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XIX International Conference on Electrical Machines - ICEM 2010, Rome

Observer-based Sensorless Control of a Five-phase Brushless DC Motor

G. Fabri, C. Olivieri, M. Tursini

Φ Abstract -- This paper presents a rotor position estimation technique for a five-phase permanent magnet synchronous motor with independent phases, based on a back-EMF observer. The method involves the use of a proper linear transformation which allows representing the five-phase motor by an equivalent two-phase model. Due to its characteristics, the sensorless strategy can be used in multi-phase motors having non-sinusoidal back-EMF shape, such is the case of brushless DC motors used in fault-tolerant applications. After an overview of the back-EMF model for the five-phase motor, the linear transformation and the observer-based estimation technique are presented. Experimental results show the overall performance during transient and steady-state operation.

Index Terms — Brushless DC, estimation techniques, five- phase motor, linear transformation, permanent magnet synchronous motor, sensorless drives, back-EMF observer.

I.

NOMENCLATURE

  • x phase subscript;

V x , I x

phase voltage and current;

R , L

E x

phase resistance and inductance;

magnet-induced back-EMF;

f x

Ψ

Mx

back-EMF shape function;

magnet flux linkage;

θ

  • m rotor mechanical position;

θ

r

rotor electrical position;

ω

r

K

e

rotor electrical speed;

back-EMF constant;

p

  • C e

ˆ

rotor pole-pairs;

electromagnetic torque;

  • X estimated value of variable X;

  • X (1)

1 st harmonic of variable X.

II.

INTRODUCTION

P ermanent Magnet Synchronous Motors (PMSM) are

widely employed for their high efficiency, silent

operation, compact form, reliability, and low maintenance.

Depending on the application, different typologies of motors

are used, with different rotor structure (surface or buried

magnets), winding type (distributed or concentrated), and

back-EMF shape (sinusoidal or trapezoidal).

Recently, multi-phase PMSM with independent phases

have been proposed for safety critical applications such as

aircraft brakes, spoiler or flap actuators, [1], [2], [3]. In these

cases, the multi-phase machine is fed by a multi-phase

power converter, and the whole drive system must satisfy

severe fault-tolerant requirements, which involve the control

hardware and the drive sensors too.

Φ Giuseppe Fabri, Carlo Olivieri and Marco Tursini are with the Department of Electrical and Information Engineering, University of L’Aquila, I-67100, L’Aquila, Italy (e-mail: giuseppe.fabri@univaq.it, carlo.olivieri@univaq.it, marco.tursini@univaq.it).

978-1-4244-4175-4/10/$25.00 ©2010 IEEE

Brushless DC (BLDC) motors are preferred, with

magnets mounted on the rotor surface and trapezoidal

shaped back-EMF. Hall-effect bipolar sensors can be used as

primary position transducers, in a quite simple and reliable

assessment: each stator-fixed Hall sensor, one for each

phase, directly detects the polarity of the undergoing rotor

magnets with a proper angular displacement. The digital

signals are processed by the controller and the rotor position

information is computed with the resolution necessary for

the electronic commutation of the motor.

In some cases magnetic encoders are adopted, with the

role of secondary sensor, and sensor redundancy is provided

to match the fault-tolerant requirements. To this matter, in

order to extend the fault-tolerant drive capabilities,

sensorless strategies can be provided, capable to assure safe

operation also in case of fault of one or more sensor [4], [5].

In this paper, an approach to rotor position detection for a

multi-phase PMSM is presented, suitable for application

with surface mounted PM motors having unknown and

whatever shaped back-EMF waveforms, such as BLDC

motors. The estimation technique is based on the principle of

the back-EMF observer [6], [7], extended in this case to a

multi-phase machine, in particular to a five-phase motor.

The core of this approach is the use of a properly

designed transformation to bring the multi-phase description

of the motor into a two-phase description and then applying

to the transformed system the state observer. This last one is

used to reconstruct the instantaneous value of the motor

back-EMF so we can subsequently calculate the desired

angular information through a proper phase detection

algorithm. Experimental results are presented to confirm the

validity of the proposed approach for the use in multi-phase

machines.

III.

