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Power Electronics

Introduction
This lesson provides the reader the following:

(i) Create an awareness of the general nature of Power electronic equipment;


(ii) Brief idea about topics of study involved,
(iii) The key features of the principal Power Electronic Devices;
(iv) An idea about which device to choose for a particular application.
(v) A few issues like base drive and protection of PE devices and equipment common to
most varieties.

Power Electronics is the art of converting electrical energy from one form to another in an
efficient, clean, compact, and robust manner for convenient utilisation.

A passenger lift in a modern building equipped with a Variable-Voltage-Variable-Speed


induction-machine drive offers a comfortable ride and stops exactly at the floor level. Behind the
scene it consumes less power with reduced stresses on the motor and corruption of the utility
mains.

Fig. 1.1 The block diagram of a typical Power Electronic converter


Power Electronics involves the study of

Power semiconductor devices - their physics, characteristics, drive requirements and their
protection for optimum utilisation of their capacities,
Power converter topologies involving them,
Control strategies of the converters,
Digital, analogue and microelectronics involved,
Capacitive and magnetic energy storage elements,
Rotating and static electrical devices,
Quality of waveforms generated,
Electro Magnetic and Radio Frequency Interference,

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Thermal Management
The typical converter in Fig. 1.1 illustrates the multidisciplinary nature of this subject.

How is Power electronics distinct from linear electronics?


It is not primarily in their power handling capacities.
While power management IC's in mobile sets working on Power Electronic principles are
meant to handle only a few milliwatts, large linear audio amplifiers are rated at a few thousand
watts.
The utilisation of the Bipolar junction transistor, Fig. 1.2 in the two types of amplifiers best
symbolises the difference. In Power Electronics all devices are operated in the switching mode -
either 'FULLY-ON' or 'FULLY-OFF' states. The linear amplifier concentrates on fidelity in
signal amplification, requiring transistors to operate strictly in the linear (active) zone, Fig 1.3.
Saturation and cutoff zones in the VCE - IC plane are avoided. In a Power electronic switching
amplifier, only those areas in the VCE - IC plane which have been skirted above, are suitable. On-
state dissipation is minimum if the device is in saturation (or quasi-saturation for optimising
other losses). In the off-state also, losses are minimum if the BJT is reverse biased. A BJT switch
will try to traverse the active zone as fast as possible to minimise switching losses.

Fig. 1.2 Typical Bipolar transistor based (a) linear (common emitter) (voltage)
amplifier stage and (b) switching (power) amplifier

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Fig 1.3 Operating zones for operating a Bipolar Junction Transistor as a linear and a
switching amplifier

Linear operation Switching operation


Active zone selected: Active zone avoided :
Good linearity between input/output High losses, encountered only during
transients
Saturation & cut-off zones avoided: poor Saturation & cut-off (negative bias) zones
linearity selected: low losses
Transistor biased to operate around No concept of quiescent point
quiescent point
Common emitter, Common collector, Transistor driven directly at base - emitter
common base modes and load either on collector or emitter
Output transistor barely protected Switching-Aid-Network (SAN) and other
protection to main transistor

Utilisation of transistor rating of secondary Utilisation of transistor rating optimised


importance

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An example illustrating the linear and switching solutions to a power supply specification will
emphasise the difference.

Spec: Input : 230 V, 50 Hz, Output: 12 V regulated DC, 20 W

Ferrite core HF transfr:


Light, efficient
Series regulator -
high losses

230 V
230 V

Line freq transformer: (a) (b)


heavy, lossy High-freq Duty-ratio
(ON/OFF) control
- low losses

Fig. 1.4 (a) A Linear regulator and (b) a switching regulator solution of the specification
above
The linear solution, Fig. 1.4 (a), to this quite common specification would first step down the
supply voltage to 12-0-12 V through a power frequency transformer. The output would be
rectified using Power frequency diodes, electrolytic capacitor filter and then series regulated
using a chip or a audio power transistor. The tantalum capacitor filter would follow. The balance
of the voltage between the output of the rectifier and the output drops across the regulator device
which also carries the full load current. The power loss is therefore considerable. Also, the step-
down iron-core transformer is both heavy, and lossy. However, only twice-line-frequency ripples
appear at the output and material cost and technical know-how required is low.
In the switching solution Fig. 1.4 (b) using a MOSFET driven flyback converter, first the line
voltage is rectified and then isolated, stepped-down and regulated. A ferrite-core high-frequency
(HF) transformer is used. Losses are negligible compared to the first solution and the converter is
extremely light. However significant high frequency (related to the switching frequency) noise
appear at the output which can only be minimised through the use of costly 'grass' capacitors.

