At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
A programmable power supply is a type of electrical equipment that can supply power of varying voltage, current, and frequency. These reliable devices have digital processors and many different circuits to facilitate different electrical outputs and may include other types of advanced features. Programmable power supplies are adjustable and can often by controlled through a remote computer interface. They are used mostly in industrial and scientific settings.
A typical consumer-level power supply found in a computer or other consumer electronics device is designed for specific operating conditions. The voltage and current requirements are usually known ahead of time, so a power supply can be designed for those particular specifications. A programmable power supply, also known as a configurable power supply, is designed to handle changing voltage and current requirements. These types of power supplies are made to be adaptable and are much more complex than a home computer power supply.
A programmable power supply may have a single power output or several outputs. The output or outputs can be controlled by the user, and models range from less than one hundred watts to over 10,000 watts. Entry-level programmable power supplies might only have an analog control, such as a knob on the front of the unit, while more advanced models can often be hooked up to a computer and controlled with software. A display panel and monitoring functions are also common features. Different models vary widely in cost, feature set, and size and shape.
Units have a wide range of capabilities that are provided by microprocessors and elaborate circuitry. A programmable power supply may accept input from either alternating current (AC) or direct current (CD), and most can convert one type of current to the other. A range of voltages for both input and output is supported, and other variables like frequency can often be manipulated.
Built with reliability and ruggedness in mind, a programmable power supply may last as long as 10 years. To increase demand, companies that manufacture these devices add new features. Some of these features can help protect the power supply and anything plugged into it from damage due to high voltage or temperature. The market for programmable power supplies is diverse, so manufacturers include features that may appeal to many different customers.
A programmable power supply can often be found in manufacturing and industrial settings. It can be used to test and calibrate electronics equipment and aid in design of other products. Units that output extremely high quality power may be used in very specific research applications like monitoring crystal growth. Other uses include powering medical or laboratory equipment and testing renewable energy technology.