FIVE-PHASE PM BLDC MOTOR

Fig. 1 shows a cross section of the five-phase PM BLDC

motor considered in this paper, [8].

Phase B
Phase B

Fig. 1. Five-phase PM BLDC motor.

Fig. 2. Power converter for independent phase feeding. It has 18 rotor poles and 20 stator

Fig. 2. Power converter for independent phase feeding.

It has 18 rotor poles and 20 stator slots (4 slots per phase).

Each phase consists of two series coils mounted on

diametrically displaced stator teeth. Due to this structure,

independent feeding of each phase is provided by

independent H-bridges modules [9] as can be seen in Fig. 2.

Hence it results that motor phases are independent from each

other, in the sense of electrical, thermal and magnetic

interactions, a suitable feature to avoid a single phase faults

to affect the remaining safe phases.

  • A. Five-phase model

Dealing with the description of such kind of independent-

phase machine, we can write down the following generalized

voltage equation:

V x
V
x

= R I

x

+ L

d

I

x

d

t

+ E (θ )

x

r

(1)

where the subscript “x” ( x = A , B , C , D , E ) indicates a generic

phase of the motor, and

θ = pθ

r

m

the rotor (electric) angle.

The instantaneous value of the back-EMF is given by the

time derivative of the magnet flux linkage in the phase,

which in turn depends from the position of the rotor:

E

x

(θ ) =

r

d

Ψ

Mx

(θ )

r

d

Ψ

Mx

(θ )

r

d

θ

r

d

Ψ

Mx

(θ )

r

=

=

d

t

d

θ

r

d

t

d

θ

r

ω

r

with

ω

r

is the rotor speed.

(2)

In order to generalize the voltage balance in case of non-

sinusoidal machines, the normalized back-EMF shape

functon is defined as follows:

E (θ ) x r f (θ ) = x (3) r K ⋅ ω e
E
(θ )
x
r
f
(θ ) =
x
(3)
r
K
⋅ ω
e
r
where
K
the back-EMF constant.
e
From that, we can modify the machine equations into the
following form:
d
I
x
V
= R I
+ L
+
K
ω
f
(θ )
(4)
x
x
e
r
x
r
d
t

The shape functions of the motor considered in this paper

are reported in Fig. 3, while the electrical parameters are

reported in Table I. Depending on the motor design, the

back-EMF waveforms are quasi-trapezoidal and they are

symmetrically displaced over just one-half of the electrical

period, which gives the machine an intrinsic asymmetry.

Regarding to the electromagnetic torque, it can be

expressed in the particular case of a multi-phase machine in

the following way:

C

e

=

p

E

d

Ψ (θ )

Mx

r

x

=

A

d

θ

r

I

x

=

p

ω

r

E

E (

x

θ

r

) I

x

x

=

A

(5)

and using the shape functions one obtains:

1 0.75 0.5 0.25 0 -0.25 -0.5 -0.75 -1 0 120 240 360 480 600 720
1
0.75
0.5
0.25
0
-0.25
-0.5
-0.75
-1
0
120
240
360
480
600
720
shape functions (per units)

angle (degrees)

Fig. 3. Back-EMF shape functions of the five-phase motor (design data).

C

e

= p

E

K

f e x
f
e
x

x

=

A

(θ ) I

r

x

.

  • B. Space-vector representation

(6)

In order to set-up the sensorless strategy with a minimum

number of equations, an equivalent space-vector

representation of the five-phase motor has been developed.

The objective is to achieve sine/cosine shapes for the

components of the equivalent shape function (i.e. back-

EMF) space-vector, in order to set-up a two-phase observer

similar to that employed in more standard three-phase

motors.

To this purpose, the linear transformation given by matrix

(7) can be considered, which allows to represents the five-

phase motor by a couple of space-vectors with components

denoted as αβ and α β and an homopolar component.

