The USB isolator is a device that will pass USB signal from input to output connector, while providing galvanic isolation between them. USB isolators are used in applications where direct USB connection can create noise (ground loop noise to audio or measurement), direct connection can be unreliable (noise to USB signal) or where isolation is needed to protect USB port or for electrical safety (for example laboratory measurement). USB isolators are the professional tools to avoid and fight ground loops and equalizing currents and to protect against overvoltage.
USB isolation works by creating a new ground for the USB device so that it doesn’t have to share ground with your computer (and other devices that you might have connected in your house). This will prevent ground loops. It will also protect the USB device and host from electrical shocks or static electricity shocks. The USB isolators effect a potential decoupling of all USB connections and separate the ‘normal’ PC system from the critical application.
I have thought of getting USB isolator for some time, but many of them seem to be quite expensive (many cost nearly 100 Euros). Then I saw this promising looking Isolator USB to USB Optocoupler Isolation Module Coupled Protection Board ADUM3160 Isolation Voltage 2500V board for around 10 Euros.
12 Mbps support USB 1.5 Mbps at low speed and full speed does not support pure high-speed equipment
Support USB control transfer, bulk transfer, interrupt transmission, synchronous transmission/etc
Power supply: from the USB port to the PC host
Avoid driving, it is more convenient to use
Compatible with USB2.0
ADUM3160 isolation voltage: 2500V
Power module: isolation voltage 1500V
Using the environment: – 40 ° to 85 °
-Full speed equipment: USB flash drive, digital camera, card reader, mobile hard disk, U aegis,, USB hub, AVRJTAG, AVRISP, AVRISPMKII, S – Lab, JET51, J – Link, FET430UIF, PICKIT2, XDS100, LPC cc-link, ICD2, USB serial port (FT232, CP2102, PL2303, CH341 chips).
-Low speed devices: Keyboard, mouse, USBASP, USBHID equipment, USBCDC equipment.
Tested part does not support the USB wireless network card, see USB flash drive.
With those specifications this product looks pretty promising.
In my testing I have found that this product corresponds to the description. It is small and simple. It does what it says. The ground is isolated very well. I tested the isolation with insulation resistance meter at 500V DC, and the device withstood that test nicely and meter showed open circuit. Those are the good things.
There are also some disadvantages and limitations on this product as well.
First is that there is no case that comes with this so I had to make my own because I did not like having open USB hardware laying around potentially making short circuit. That was known when I bought this cheap board instead of somewhat more expensive similar device with plastic case.
Other this is the lack of documentation of dip switch function. From the discussion on the product page I read that the DIP switch is for USB bus speed selection. This device support USB Low and full speed data rate: 1.5 Mbps and 12 Mbps. Automatic speed detection would have been nice, but I can live with this manual selection although getting it to work sometimes might need some manual testing which setting is the right. The switch like it is in the pictures selects the isolator to operate at full speed data rate of 12 MBps. If low speed is needed, the DIP switch should be moved to “ON” position.
There is a limitation how much power can go through this device. You can expect to get 1W MAX (0.2A @ 5V) on isolated DC/DC side for USB power. That’s considerably less than typically available from computer USB port, and may not be enough for some power hungry hardware.
This device support only USB Low and full speed data rates 1.5 Mbps and 12 Mbps. It does not support USB 2.0 Hi-Speed 480 MBps, which means that some fast USB device do not work with it.
When looking at the circuit board, I found out that the main active components in it are:
ADUM3160 USB isolator chip
B0505S-1WR2 isolating DC/DC converter
The USB data signal isolation on this device is based on ADuM3160 component which is a USB port isolator based on Analog Devices, Inc., iCoupler technology. The chip uses high speed CMOS and monolithic air core transformer technology. ADuM3160 promises isolation voltage 2500V.
ADUM3160 data from https://www.analog.com/en/products/adum3160.html#:
USB 2.0 compatible
Enhanced system-level ESD performance per IEC 61000-4-x
4.0 V to 5.5 V operation
Low and full speed data rate: 1.5 Mbps and 12 Mbps
High common-mode transient immunity: >25 kV/μs
Evaluation Board and User Guide available
16-lead SOIC wide body package
Safety and regulatory approvals
UL recognition: 2500 V rms for 1 minute per UL 1577
CSA Component Acceptance Notice #5A
IEC 60950-1: 400 V rms (reinforced)
VDE certificate of conformity
DIN V VDE V 0884-10
(VDE V 0884-10):2006-12
VIORM = 560 V peak
B0505S is the DC/DC converter module used to convert USB 5V to isolated 5V for the other USB connector. B0505S is 1WR2 DC-DC Power Supply Module 5V to 5V Isolation Chip DIP-4. The product page at https://www.banggood.com/B0505S-1WR2-DC-DC-Power-Supply-Module-5V-to-5V-Isolation-Chip-DIP-4-p-1526388.html?rmmds=buy&cur_warehouse=CN says that the B_S-1WR2 family is specifically designed for applications in the board power system that require a set of voltages that are isolated from the input supply. This product is suitable for to:
1. The input power supply voltage is relatively stable (voltage variation range ±10% Vin);
2. Requirements isolation between input and output (isolation voltage ≤ 1500VDC);
3. The output voltage stability and output ripple noise are not high.
PC817 is a very common opto-isolator chip. It can provide up to 5000V isolation and operate up to 80 kHz frequency. In this circuit the opto-isolator seems to be just transfer the speed selection information from one side to another. The data PC817 sheet is available at https://learnabout-electronics.org/Downloads/PC817%20optocoupler.pdf