Electronic – Boost or buck regulator for battery life


I want to make a wireless sensor node that will run at about 2.5v. I am trying to decide between running 3 alkaline batteries in series with a buck converter or in parallel with a boost converter. I guess if both converters have the same efficiency, let's say 88%, they would run just as long as each other?

The current required for this project should be <200mA

Best Answer

I make this sort of thing for a living. Presumably your sensor will spend most of its time asleep, only waking up to take a reading or send data periodically. In that case a linear regulator might be a better option.

For example, a TPS78225 would give you 2.5V @ 150mA. Keep in mind spikes in current demand can be met by caps and inductors. This device has a 0.5uA quiescent current, so if you device spends most of its life asleep you should be able to get down to the single digit uA range.

Rather than using 3 cells consider using either 4 (2x2) or perhaps a different chemistry (lithium will give you 3.6V per cell). Obviously you need to minimise the voltage drop for the LDO.

This method will likely be much more efficient than any switching system if your idle current is very low. You could even do a hybrid solution where you use an LDO for the microcontroller and switching regulator that is powered up only when needed.