[

T

]

ABCDE

αβοα β

=

2

5

⎣ ⎢

cos

( 0 )

sin

(0)

1

cos

( 0 )

sin

( 0 )

cos

(

π

5

)

sin

(

π

5

)

1

cos

(

2

π

5

)

sin

(

2

π

5

)

cos

(

2

π

5

)

sin

(

2

π

5

)

1

cos

(

4

π

5

)

sin

(

4

π

5

)

cos

(

3

π

5

)

sin

(

3

π

5

)

1

cos

(

6

π

5

)

sin

(

6

π

5

)

cos

(

4

π

5

)

sin

(

4

π

5

)

1

cos

(

8

π

5

)

sin

(

8

π

5

)

⎥ ⎦

(7)

In (7) the first two rows are achieved by the projection of

the magnetic axes of the five phase motor on the orthogonal

system αβ displaced as shown in Fig. 4, they define a direct

sequence space-vector. The third, forth and fifth rows are

defined considering the virtual inversion of the magnetic

axis direction of phases B and D, i.e. the equivalent motor

of phases A,C,E,-B,-D, symmetrically displaced of 2π/5

electrical degrees. The third row defines the homopolar (zero

sequence) component, while the forth and fifth rows define

an inverse sequence space-vector whose values would be

null in case of purely sinusoidal motor and safe operation.

Fig. 4. Actual (ABCDE) and equivalent-symmetrical (ACE-B-D) axes of the five-phase
Fig. 4.
Actual (ABCDE) and equivalent-symmetrical (ACE-B-D) axes of
the five-phase

The multiplicative factor is chosen in order to have the same

amplitude of the phase and transformed variables (for a

purely sinusoidal motor).

The application of the transformation (7) to the back-

EMF shape functions of the five-phase motor gives the

results reported in Fig. 5.

Alpha - Beta components

1

1

0

-1

0

120

240

360

480

600

720

 

Zero sequence component

 

0.05

0

0

-0.05

0

120

240

360

480

600

720

 

Alpha' - Beta' components

 

0.2

0.2

0

-0.2

0

120

240

360

480

600

720

angle (degrees)

Fig. 5. Shape functions of the transformed equivalent model.

Due to the quasi-trapezoidal back-EMF nature of the

BLDC motor, both the zero sequence and the inverse

sequence components are not equal to zero, nevertheless this

aspect will not affect the proposed sensorless strategy.

In fact, in the following we will consider only the direct

sequence components for the set-up of the observer-based

sensorless strategy. In fact, the information on the rotor

position can be extracted by the first harmonic of the direct

sequence component independently on the values of the zero

and inverse sequence ones.

  • C. Equivalent back-EMF model

Considering the equivalent two-phase stator-fixed alpha-

beta model associated to the direct sequence space-vector of

the five-phase motor, the following state form (matrix)

equation is obtained:

d

I

αβ

=

d

t

[

A

11

]

I

αβ

+

[

A

12

]

E

αβ

+

[]

B

1

V

αβ

where:

V

αβ

[

= V

α

,

V

β

]

T

=

[

T

]

V

ABCDE αβ

ABCDE

,

I

αβ

E

αβ

=

[

I

α

,

I

β

]

T

(

θ

r

)

=

[

E

α

,

=

E

[

T

]

I

ABCDE

,

ABCDE αβ T

β

]

=

[

T

]

ABCDE αβ

E

ABCDE

(

θ

r

)

,

and

[

A

11

]

R

= −

L

1

⎢ ⎣ 0

0

1

⎥ ⎦

,

[

B

1

]

=

1

L

1

⎢ ⎣ 0

0

1

⎥ ⎦

,

[

A

12

]

[]

= − B

1

(8)

are matrices of constant system parameters.

The back-EMF dependence on rotor magnet position can

be arranged in the following general form:

E

αβ

(

θ

r

)

=

K

e

ω

r

h =1

f

(

h

)

αβ

(

hθ

r

⎞ )⎟ ⎠
)⎟ ⎠

(9)

where the periodic shape functions are expressed through the

Fourier series expansion, and for the conventions assumed in

the linear transformation one has:

( 1 ) α

f

(

θ

r

)

= −

sinθ

r

;

( 1 ) β

f

(

θ

r

)

=

cosθ

r

(10)

According to (6), the rotor (magnet) position information

is contained in the sine/cosine shapes of the 1 st harmonic

back-EMFs. If the speed is assumed as a constant (that is the

case of speed steady-state operation), the following relations

are achieved by time derivatives of these fundamentals:

being:

d

E

( 1 ) αβ

=

d

t

[

A

22

]

E

( 1 )

αβ

[

A

22

]

= ω

r

⎣ ⎢

0

1

1

0

=

⎥ ⎦

[

A ( ω )]

22

r

a speed dependent matrix.

