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I am trying to control a 12V DC computer fan ...

  • without PWM for longer life and less high-frequency sound emitting
  • Controlled by 5V positive voltage coming from the arduino after a DAC

Using a low-pass filter I can turn the Arduino's 5V PWM @290Hz to a linear and smooth voltage:

50% Duty-cycle on Arduino, filtered to 2,5V

My question: How can I control the 12V fan now, while

  • 0Varduino = 0Vfan and
  • 5Varduino = 12Vfan ?

A MOSFET is saturated really fast and would close the fan circuit instantly at 12V

Thank you in advance!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ PWM over 20khz produce no audible sound. To have a linear amplification you can create a current from arduino & use bipolar transistor. But this is not a voltage command, may change in time and depends of the temperature \$\endgroup\$ – Goo Feb 17 '14 at 14:25
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If you absolutely have to avoid PWM (and I don't think that you do), then there are a couple of ways that you could do so.

Here's the simplified answer to your question: a circuit that takes a 5V PWM and turns it into a smooth 12V output. It's a basic boost converter. The problem with this is that in order to be effective, you really need some sort of feedback like a tachometer or a voltage measurement. You also have to control the loop dynamics and watch out for a bunch of other things. It can be done, but it's more work than you'd think.

schematic

simulate this circuit – Schematic created using CircuitLab

Another approach would be to use an off-the shelf switching regulator module to boost from 5V to 12V. Then you could use your processor to inject current into the feedback node in order to adjust the output voltage the voltage, either through an analog output or through the filtered PWM approach you've suggested above. You could buy a boost regulator module (like this one) or design a custom PCB yourself.

Advantages

  • Simple to understand and build
  • Low cost
  • More efficient than a linear solution

Disadvantages

  • Voltages cannot get below your input voltage unless you use a buck-boost module (like this one).
  • With most boost converters, there is always a DC path from your power supply to the load, unless you can find a module with output disconnect or enable/shut down, you will never be able to fully power down your fan.
  • You have to select the resistors appropriately to allow yourself to have the range and resolution that you want.
  • You have to make sure that you've got a really clean input voltage to the regulator's feedback node. Any noise pickup or ripple here could make the regulator very unstable.

Here's what the configuration would look like as an input to your module's feedback node. You would probably want to have a filter pretty close to R3 on the board below.

Again, I'm not sure that you need to avoid PWM here, but if you absolutely must you can give this a shot. It will probably be easier and more reliable than if you try to design a boost converter yourself.

schematic

simulate this circuit

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This circuit will give you control from about 11.6V down to about 3V +/-1V or so, for a 100mA 12V fan. It uses a CPC3703 N-channel MOSFET (depletion mode) and half of an inexpensive dual op-amp (you could also use 1/4 of an LM324).

schematic

simulate this circuit – Schematic created using CircuitLab

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