I have some things I can't understand when I use a TL431 to compensate for the flyback converter.

This picture is from RICHTEK Feedback Control Design of Off-line Flyback Converter.

According to this figure, assuming the output voltage is 12V, when the Vo>12, which mean the voltage across the Rb is above 2.5V, the current through the TL431 becomes small, and the Vcomp voltage becomes large. This is what I understand so far.

My questions:

  1. How to design the Rc3 value in the worst case, the TL431 has a minimum current around 1mA~100mA, what is the worst case in the flyback?
  2. How do I know the TL431 output voltage?
  3. How can the TL431 do the negative feedback?

enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ I had the very same question 10 years ago when I had to design a flyback power supply unit. I'll answer you in a couple of days because it's not that easy to answer this question by phone. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2021 at 6:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, Thanks. I have thought about these questions for few days. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jitter456
    Apr 17, 2021 at 7:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @EnricoMigliore I very much appreciate it if you can help me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jitter456
    Apr 17, 2021 at 7:41

2 Answers 2


The TL431 is a simple, self-supplied, open-collector operational amplifier (op-amp) with a self-contained 2.5-V reference voltage. The basic electrical schematic is shown below with a French snail and a supposedly faster rabbit. I could have included a tortoise and a rabbit to recall Jean de la Fontaine also but there is no competition here : )

enter image description here

When the power supply regulates at the correct level, e.g. 12 V in your example and you measure the voltage across \$R_{lower}\$ you must find 2.5 V roughly. The regulation mechanism is as follows:

  1. at power-up, the output voltage is 0 V and the TL431 is inert
  2. because there is no current in the LED, there is no drop across \$R_{LED}\$ and the voltage at the TL431 cathode is \$V_{out}\$-\$V_f\$. \$V_f\$ is the LED voltage drop, \$\approx 1\;V\$.
  3. when the output voltage increases cycle-by-cycle, at some point, the TL431 wakes up because there is enough voltage to supply the internal circuitry and ensure the 2.5-V reference voltage (around 2.5-3 V on the cathode).
  4. as \$V_{out}\$ is still far from the target, the voltage at the REF pin is low because of the divider made of \$R_1\$ and \$R_{lower}\$: the TL431 remains in a high-impedance state and the voltage across \$C_2\$ in the primary side is maximum (5 V perhaps depending on the IC), asking for the maximum peak current.
  5. before \$V_{out}\$ reaches 12 V, the voltage at the REF pin approaches 2.5 V and the TL431 starts sinking current: the voltage at the opto collector begins to fall, reducing the peak current setpoint.
  6. if the loop is well stabilized, the TL431 will sink enough current to maintain, via the LED current, a certain voltage on the collector which, in turns, imposes the correct operating peak current in the circuit for the input and output conditions: the loop is closed and the converter regulates nicely.
  7. if \$V_{out}\$ drops because more current is absorbed from the load, the TL431 will sink less current and the opto collector voltage will rise, asking for more peak.
  8. if \$V_{out}\$ increases because the converter enters light-load conditions, more current flows in the LED and the collector voltage drops until the new adequate peak current is obtained.

At any operating point in regulation, the voltage at the TL431 cathode is \$V_K=V_{out}-R_{LED}I_F-V_f\$. It is important to understand that current \$I_F\$ which flows in the fast lane, in regulation, solely depends on the primary-side collector current: \$I_F=\frac{I_C}{CTR}\$. Changing \$R_{LED}\$ will not change that current but will obviously affect the drop across the resistance. That is why if you increase \$R_{LED}\$ too much, the drop can be so high that the remaining voltage at the TL431 cathode can be smaller than 2.5-3 V and regulation is lost. That is the reason why I gave the formula for the upper limit of \$R_{LED}\$:

enter image description here

So, for your questions specifically:

  1. "How do I design \$R_{LED}\$?" You choose this resistance based on the gain you need to crossover at the selected frequency. Then, you check with the above formula that you have enough margin with the maximum value. Problems usually start to occur when you deal with regulated values of 5 V or below. If the feedback current \$I_F\$ in nominal conditions is too low compared to the minimum recommended in the data-sheet (1 mA or so for a classical TL431), then you can add an extra bias as a simple resistance in // with the LED. It provides a cheap current source and does not affect the feedback current in the LED itself.