(11)

(12)

By associating (8) and (11) the following extended model

is obtained, which represents the motor dynamics in terms of

1 st harmonics back-EMFs at speed steady-state:

 

d

X

 

d

t

=

[ A] X

+

[B]V

αβ

with

X

 

=

[ I

α

, I

β

, E

α

, E

β

]

T

state variables, and:

[

A

]

=

[

A

11

]

[

B

1

]

[

B

]

=

[B ]

1

 

⎣ ⎢

0

 

[

A

22

( ω )]

r

⎦ ⎥

 

,

⎢ ⎣

0

⎥ ⎦

system matrices.

 

(13)

In the extended model (13) the currents acts as the system

outputs (measurable state-variables), the applied voltages are

the system inputs, while the back-EMF components take the

role of internal (non measurable) state-variables.

IV.

OBSERVER-BASED SENSORLESS STRATEGY

  • A. Back-EMF observer

From the previous extended model a linear state observer

can be built as follows (Luenberger-like observer):

d

X

=

d

t

[

A] X

+

[B]

V

αβ

+

[K ]

(

I

αβ

ˆ

I

αβ

)

(14)

with

ˆ

X

=

[ I ˆ

α

, I ˆ

β

, E ˆ

α

, E ˆ

β

]

T

estimated state variables, and:

[

K

]

=

⎣ ⎢

[

K

1

]

[

G

][

K

1

]

,

[

K

1

]

=

k

1

⎢ ⎣

1

0

0

1

⎦ ⎥

,

[

G

]

=

g

⎢ ⎣

1

0

0

1

⎦ ⎥

gain matrices (with k 1 and g constant gains), where the

parameter g stands for a generic proportionality factor that

can be used to weight more heavily the back-emfs estimates

with respect to the currents estimates.

The observer is used to estimate the run-time waveforms

of the 1 st harmonic motor back-EMFs. From these we can

retrieve the angular position and the speed of the rotor

magnet axis by a proper phase detection algorithm as

described in the next subsection.

  • B. Rotor speed and position detection

The block scheme of the algorithm employed for rotor

speed and position detection is shown in Fig. 6. The basic

principle refers to a quadrature Phase Locked Loop (PLL). It

involves the generation of an error signal from the phase

difference between harmonic input signals (in our case the

estimated back-EMF components) and corresponding

quadrature feedback functions of the estimated angle.

Assuming for the estimated 1 st harmonics of the back-

EMF the phase relation given by (9) and (10), and using the

Werner’s formula we can write the following expression of

the error signal:

ε

(t)

(

sin

~

θ

ˆ

r

cos

θ

r

~

cos

θ

r

sin

θ ˆ )

r

sin

~

( θ

r

θ ˆ )

r

(15)

where

~

θ

r

represents the argument of the input waveforms

(assumed as known references) and

ˆ

θ

r

is the argument of

the feedback signals, i.e. the estimated angle. For small

deviations between them one obtains:

ε

(t)

~

( θ

r

θ ˆ )

r

(16)

Hence, a Proportional Integral (PI) regulator can be used

to generate the closed loop feedbacks, in order to correct the

angle deviation and bringing the estimated angle to converge

to the reference one. The estimated speed signal can be

obtained by introducing a further integration block between

the output of the PI regulator and the generation of the

feedback signals.

difference between harmonic input signals (in our case the estimated back-EMF components) and corresponding quadrature feedback

Fig. 6. Phase detector scheme.

Hence, the observer-based sensorless strategy for the

five-phase BLDC motor can be resumed by the functional

blocks shown in Fig. 8: first, the five-phase motor currents

and voltages are measured and transformed into the

equivalent αβ components using the first two rows of the

linear transformation (7); second, using these measurements,

the time-varying alpha-beta components of the 1 st harmonic

back-EMF are estimated in the back-EMF observer; third,

from these estimates, the rotor speed and magnet axis

position are computed by the phase detection algorithm.

