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I'm trying to implement a current limiter for a buck converter charging a 2.7 V super capacitor. The design uses an op amp differential circuit that then feeds a comparator:

Current limiting circuit

I have simulated the approach, implemented the current limiting circuit on strip board, and also tested the circuit in isolation on the prototype PCB. It works perfectly on all of them: the differential stage output is 50 times the shunt current, and the comparator goes high when the diff. amp output reaches 1.25 V, or at roughly 2.5 A. It's not a precision circuit, so I'm not worried about minor differences, as long as I don't overload the supply.

However, when I try to apply the current limiter to the buck converter output, it goes all wonky: the differential stage output DC level rises close to the comparator threshold. For example, this screenshot shows the current limiter when the buck converter is idling with no load. The power supply indicates 0.006 A input current at 12.00 V. The yellow trace is the differential stage output while the cyan trace is the comparator output.

EDIT: In this picture, the yellow trace should be roughly at 0 V instead of 1.16 V.

Differential and comparator stage outputs with no load.

If I add a 1.0 A (should correspond to 0.5 V diff. amp output, input current is 0.27 A at 12 V) load to Vcap, the traces show some current ripple and the overall DC level is still too high:

Diff. and comparator outputs with 1.0 A load.

Actually, no matter what the load is, the differential stage output DC level always seems to fluctuate to just trigger the comparator. I have already added a 220 uF electrolytic cap in parallel to the existing smallish buck output cap to reduce the ripple due to that. I've also tried adding a cap in parallel to the diff. amp feedback resistor to limit the HF gain. None of these seem to work. I freely admit that I got confused when choosing the op amp. A wide bandwidth op amp shouldn't be necessary, but AFAIU, it shouldn't be a problem either. And it works perfectly when not fed by the buck converter.

EDIT: The comparator is used to make the current limit sharper. The idea was taken from [this YouTube video] (https://youtu.be/8uoo5pAeWZI). It is not part of the question (unless it affects the previous stage output).

EDIT: The question is: the current limiting circuit works perfectly when powered separately and when test current is fed through R304. When the buck converter is powered and sources the current through R304, U303B output DC level is completely wrong and not correlated with the actual current DC level. What can cause the erroneous DC level of the diff. stage output and what can I do to remedy it?

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When the current is higher than the threshold value, the comparator gives out a digital signal 0/1 that is added to the buck feedback. So it is very logic that buck will decrease the output voltage, the comparator will give 0, then the buck will rise its voltage, then the current will rise,... it will oscillate.

Instead of the comparator you should use opamp gain by adding a feedback resistor U303A, pins 1,2. Perhaps you do need to swap both differnce amp. and comparator inputs, so that you can amplify just above threshold value.

If it matters (I don't think it is) your difference amplifier has an asymmetric input impedance. It has near 1M for IN+ and near 20k for IN-.

schematic

simulate this circuit – Schematic created using CircuitLab

I have introduced yet another diode to avoid the saturation if the output is below conducting voltage for D1.

EDIT: Your opamp has 9.8mV offset, amplifying this for 50x times you get cca. 500mV output with no signal present (worst case).

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ The current limiting circuit only applies when there is current to limit. Normally, the buck converter works in a CV mode and the regular FB loop applies. As I wrote, the diff. amp. output is close to the comparator threshold even when there's no current. I had a previous version with a simple current sense amplifier feeding the buck converter feedback but that gave a too "soft" response. I don't quite understand your comment about the input impedance. The circuit is a standard diff. amp. with both inputs having an impedance of 20k. \$\endgroup\$
    – mairas
    Mar 21 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, because the comparator has almost unlimited gain. The impedance seen from the measurement point is different for both paths. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 21 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, I took the comparator approach from this YouTube video. But still, I don't understand why it would have anything to do with the problem of the differential amplifier indicating a current of 2.5 A when there's none. Or that the differential amplifier DC level doesn't follow the shunt DC current. \$\endgroup\$
    – mairas
    Mar 21 at 21:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mairas I wrote: "If it matters (I don't think it is), ...". Have you tried with the same schematics from the video? You have a FB resistors, while he says to remove them, but you'll end with a circuit that becomes a current source. It's not clear what is the goal of your circuit, I thought a voltage regulator with a current limit. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 21 at 21:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, it's a CV regulator with a current limit. But could we focus on my question: why does the differential amplifier stage output completely wrong values when connected to the buck converter output? It works correctly with an external voltage source. \$\endgroup\$
    – mairas
    Mar 21 at 21:52
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As others have indicated your proportional gain is far too high with a comparator so start with 3.3M feedback on U303A -1,3 see if that settles it.

The Diode will add an offset error now, which you can easily compensate for.

The Diff. amp is fine with balanced Zin .

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why would the comparator cause the differential amplifier output to have too high of a DC level? In my first screenshot, the yellow line flat portion should be very close to zero, not at 1.1 V. \$\endgroup\$
    – mairas
    Mar 21 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess we both didn’t read the datasheet. Vcm is 3.8V on Vcc=5V so you need to fix that also with Vil = 8mV max at 25’C that adds up to 400mV more offset. So you have fix that. Move Rs to ground Or get a RRIO or high Vcm op Amp with lower Vio. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 22 at 2:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't see a Vcc limitation on Vcm. I noticed the max Vos. Neither of those explain why the circuit works perfectly in isolation but not when fed with the buck converter output. \$\endgroup\$
    – mairas
    Mar 22 at 3:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Vcm is 3.8V max and you are using almost 5V. Weird things can happen above that because your Pch FET current sources aren’t working well on the inputs It is RRO only not RRIO. No explanation otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 22 at 4:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ It’s not clear cause to you because it is a 4.5 to 5.5 and normall it is relative to the rails. Now that you know the causes, fix it \$\endgroup\$ Mar 22 at 4:29

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