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Let's say I have $3$ DC lines input as $10 V (x A), 24 V (y A), 6 V (z A)$. Now I want to convert the output to say $16$ VDC at $k A$.

What kind of converter can I use?

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If you are trying to get from 6VDC or 10VDC up to 16VDC, you can use a boost converter, and if you're trying to get from 24VDC to 16VDC you can use a buck converter or a "linear regulator".

The Wikipedia pages I've linked you to will explain everything in more detail, but briefly, a linear regulator works by "burning off" the extra voltage in the form of heat through a resistor voltage divider or Zener diode and a buck converter works by quickly switching the load's access to the power supply. If you could imagine blinking a light on and off quickly, the average output is some dimmer value (lower voltage) than the input.

There is no passive boost converter for DC; this relies solely on switching activity to excite an electrical storage component (inductor or capacitor) with the goal of raising (boosting) the voltage to a higher value than the input voltage.

These systems exist on-a-chip, so you would have to set specific output current requirements and pick a voltage source to find the exact solution suitable for you; you can search Mouser or Digikey to find the exact parts once you set your requirements.

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  • $\begingroup$ I divided your step down solution into "linear regulator" (new addition) and buck converter as your grouping them together was too broad and the explanation was not able to accommodate both types. You may wish to add a 'linear regulator' reference similar to what you have for the other two converters. | For completeness: As I imagine you are aware, the term "buck converter" applies when energy is stored and then "transformed to a new output voltage. Dissipation of significant energy in resistors or a zener diode are specifically not design aims. $\endgroup$ Jun 19 '15 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree; from the Wikipedia page, "A buck converter is a voltage step down and current step up converter. The simplest way to reduce the voltage of a DC supply is to use a linear regulator." If you have a link to your definition of a buck converter as an energy storage system then please link it. $\endgroup$
    – Chuck
    Jun 19 '15 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ we are both saying the same thing. I think you've misunderstood my point. I've no desire to get into arguments over misunderstandings (or over anything else.) What I said above and what I changed in your post was the impression given that [" a buck converter can EITHER use reactive storage and conversion of energy OR energy dissipation."] --> The first is correct, the dissipation case is NOT a buck converter. NOW, please read the Wikipedia buck converter page that you cite above. That is EXACTLY what it says - consier -> ... $\endgroup$ Jun 19 '15 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ Numbers in square brackets eg [0] are my additions. Wikipedia: [1] "The simplest way to reduce the voltage of a DC supply is to use a linear regulator (such as a 7805), [2] but linear regulators waste energy as they operate by dissipating excess power as heat. [3] Buck converters, on the other hand, can be remarkably efficient ..." -> I changed your post to reflect that statement. I did so with minimal violence to what you were saying. Originally you had lumped 1 & 3 above together. I just separated them. Yes? $\endgroup$ Jun 19 '15 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough, I can concede that :) $\endgroup$
    – Chuck
    Jun 19 '15 at 14:08

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