Power Semiconductor device - history


Power electronics and converters utilizing them made a head start when the first device the
Silicon Controlled Rectifier was proposed by Bell Labs and commercially produced by General
Electric in the earlier fifties. The Mercury Arc Rectifiers were well in use by that time and the
robust and compact SCR first started replacing it in the rectifiers and cycloconverters. The
necessity arose of extending the application of the SCR beyond the line-commutated mode of
action, which called for external measures to circumvent its turn-off incapability via its control
terminals. Various turn-off schemes were proposed and their classification was suggested but it
became increasingly obvious that a device with turn-off capability was desirable, which would
permit it a wider application. The turn-off networks and aids were impractical at higher powers.
The Bipolar transistor, which had by the sixties been developed to handle a few tens of
amperes and block a few hundred volts, arrived as the first competitor to the SCR. It is superior
to the SCR in its turn-off capability, which could be exercised via its control terminals. This
permitted the replacement of the SCR in all forced-commutated inverters and choppers.
However, the gain (power) of the SCR is a few decades superior to that of the Bipolar transistor

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and the high base currents required to switch the Bipolar spawned the Darlington. Three or more
stage Darlingtons are available as a single chip complete with accessories for its convenient
drive. Higher operating frequencies were obtainable with a discrete Bipolars compared to the
'fast' inverter-grade SCRs permitting reduction of filter components. But the Darlington's
operating frequency had to be reduced to permit a sequential turn-off of the drivers and the main
transistor. Further, the incapability of the Bipolar to block reverse voltages restricted its use.

The Power MOSFET burst into the scene commercially near the end seventies. This device
also represents the first successful marriage between modern integrated circuit and discrete
power semiconductor manufacturing technologies. Its voltage drive capability giving it again a
higher gain, the ease of its paralleling and most importantly the much higher operating
frequencies reaching upto a few MHz saw it replacing the Bipolar also at the sub-10 KW range
mainly for SMPS type of applications. Extension of VLSI manufacturing facilities for the
MOSFET reduced its price vis--vis the Bipolar also. However, being a majority carrier device
its on-state voltage is dictated by the RDS(ON) of the device, which in turn is proportional to about
VDSS2.3 rating of the MOSFET. Consequently, high-voltage MOSFETS are not commercially
viable.

Improvements were being tried out on the SCR regarding its turn-off capability mostly by
reducing the turn-on gain. Different versions of the Gate-turn-off device, the Gate turn-off
Thyristor (GTO), were proposed by various manufacturers - each advocating their own symbol
for the device. The requirement for an extremely high turn-off control current via the gate and
the comparatively higher cost of the device restricted its application only to inverters rated above
a few hundred KVA.

The lookout for a more efficient, cheap, fast and robust turn-off-able device proceeded in
different directions with MOS drives for both the basic thysistor and the Bipolar. The Insulated
Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) basically a MOSFET driven Bipolar from its terminal
characteristics has been a successful proposition with devices being made available at about 4
KV and 4 KA. Its switching frequency of about 25 KHz and ease of connection and drive saw
it totally removing the Bipolar from practically all applications. Industrially, only the MOSFET
has been able to continue in the sub 10 KVA range primarily because of its high switching
frequency. The IGBT has also pushed up the GTO to applications above 2-5 MVA.

Subsequent developments in converter topologies especially the three-level inverter


permitted use of the IGBT in converters of 5 MVA range. However at ratings above that the
GTO (6KV/6KA device of Mitsubishi) based converters had some space. Only SCR based
converters are possible at the highest range where line-commutated or load-commutated
converters were the only solution. The surge current, the peak repetition voltage and I2t ratings
are applicable only to the thyristors making them more robust, specially thermally, than the
transistors of all varieties.

