Power Bricking

Welcome back to the Digilent Blog!

You may have noticed awhile back that Digilent released a set of PowerBRICKs, which, as the name implies, are powerful little components that can produce a variety of voltages all while being run right from the USB port on your computer.

Digilent's set of PowerBRICKs
Digilent’s set of PowerBRICKs.

Based on the PowerBRICKs labeled voltage (3.3V, 5V, 9V, or 12V) users may get a corresponding negative or positive voltage of the labeled value from the PowerBRICK. But while all of the positive voltages are commonly used in a variety of everyday applications, what can you use the negative voltage for?

The biggest thing that this negative voltage supply that PowerBRICKs enable are differential analog circuits. Perhaps you have an operational amplifier that needs to swing between two voltage ranges around a 0V point or a bi-polar stepper motor that you want to get as much torque as you can from it.

Op-Amps can produce signals that oscillate around 0V
Op-Amps can produce signals that oscillate around 0V.

Take the Soda Can Theremin demo for example. This project needed three different reference voltages: 5V, 0V, and -5V. The 5V version of the PowerBRICK is able to provide all three of these voltages, as well as more than enough current — at least for this particular application.

What sort of project do you think a PowerBRICK would be perfect for?

Be the 1st to vote.

About James Colvin

The biggest thing that I enjoy is learning new things. Especially things involving some type of technology; computer components, fun gadgets, games, coding techniques, etc. I love spending time with my wife and our two sons and hanging out with our friends. During my normal work day, I manage the Digilent Forum and the North American Support team.

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2 Comments on “Power Bricking”

  1. This is a good choice for providing supply to low power circuits. Not having access to a safe power source for stuff like my micro-controller circuits or operational amplifier circuits when I’m not in my school laboratory is always a task. These power bricks would allow that since they’re reasonably priced as well. Just be sure that the power requirements for your circuit doesn’t exceed their rated values. I would recommend a look at the datasheet before purchasing to ensure it meets your power supply needs.

    1. Hi Emmanuel, thanks for the comment!

      Yes, you definitely need to always check out the datasheet of both your circuit and your power supply to ensure that you have enough power. The PowerBRICKs do tend to be lower power (at least on the current end) because they’re designed to be powered from a USB port which typically only provides up to 500 mA (at least on the 2.0 ports).

      From what you can see on their product page (https://digilent.com/shop/powerbricks-breadboardable-dual-output-usb-power-supplies/) they all typically only supply around 1.1W of power, with a maximum of 2.2W when they are arranged in a daisy-chain (in series).

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