Due to the dependence of the observer sub-matrix [

A

  • 22 ]

from the rotor speed, the estimate of this signal must be used

as an additional run-time input of the observer.

* n P I n Fig. 7. BLDC sensorless control scheme.
*
n
P I
n
Fig. 7. BLDC sensorless control scheme.
difference between harmonic input signals (in our case the estimated back-EMF components) and corresponding quadrature feedback

Fig. 8. Observer-based sensorless strategy.

  • C. Sensorless drive scheme

The drive scheme incorporating the observer-based

sensorless strategy is shown in Fig. 7.

Modular architecture is used in current control. Five

independent current control loops regulate the phase

currents. In each current loop a comparison between

reference and measured current is performed, error is PI

regulated and correction is applied through five independent

H-bridges in the voltage-source inverter. An external loop

regulates the speed by comparison with the respective

feedback, the speed error is regulated through a PI regulator

and torque requirement in term of current reference is

generated.

difference between harmonic input signals (in our case the estimated back-EMF components) and corresponding quadrature feedback

Fig. 9. BLDC control strategy.

The commutation logic used to compute the current

references is shown in Fig. 9. According to the BLDC

control strategy, constant torque is generated by feeding the

motor phases with constant current in constant back-EMF

wave region. To achieve this behavior the rotor electric turn

is divided into ten sectors, in each sector only four

back-EMFs are constant so that the motor is fed by four

quasi-square back-EMF synchronous currents, while the

remaining current is controlled at zero.

  • V. EXPERIMENTAL SET-UP AND RESULTS

The experimental set-up arranged to verify the

performance of the sensorless strategy for the five-phase

BLDC motor is shown in Fig. 10. The control unit is based

on a TMS320F2806 digital signal controller (DSC), whose

enhanced peripheral capabilities are used for interfacing the

power hardware both for control and diagnostic purposes.

Position sensors are provided, in order to set-up and

evaluate the performance of sensorless control: five Hall

sensors are used to generate the magnet field sector

information needed for the BLDC commutation logic; a

square-wave quadrature encoder with 536 (134 x 4)

pulses-per-revolution is also present, employed for speed

computation.

The experimental set-up includes a host PC, a Digital-to-

Analog Converter (DAC) and a scope. The host PC runs the

DSC development and debugger tools and the user interface,

this last allows data exchange with the control firmware. The

scope is used for displaying the variables computed by the

control algorithm in real-time, through a 4 channel DAC.

Position sensors are provided, in order to set-up and evaluate the performance of sensorless control: five

Fig. 10. Drive board description and experimental system set-up.

Figures

11

to

14 report some test results of the

five-phase sensorless drive prototype. In a first development

step, tests have been carried out with the observer in open-

loop, i.e. the estimated speed and position are not used for

motor control.

Fig. 11 shows the estimated alpha and beta back-EMF

components versus the commutation sector evolution

(measured from the Hall sensors) during a no-load test at

about rated speed (570 rpm, equal to 85.5 Hz).

According to what expected from theory the shapes of the

estimated back-EMFs are close to pure sinusoids, the alpha-

beta components are in quadrature with the first one leading

on the second one. Being the “zero” of the actual position

located on the center of the first sector (see Fig. 9), this test

would prove an estimation error of about one-half sector, i.e.

18 electrical degrees. Investigation about this error is out of

the scope of the present paper. Nevertheless, due to intrinsic

implementation delays in the acquisition of the Hall sensor

signals, the position estimation error computed from the

scope outputs represents just an indication.

Fig. 12 shows the response of the back-EMF observer

when it operates at low speed condition (60 rpm, equal to

9 Hz). The shapes of the back-EMFs are estimated correctly

even in this situation. Also the electrical position is shown:

in this case the position reference is aligned with the alpha

axis localized in the center of the first sector, leading to

position estimation error apparently equal to zero.

Fig. 13 shows the estimated back-EMF during a ramp

speed transient from a low value to a medium one: the

amplitudes and frequencies increase correctly and smoothly

with the speed, the dynamic response of the observer appears

to be fast and well damped.

