have ̇ ̇ ̇
reference current for the inner-loop controller that will use the and additionally will achieve a desired voltage
SMC. reference ( ). By the use of the previous
conditions in Equations (16)-(17) it can be obtained the
First, the selected time-varying sliding surface is required inductor current when the converter is in equilibrium:
selected the same as the current tracking error as in Equation
(13). Being the current reference resulting from the PI
regulator in the outer loop while is the measured current at
the inductor.
Finally, to check the evolution of when applying the
proposed sliding surface, from the previous expression is
replaced in Equation (19):
In order to verify the evolvement of the system on the
sliding line, a smooth feedback control known as equivalent ̇ ( )
continuous control can be found by setting ̇ [16].
For instance, the existence of this equivalent control would The former expression represents a Bernoulli differential
guarantee the viability of a sliding motion over the switching equation which can be solved analytically to have:
surface . To evaluate this condition, the
instantaneous model of the converter must be firstly obtained. √
This has been done in Equation (14) by merging the ON and
OFF states of the converter from Equations (4) and (5) into a It can be seen that as long as increases, converges
single relation (RLP has been neglected for being very small) by asymptotically to the desired voltage . Therefore, the
the use of the control input which is a binary signal proposed sliding surface can be successfully used. On the
being when switch Q2 is OFF and when Q2 is other hand, to impose the sliding mode evolution in the
ON. vicinity of , a switching control can be defined as
̇̇ [ ]
( ) ( ) ( )
( ) Considering the previous control approach for the boost
converter and the condition ̇ , the attraction domain of
Considering Equation (13), the sliding motion condition the sliding manifold can be found to be [17] :
̇ and (since the internal-loop current reference
can be seen as a constant for being the output of the outer
voltage controller which has a significant lower dynamic than
the inner loop), we can write: Condition which is always fulfilled as long as the high-side
voltage is greater than the battery voltage .
̇ ̇ ̇̇ Furthermore, the former equation probes the reachability
By the equivalent control criterion, the control input is condition for the proposed sliding surface when using the
substituted by the equivalent control in both lines from previously defined switching control [18]. As the direct use
of the defined switching law action would provoke the power
Equation (14):
switches to theoretically work at an infinite frequency, it is a
̇̇ common practice the use of a small hysteresis-modulation
band ( ):

Now, if ̇ ̇ from Equation (16) is replaced in Equation (15)

the equivalent control can be found: However, the previous tactic does not prevent the power
switches to operate at a wide range of variable frequency
which may lead to EMI issues or sever difficulties when
designing input or output filters. For this reason, the
To evaluate the response of the outer voltage loop when conventional SMC cascade scheme has been adapted to handle

fixed switching frequency. This is achieved through the reduced a 75% from 202[V] to 151.5[V] and down again to
employment of a flip-flop device [19] having a fixed- 101[V] at t=0[s] and t=0.35[s] respectively.
frequency clock signal connected to the SET pin and the At the same instants of time for another simulation, the high-
signal joined to the RESET pin. The clock signal sets to side voltage load was modified from 100[Ω] to 80[Ω] and
“1” at every rising edge. Then, the flip-flop is reset to “0” made smaller again to 40[Ω] correspondingly (Fig. 8). Finally,
when the SMC output achieves the predefined threshold given to check a proper response for the regenerative current mode,
by the hysteresis band. The overall structure of the proposed Fig. 9 exhibits the responses when the voltage source from
fixed-frequency SMC in a cascade scheme is depicted in the high-side was set from 0[V] to 200[V] and up again to
Figure 5. 500[V] once more at t=0[s] and t=0.35[s]. To numerically
infer an idea about the two controllers’ performance, the
Integral Squared Error (ISE) index (See Table II) was found
by means of Equation (23). It can be observed that the
proposed control scheme outperforms the sole use of WFSMC
in all the different scenarios.

Reference Rload Regenera-
changes changes ( changes tive mode
290.4 281.5 453.3 213.6
filter SMC
Fig. 5. Fixed-frequency SMC structure in a cascade scheme 153.1 85.1 135.1 49.52


Several simulations were performed using Simulink from
Matlab® to verify the system response for the exposed control
strategy. The proposed sliding-mode control in a cascade
scheme (CSMC) was compared with another SMC approach
based on a washout filter (WFSMC) [20] but also with the
conventional cascaded PI tactic (CPI). The converter
parameters detailed in Table I were used. To provide a fair
comparison between the two control options the following
criteria were considered:
i. The switching frequency in the two controllers was settled
to provide similar inductor current ripple.
ii. The cut-off frequency and switching function slope for the
Fig. 6. High-side voltage comparison for step variations in the
WFSMC were fixed to present similar controller
bandwidth as the CSMC.
30 [mΩ] 500 [mΩ]
202 [V] 1000 [µF]
50 [µF] 100 [Ω]
25 [mH] 0 [V]
CLK 50 [kHz] 1 [A]

Despite the fact that the two control strategies were robust for
the different simulation scenarios, the CSMC always
presented a better outcome regarding the response of the high- Fig. 7. High-side voltage comparison for step variations in the low-
side voltage . Fig. 6 reveals the response of the side voltage
controllers for reference changes. For Fig. 7, the voltage
reference was kept fixed while the low-side voltage was

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