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In isolation applications where one needs to pass signals in presence of transient or continuous high voltages, reject extreme noise, and break ground loops, optical (optocouplers) and magnetic (pulse transformers) coupling isolation are often used. However pulse transformers are much more difficult to design with relative to optocouplers. When dealing with pulse transformers, the load becomes more critical than with any other type of transformer. Leakage and primary inductance values take on added significance because of the effect they have on the output waveshape.

If the loaddisturbs this wave shape, severe problems can be created. In many applications, it is difficult to obtain a usable waveform with a pulse transformer (See Figure 1). This is essentially due to three factors: waveforin droop, effects of the turns ratio on risetime, and backswing.

Optocouplers are being used to replace pulse transformers due to their ease of design, simplicity, and smaller size. The use of state-of-the-art AlGaAs emitters in Isolink’s optocouplers has greatly improved performanceand reliability. AlGaAs LED emitters are brighter, faster, more efficient and linear, and slower to degrade than GaAs and GaAsP type emitters used in older optocoupler designs. For hybrid assembly applications, Isolink offers the OLI optocoupler family in a small size,.100″ X.110″ X.045″ high, package.

Waveform droop is a linear function of the pulse width, for example, in a given transformer of 10% droop at I us, droop will be 20% at 2 us. The magnitude of the droop should not exceed the designed allowable threshold or fraction of the initial amplitude. This constrains duty cycle and speed. Better magnetic flux coupling will improve droop characteristics but usually results in higher primary to secondary capacitance, which reduces common mode transient immunity and dielectric withstand voltage.

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