# LM2940 LDO Regulator Instability, high frequency fluctuations

I'm encountering some instabilities in my regulated voltage supply. In short, the system is comprised of a High Power AC device and an MCU sub-system used for automation. The transformer is producing the expected output and this is full-wave rectified & smoothed (etc etc...) as per many of my previous designs. However, I have found that higher-frequency fluctuations in voltage are not properly regulated by the LM2940, causing intermittent brown-out of the MCU.

A scope reading shows that these fluctuations are around ±0.7V either side of the desired 5V, and at a frequency of around 18MHz:

Does anyone have any ideas how I might stabilize this output? Or offer an alternative regulator that is more linear at high frequency (As suggested in this answer)?

For reference, this is the LM2940 datasheet.

Any advice or pointers will be much appreciated!

EDIT: Schematic of the regulation circuit. The 3.3V reg can be ignored as I've tested the 5V output with & without the 3.3V reg... with the same resulting output.

EDIT: Output capacitor C3 is a 100uF Vishay SMD Tantalum, part num TR3C107K010C0100, with max ESR of 0.1Ω

• Do you also have the input capacitor (0.47µF) – JRE Oct 13 '15 at 15:36
• Layout and circuit are crucial. Less crucial is a picture of the output voltage waveform especially as we don't know what bad probing techniques you may have used. – Andy aka Oct 13 '15 at 15:50
• What is the input voltage? You have 5V on the schematic which can't work. I have used the LM2940 in a number of designs with no problem using tantalum input and output caps. Is the scope trace shown when under load? What about with a simple resistor load at the same current, does it have the same problem? – Kevin White Oct 13 '15 at 21:56
• If the schematics is right, your input voltage is too low, the LDR needs some headroom to regulate (how much depends on your actual load). Also why do you have 18MHz 1.4V ripple? – PlasmaHH Oct 14 '15 at 8:45
• @KevinWhite, the 5V net label represents the lowest measured output from the rectifier circuit. The average voltage at the input is around 6.5V. The datasheet specifies the drop-out voltage as 0.8V (@1Amp), so I believed 5V to be in a stable region. Perhaps I have misunderstood this specification? I am also using Tantalum caps on Input & Output. – Tom Wilson Oct 14 '15 at 9:56

Have you taken their compulsory advice re the output capacitor?

(1) COUT must be at least 22 μF to maintain stability. May be increased without bound to maintain regulation during transients. Locate as close as possible to the regulator. This capacitor must be rated over the same operating temperature range as the regulator and

(2) the ESR is critical - see curve.

C3-100uF is an SMD tant: farnell.com/datasheets/1923401.pdf With maximum ESR (@100kHz) = 0.225Ω.

Tying down what manufacturers really mean can be a challenge.
The only capacitors with 225 milliOhm ESR in that pdf seem to be not 100 uF except a 4V one - BUT the Franell website has a number that seem to match.

NB - in the pdf you cite they say:

" ... Low ESR solid tantalum chip capacitors allow delta ESR of 1.25 times the datasheet limit after mounting."

ie the ESR after soldering may have a "delta ESR" (their term) of 125% over data sheet value - they do NOT say 125% of ds value but DELTA - implying the final value may be <= 2.25 the data sheet value after soldering. Whether this is really what they intend is unknown.

You quote the ESR at 100 kHz. The vishay datasheet shows change of ESR with frequency. It can be 2x to 4x higher at 2 x mains frequency. Your oscillations are at 18 Mhz where the ESR is hopefully very low. Whether the 120 or 100 Hz ESR is relevant is tbd BUT as you have a 2 x mains input ripple that the regulator is dealing with this may be the instability trigger.

As, if anything, your ESR may be too high (it seems) I'd try another cap in parallel.

And also separately a resistor in series for belts and braces coverage :-)

Operation from a pure DC supply for testing MAY show you if mains ripple is the trigger (and may not).

• +1 It's not entirely clear to me what the effect is of adding relatively large extremely low ESR (eg. ceramic) bypass capacitors in parallel with a conforming 22uF cap- I think if the layout is too good (ground planes, for example) it could still oscillate. This chip predates big cheap ceramic caps, I think. – Spehro Pefhany Oct 13 '15 at 15:55
• Hi Russel, thanks for the feedback. I believe that I have conformed to the guidelines in the datasheet. Please see updated question with attached schematic. – Tom Wilson Oct 13 '15 at 19:44
• I have used a ground-plane in my PCB design. Could that contribute to the oscillation? – Tom Wilson Oct 13 '15 at 19:46
• @RespawnedFluff A 100m$\Omega$ resistor might be safer. – Spehro Pefhany Oct 14 '15 at 0:12
• @RussellMcMahon, C3-100uF is a Vishay SMD tant, part num: TR3C107K010C0100 With maximum ESR (@100kHz) = 0.1Ω. – Tom Wilson 3 hours ago – Tom Wilson Oct 14 '15 at 13:53

That TR3C107K010C0100 cap is your problem basically. If you look at page 18 in its datasheet the ESR (for the 330uF, 6.3V variant) drops to 0.03 ohms at 200kHz, enough to be out of (under) the safe band for this LDO. Your 100uF (6.3V as well) might take higher frequencies before that happens, but by the time it gets to MHz, it probably does that too. Alas the data on minimum ESR is rather sketchy (nothing for "C" case for example), so you have to guesstimate from just these two graphs (or get an ESR meter and measure it, or even just with your scope and a function gen that can hit those MHz frequencies where you see oscillation.)

• I'm gonna add that this (ESR too low with ceramics) is a general problem with LDOs: ti.com/lit/an/slva115/slva115.pdf – Fizz Oct 15 '15 at 3:50
• The suggested solution (in that appnote, figure 7 vs. 6) is to add around a 1-ohm (perhaps just 0.5 ohm in your case) resistor in series with the ceramic cap. – Fizz Oct 15 '15 at 3:56
• Output capacitor ESR is indeed a general problem with many LDOs, and one issue is that capacitor manufacturers state maximum ESRs, but not the (just as important) minimum ESR. – Peter Smith Oct 15 '15 at 9:15