RC Snubber Circuits Importance – Design & Usage

Due to overheating, over voltage, over current or excessive change in voltage or current switching devices and circuit components may fail. From over current they can be protected by placing fuses at suitable locations. Heat sinks and fans can be used to take the excess heat away from switching devices and other components. Snubber circuits are needed to limit the rate of change in voltage or current (di/dt or dv/dt) and over voltage during turn-on and turn-off. These are placed across the semiconductor devices for protection as well as to improve the performance. Static dv/dt is a measure of the ability of a thyristor to retain a blocking state under the influence of a voltage transient. These are also used across the relays and switches to prevent arcing.

Necessity of Using the Snubber Circuit

These are placed across the various switching devices like transistors, thyristors, etc. Switching from ON to OFF state results the impedance of the device suddenly changes to the high value. But this allows a small current to flow through the switch. This induces a large voltage across the device. If this current reduced at faster rate more is the induced voltage across the device and also if the switch is not capable of withstanding this voltage the switch becomes burn out. So auxiliary path is needed to prevent this high induced voltage

Similarly when the transition is from OFF to ON state, due to uneven distribution of the current through the area of the switch overheating will takes place and eventually it will be burned. Here also snubber is necessary to reduce the current at starting by making an alternate path.

Snubbers in switching mode provides one or more of the following functions

  • Shape the load line of a bipolar switching transistor to keep it in its safe operating area.
  • Reducing the voltages and currents during turn-ON and turn-OFF transient conditions.
  • Removes energy from a switching transistor and dissipate the energy in a resistor to reduce junction temperature.
  • Limiting the rate of change of voltage and currents during the transients.
  • Reduce ringing to limit the peak voltage on a switching transistor and lowering their frequency.

Design of RC Snubber Circuits:

There are many kinds of snubbers like RC, diode and solid state snubbers but the most commonly used one is RC snubber circuit. This is applicable for both the rate of rise control and damping.

This circuit is a capacitor and series resistor connected across a switch. For designing the Snubber circuits. The amount of energy is to dissipate in the snubber resistance is equal to the amount of energy is stored in the capacitors. An RC Snubber placed across the switch can be used to reduce the peak voltage at turn-off and to lamp the ring. An RC snubber circuit can be polarized or non-polarized. If you assume the source has negligible impedance, the worst case peak current in the snubber circuit is


I = Vo/Rs and I = C.dv/dt

Forward-Polarized RC Snubber Circuit
Forward-Polarized RC Snubber Circuit

For an appropriate forward-polarized RC snubber circuit a thyristor or a transistor is connected with an anti-parallel diode. R will limit the forward dv/dt and R1 limits the discharge current of the capacitor when transistor Q1 is turned on. These are used as overvoltage snubbers to clamp the voltage.

Reverse Polarized RC Snubber Circuit
Reverse Polarized RC Snubber Circuit

Reverse polarized snubber circuit can be used to limit the reverse dv/dt. R1 will limit the discharge current of the capacitor.

An un-polarized snubber circuit
An un-polarized snubber circuit

An un-polarized snubber circuit is used when a pair of switching devices is used in anti-parallel. For determining the resistor and capacitor values a simple design technique can be used. For this an optimum design is needed. Hence a complex procedure will be used. These can be used to protect and thyristors.

Capacitors selection:

Snubber capacitors are subjected to high peak and RMS currents and high dv/dt. An example is turn-on and turn-off current spikes in a typical RCD snubber capacitor. The pulse will have high peak and RMS amplitudes. The snubber capacitor has to meet two requirements. First, the energy stored in the snubber capacitor must be greater than the energy in the circuit’s inductance. Secondly, the time constant of snubber circuits should me small compared to shortest on time expected, usually 10% of the on time. By allowing the resistor to be effective in the ringing frequency this capacitor is used to minimize the dissipation at switching frequency. The best design is selecting the impedance of the capacitor is same that of resistor at the ringing frequency.

Resistors selection:

It is important that R in the RC snubber, have low self inductance. Inductance in R will increase the peak voltage and it will tend to defeat the purpose of the snubber. Low inductance will also be desirable for R in snubber but it is not critical since the effect of a small amount of inductance is to slightly increase the reset time of C and it will reduce the peak current in switch at turn-on. The normal choice of R is usually the carbon composition or metal film. The resistor power dissipation must be independent of the resistance R because it dissipates the energy stored in the snubber capacitor in each transition of voltage in the capacitor. If we select the resistor as that the characteristic impedance, the ringing is well damped.

When comparing the Quick design to optimum design, the required snubber resistor’s power capability will be reduced. Usually the “Quick” design is completely adequate for final design. Going to the “Optimum” approach is only if power efficiency and size constraints dictate the need for optimum design.

Usage of RC Snubber Circuits:

Because of its functionality as mentioned above, Thyristors, Triacs and relays needed snubber circuits to control the voltage rise.

Circuit diagram for controlling rate of change in voltage
Circuit diagram for controlling rate of change in voltage

Furthermore the damping factor can be chosen. A higher damping factor will lead to a shorter swing time on the oscillating circuit. In the above circuit diagram, a snubber circuit is placed to reduce the peak voltage at turn-off and to lamp the ring.

Comments are closed.