Please note that the maximum current seen by the TL431 is during an over-voltage situation such as a transient overshoot or when the loop is broken: the TL431 would desperately try to brake by sinking the maximum current in the LED in an attempt to reduce the peak current. The TL431 would do that by reducing its operating voltage to \$V_{TL431min}\$ which is around 2.5-3 V. In that case, the maximum current absorbed by the TL431 is \$\frac{V_{out}-V_f-V_{TL431min}}{R_{LED}}\$. Assume \$R_{LED}=1\;k\Omega\$ and \$V_{out}\$ in fault is 20 V, the maximum current would be \$\frac{20-1-3}{1k}=16\;mA\$ far from the maximum value specified in the data-sheet. You can then compare this value with the maximum acceptable LED current which is 60 mA for a popular component like the SFH-615: you are safe.

  1. "How do I know the TL431 voltage?", you apply \$V_K=V_{out}-R_{LED}I_F-V_f\$ but it is irrelevant for the design procedure.

  2. "How does the TL431 work in regulation?" Check my description above.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So you have chosen \$V_{TL431min} = 2.5V....3V\$ to avoid TL431 enters the "saturation" voltage (2V)? \$\endgroup\$
    – G36
    Apr 17, 2021 at 9:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is usually the value at which the TL431 still operates it is the lowest limit if I remember well. You need a minimum voltage to ensure regulation and enough headroom for the reference voltage. I use this value to make sure \$R_{LED}\$ is never too high and, in worst case, the TL431 can pull the FB down adequately. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2021 at 10:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Verbal Kunt How do you know the cathode voltage is 2.5~3V. How to decide this value. I can't understand this value \$\endgroup\$
    – Jitter456
    Apr 17, 2021 at 12:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ VTL431min=2.5V....3V is from the datasheet? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jitter456
    Apr 17, 2021 at 12:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Look, the part includes a 2.5-V reference voltage and it is supplied from its cathode-anode bias: how much should you apply to make sure the 2.5-V is operational? It is in the data-sheet: adjustable Output Voltage: Vref to 36 V. So take slightly above 3 V and you have enough headroom. If you try to ask less than 2.5 V for \$V_{AK}\$, the TL431 will limit its voltage across AK anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2021 at 12:55

when the Vo>12, which mean the voltage across the Rb is above 2.5V, the current through the TL431 becomes small, and the Vcomp voltage becomes large.

No, that's incorrect. When Vo rises above it nominal set-point, then the voltage across Rb rises too and this causes the TL431 to turn on and conduct current through the LED in the opto-coupler.

This then causes the photo-transistor to turn on and lower Vcomp. This then would naturally cause the duty cycle of the PWM to lower and restore Vo to 12 volts. It's a control loop that self-regulates dependant on the resistor ratio of Ra and Rb producing 2.5 volts at the input pin of the TL431.

How to design the Rc3 value in the worst case

You choose Rc so that if the TL431 is turned hard on (i.e. has 0 volts across it), the current into the LED is limited to a value that won't hurt the LED.

Under normal running circumstances it's hard for the TL431 cathode to anode voltage to be much lower than a couple of volts but, for the sake of choosing Rc you should assume that the TL431 voltage could be 0 volts (after all, it may have a capacitor across it in some feedback scenarios so, for the sake of a couple of volts, you should assume the worst case is zero volts so that Rc is chosen so to NOT deliver too much current to the opto LED.)

How do I know the TL431 output voltage.

You don't need to know it - it'll be a voltage that causes the right amount of current to flow through the LED to keep the duty cycle at the right value to maintain the output voltage at the required set-point.

How the TL431 can do the negative feedback.

Negative feedback comes from Ra and Rb. Then through the TL431 (which acts as a voltage comparator). Then through the opto then, into the PWM control pin of the chip that drives the MOSFET (not shown in your diagram). That chip controls the PWM.

All of those components are links in the same chain. That chain makes negative feedback.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Andy If I don't know the voltage, how to make sure the TL431 have minimum current through it \$\endgroup\$
    – Jitter456
    Apr 17, 2021 at 12:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ The worst case minimum voltage across the TL431 could be 0 volts and this ought to be the minimum value used in the equation to calculate the current limiting resistor Rc @Jitter456 - this situation occurs for the maximum current flowing through the TL431 and not the minimum (as you appear to have thought in your comment above). \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Apr 17, 2021 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Andy, can you see the two figures I just upload them. I would like to know which one is for a flyback compensator. Because most flyback figure is the right figure, but the right figure can't do the feedback in the TL431 so I am confused. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jitter456
    Apr 17, 2021 at 16:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Neither show an opto coupler so neither are applicable to a flyback converter. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Apr 17, 2021 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I only draw the TL431 circuit and they both include the opto coupler, because Verbal Kint said the Vk voltage can be calculated by using a datasheet, but the datasheet circuit is a shunt regulator circuit. and the flyback circuit is not a shunt regulator so I am confused. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jitter456
    Apr 17, 2021 at 16:14

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