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If I feed DC into a bridge rectifier, it still outputs DC right? Also, it seems like it should provide make the inputs DC polarity agnostic, right?

I'm asking because a friend has a programable timer/relay device that takes 12/24V AC or DC as input, the rest of the controller board is likely operating on DC. So this got me wondering what circuit would allow this AC/DC input.

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Output polarity of the bridge rectifier remains unchanged irrespective of the input polarity.

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Hence it may be used as a 'reverse polarity' protection device while powering a circuit, should the 1.4 V drop introduced by it be permissible.

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    \$\begingroup\$ [Off-topic] Altough this could definitely be a reverse polarity protection, there are better/cheaper ways of doing it. You could use germanium or schottky diodes to reduce voltage drop. If "polarity agnosticism" isn't needed, you could employ a single diode, or use a MOSFET for the protection. It will all depend on the reverse voltage and forward current. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2022 at 14:13
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If it is a conventional bridge rectifier, 4 diodes with RC network. You are supposed to get the same DCV-1.4V(considering constant 0.7V per diode drop) at the output. Only two of the diodes shall be always ON and the C behaves as a open circuit for DC steady state.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And those two diodes will be conducting all the current instead of the half on average for AC, so the diodes' current rating needs to be sufficient. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 20, 2022 at 11:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note, there are diodes with different drop than 0.7 so always be sure you're buying what you think you are, or that the rest of your circuit does not care. This note is especially important for student's projects, trust me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Feb 20, 2022 at 14:47
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Using a bridge rectifier in a supply line allows it to be powered from AC or DC.

Sometimes this is used for convenience, sometimes as input protection. The argument for the latter is that an electrical sub-assembly can work unharmed if the customer accidentally connects the power supply backwards.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of downsides to that for a DC supply.

Drops in power diodes are typically 1.1 V at reasonable currents so there's 2.2 V supply voltage lost and (2.2 V x Iload) dissipated as considerable heat within the bridge rectifier.

The board's DC ground (0 V) is now 1.1 V up in the air so ground loops are easy to create, such as board connector grounds going to equipment that runs off the same PSU but uses the PSU's 0 V as ground.

Noisy inductive loads, such as DC motors, driven through supply diodes produce much worse EMI through harmonics than when not. It is harder to get such equipment through approvals.

Other protection methods, such as an inline polyfuse and a diode across the supply, will make it clear to the customer that the equipment is wired backwards but incur hardly any losses when powered correctly. In commercial equipment, it is pretty rare for a customer to ongoingly connect lots of units backwards such that it's worth hitting the cost and power efficiency of every unit made. But I had a hard time getting that argument across to clients in the times I've seen them do it.

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Connecting DC to diodes bridge makes the circuit indifferent to supply polarity. Makes the connection easier. But keep in mind if connecting AC, voltage should be lower 1.4 times.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Lower 1.4 times? I think you mean 1.4 volts. If you mean 1.4 times to get RMS voltage from an AC circuit, you cannot have an output reduced by 1.4 times (which would be 140% reduction). I think you meant, reduced by 0.3 times (that is, 70% of the peak voltage). \$\endgroup\$ Feb 20, 2022 at 18:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think ‘reduced by a factor of 1.4’ would be the least confusing way to put it. When I was at school ‘lower 1.4 times’ didn’t have a well-defined meaning, that may have changed. Nevertheless, 12VAC rectifies to around 15 or 16V, but it seems the equipment in question is rated to operate at 12VDC. \$\endgroup\$
    – Frog
    Feb 20, 2022 at 19:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the AC RMS voltage is X, then AC peaks are 1.414 X or more accurately, X * sqrt(2). If you want to invert that and call that 0.707, sure. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2022 at 1:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Depends what you're powering, whether the AC RMS or AC peaks were relevant. For a switching power supply, the AC peaks are more relevant, so yes, lower AC RMS voltage than the DC. A recent Q&A has answers pointing out various possible issues with the opposite problem: feeding DC peak voltage to devices designed to from AC: Using 336V HVDC at home including current going through only one pair of diodes, and more importantly fuses and PFC issues. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2022 at 1:54
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I'm asking because a friend has a programable timer/relay device that takes 12/24V AC or DC as input, the rest of the controller board is likely operating on DC. So this got me wondering what circuit would allow this AC/DC input.

A bridge rectifier is the most likely circuit used to do this, though a single diode could also do it if half-wave rectified AC is sufficient (the DC input would then need to have the correct polarity).

Any device that works on DC internally must have a rectifier to operate from AC. In your friend's case the device is specified to work on both AC and DC so it must be designed to do so. However in the general case where operation from DC is not specified a device could have problems because:-

  • On AC the peak voltage is ~1.4 times the rms value, so the DC voltage may need to be up to 1.4 times higher.

  • On AC the current is shared between all 4 diodes in the bridge so each one only has to handle half the average current. On DC the current only goes through 2 diodes, which should both be rated for the full continuous load current.

  • Some devices generate different DC voltages by feeding the AC wave through capacitors before rectifying it. This might be done to produce positive and negative supplies, or to boost the voltage. On DC this this won't work because there is no wave.

  • Some devices use the mains frequency for timing purposes.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A recent Q&A has answers pointing out various possible issues with the opposite problem: feeding DC peak voltage to devices designed to from AC: Using 336V HVDC at home including current going through only one pair of diodes, and more importantly fuses and PFC issues. Some of which aren't as relevant for devices running from lower voltage, although current handling for the rectifier diodes may be more relevant at lower voltage (and thus more current for the same power). \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2022 at 1:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes Wow! That's spectacularly dumb. My answer relates only to low voltage devices that are known to run on DC internally. I left out the possibility of having a transformer or induction motor because that is unlikely, and of course switch and fuse arcing aren't generally a problem at low DC voltages. Diode current handling is just as relevant at any voltage, since the designer probably wouldn't specify an 'overrated' (for AC) diode that cost more. Anyway as always, if in doubt - don't! \$\endgroup\$ Feb 21, 2022 at 4:48

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