Position sensors are provided, in order to set-up and evaluate the performance of sensorless control: five

Fig. 11. Alpha (black trace) and Beta (blue trace) components of the back-

EMFs, commutation sector (magenta) and speed (green) @ 570 rpm

(voltage is scaled to 50V/div).

Position sensors are provided, in order to set-up and evaluate the performance of sensorless control: five

Fig. 12. Commutation sector (magenta), estimated position (black) and

estimated Alpha and Beta back-EMFs (green and blue respectively) @ 60

rpm (voltage is scaled to 20V/div).

Position sensors are provided, in order to set-up and evaluate the performance of sensorless control: five

Fig. 13. Alpha and Beta back-EMFs (black and blue respectively),

commutation sector (magenta) and speed (green) in speed transition from 60

to 390 rpm (voltage is scaled to 20V/div).

 

Finally,

in

Fig. 14

are

shown

the estimated electric

position and speed and the corresponding measured signals

in

a

more large speed transition from low to about rated

value. It can be noticed that the estimated speed is

consistent with the measured speed in a quite satisfactory

way.

Fig. 14. Commutation sector (magenta) and actual speed (blue) are reported in the upper axis, estimated

Fig. 14. Commutation sector (magenta) and actual speed (blue) are reported

in the upper axis, estimated position (black) and estimated speed (green) are

reported in the lower axis, during a speed transition from 60 to 570 rpm

(speed is scaled to 300rpm/div).

VI.

CONCLUSIONS

An approach to the rotor speed and position estimation in

a five-phase BLDC motor is proposed, based on a back-EMF

observer. A linear transformation is developed to represent

the five-phase motor by an equivalent two-phase model and

a 4 th order state observer is implemented including the back-

EMFs dynamics. The position is extracted from the

estimated back-EMFs using a PLL algorithm.

The presence of saturation is not taken into account

because the two-phase linear model developed in this study

is able to correctly describe the behavior of the system with

good approximation.

The proposed strategy has been validated by experimental

results with the observer operating in open-loop, the analysis

has pointed out that the rotor position and speed are

estimated with good reliability both at high and low speed.

Estimation errors reported at high frequency operation

such as the influence of the observer gains set-up require a

deeper analysis and will be investigated in the next step of

this research.

TABLE I

MOTOR PARAMETERS

base speed

600

rpm

base voltage

240

V pk

base current

5

A pk

rated torque

16 Nm

pole pairs

9

phase resistance

3.88

Ω

phase inductance

24.1

mH

back-EMF constant

0.0972 V pk / rpm

VII.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The authors want to thanks UmbraGroup (Foligno, Italy)

for making available the five-phase motor prototype

considered as test case in this paper.

VIII.

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IX.

B IOGRAPHIES

Giuseppe Fabri was born in Rieti, Italy, on January 24, 1982. He graduated

from the University of L’Aquila in 2009 in Electronic Engineering. He is

currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Electrical and Information

Engineering, University of L’Aquila, where is involved in development of

electrical motor drives for automotive and aerospace application.

Carlo Olivieri was born in Teramo, Italy, on August 5, 1983. He received

his M.S. degree in Computer Science and Automation Engineering in 2008

from the University of L’Aquila. At present he is a Ph.D. student in the

department of Electrical and Information Engineering, at the University of

L’Aquila, working in the field of automotive devoted to the study of the

sensorless techniques and in the field of robust control.

Marco Tursini received the M.S. degree in electrical engineering from the

University of L’Aquila, Italy, in 1987. He became an Assistant Professor of

power converters, electrical machines, and drives in 1991, and an Associate

Professor of electrical machines in 2002. In 1990, he was Research Fellow

at the Industrial Electronics Laboratory, Swiss Federal Institute of

Technology of Lausanne, where he conducted research on sliding mode

control of permanent magnet synchronous motor drives, and in 1994 at the

WEMPEC, Nagasaki University. His research interests are focused on

advanced control of ac drives, including vector, sensorless, and fuzzy logic

control, digital motion control, DSP-based systems for real-time

implementation, and modeling and simulation of electrical drives. He has

authored more than 90 technical papers on these subjects.