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Understand and Apply Safety-limiting Values for Digital Isolators

– Anant Kamath, Texas Instruments

Galvanic isolation is common in industrial and automotive systems as a means of protecting against high voltages or to counteract ground potential differences. Designers traditionally used optocouplers for isolation, but in the last few years, digital isolators that use capacitive and magnetic isolation have become more popular. With any such isolators, understanding the importance of their safety-limiting values and how to utilize them is important to system design.

In systems using isolators it may be important to ensure that their insulation remains intact even under fault conditions. To achieve this goal, component standards governing optocouplers (such as IEC 60747-5-5) or capacitive and magnetic isolators (such as VDE 0884-11) specify safety-limiting values. These values specify the isolator’s operating condition boundaries within which the insulation is preserved, even if the functionality is not.

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