Aside from power ratings and power losses, transformers often harbor other undesirable limitations which circuit designers must be made aware of. Like their simpler counterparts — inductors — transformers exhibit capacitance due to the insulation dielectric between conductors: from winding to winding, turn to turn (in a single winding), and winding to core. Usually this capacitance is of no concern in a power application, but small signal applications (especially those of high frequency) may not tolerate this quirk well. Also, the effect of having capacitance along with the windings’ designed inductance gives transformers the ability to resonate at a particular frequency, definitely a design concern in signal applications where the applied frequency may reach this point (usually the resonant frequency of a power transformer is well beyond the frequency of the AC power it was designed to operate on).
Flux containment (making sure a transformer’s magnetic flux doesn’t escape so as to interfere with another device, and making sure other devices’ magnetic flux is shielded from the transformer core) is another concern shared both by inductors and transformers.
Closely related to the issue of flux containment is leakage inductance. We’ve already seen the detrimental effects of leakage inductance on voltage regulation with SPICE simulations early in this chapter. Because leakage inductance is equivalent to an inductance connected in series with the transformer’s winding, it manifests itself as a series impedance with the load. Thus, the more current drawn by the load, the less voltage available at the secondary winding terminals. Usually, good voltage regulation is desired in transformer design, but there are exceptional applications. As was stated before, discharge lighting circuits require a step-up transformer with “loose” (poor) voltage regulation to ensure reduced voltage after the establishment of an arc through the lamp. One way to meet this design criterion is to engineer the transformer with flux leakage paths for magnetic flux to bypass the secondary winding(s). The resulting leakage flux will produce leakage inductance, which will in turn produce the poor regulation needed for discharge lighting.