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When selecting a catch diode for a non-synchronous buck converter, is there way (or even a general rule-of-thumb) to determine a safe current rating? Most diode spec sheets will show the max average current (based mainly on thermal capabilities) and usually a non-repetitive peak current, often 10-50 times higher than the average. But in a switching converter it will be repetitive, and I have very rarely seen this specified.

If for example I expect 800mA output from a regulator, and I expect up to 1.6A peak current through the diode, can I select a diode with a 1A (max. average current) rating? What is safe to assume about the max peak capability? Of course a 2A diode would be safest, but is it necessary?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Often a beefier diode will have a reduced forward voltage at the currents you are seeing helping with efficiency (the reason why I've chosen a 850 mA diode for a 65 mA design). Can you calculate (or simulate) the worst case average current through the diode? I'd take that as a minimum. \$\endgroup\$ – Arsenal Mar 21 '17 at 14:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would call it necessary. At a 20% derating the diode will be hotter than it should be. I like 50% derating minimum. \$\endgroup\$ – Robert Endl Mar 21 '17 at 14:53
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You have to look at the duty cycle of the converter, which in continuous conduction mode is ~ D = Vout/Vin. Then the diode is carrying the output current for (1-D) of the time. So take the max output load current times (1-D) (at worst case Vin) and add appropriate derating.

Then check your thermals.

Diodes can typically handle peak currents well in excess of the average, so the peak current in a buck converter isn't usually a concern.

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