1200V Version 3 ASIPM

Presently there are few hybrid devices and Intelligent Power Modules (IPM) are marketed by
some manufacturers. The IPMs have already gathered wide acceptance. The 4500 V, 1200 A
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IEGT (injection-enhanced gate transistor) of Toshiba or the 6000 V, 3500 A IGCT (Integrated
Gate Commutated Thyristors) of ABB which are promising at the higher power ranges.
However these new devices must prove themselves before they are accepted by the industry at
large.

Silicon carbide is a wide band gap semiconductor with an energy band gap wider than about
2 eV that possesses extremely high thermal, chemical, and mechanical stability. Silicon carbide
is the only wide band gap semiconductor among gallium nitride (GaN, EG = 3.4 eV), aluminum
nitride (AlN, EG = 6.2 eV), and silicon carbide that possesses a high-quality native oxide suitable
for use as an MOS insulator in electronic devices The breakdown field in SiC is about 8 times
higher than in silicon. This is important for high-voltage power switching transistors. For
example, a device of a given size in SiC will have a blocking voltage 8 times higher than the
same device in silicon. More importantly, the on-resistance of the SiC device will be about two
decades lower than the silicon device. Consequently, the efficiency of the power converter is
higher. In addition, SiC-based semiconductor switches can operate at high temperatures
(~600 C) without much change in their electrical properties. Thus the converter has a higher
reliability. Reduced losses and allowable higher operating temperatures result in smaller heatsink
size. Moreover, the high frequency operating capability of SiC converters lowers the filtering
requirement and the filter size. As a result, they are compact, light, reliable, and efficient and
have a high power density. These qualities satisfy the requirements of power converters for most
applications and they are expected to be the devices of the future.

Ratings have been progressively increasing for all devices while the newer devices offer
substantially better performance. With the SCR and the pin-diodes, so called because of the
sandwiched intrinsic i-layer between the p and n layers, having mostly line-commutated
converter applications, emphasis was mostly on their static characteristics - forward and reverse
voltage blocking, current carrying and over-current ratings, on-state forward voltage etc and also
on issues like paralleling and series operation of the devices. As the operating speeds of the
devices increased, the dynamic (switching) characteristics of the devices assumed greater
importance as most of the dissipation was during these transients. Attention turned to the
development of efficient drive networks and protection techniques which were found to enhance
the performance of the devices and their peak power handling capacities. Issues related to
paralleling were resolved by the system designer within the device itself like in MOSFETS,
while the converter topology was required to take care of their series operation as in multi-level
converters.

The range of power devices thus developed over the last few decades can be represented as a
tree, Fig. 1.5, on the basis of their controllability and other dominant features.

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POWER SEMICONDUCTOR
DEVICES

UNCONTROLLED CONTROLLED

RECTIFIERS ACCESSORIES REGENERATIVE NON-REGENERATIVE INTEGRATED

POWER SILICON SCR BJT IGCT


DIAC TRIAC MOSFET PIC
DIODES
Zenner GTO IGBT INTELLIGENT
FREDS
MOV POWER MODULES
SCHOTTKY

Fig. 1.5 Power semiconductor device variety

Power Diodes

diF /dt

t0 t1 t2 SNAPPY

SOFT
Q1 Q2
to

IRM

VRM
Fig. 1.6 Typical turn-off dynamics of a soft and a 'snappy' diode'

Silicon Power diodes are the successors of Selenium rectifiers having significantly improved
forward characteristics and voltage ratings. They are classified mainly by their turn-off
(dynamic) characteristics Fig. 1.6. The minority carriers in the diodes require finite time - trr
(reverse recovery time) to recombine with opposite charges and neutralise. Large values of Qrr (=
Q1 + Q2) - the charge to be dissipated as a negative current when the and diode turns off and trr
(= t2 - t0) - the time it takes to regain its blocking features, impose strong current stresses on the
controlled device in series. Also a 'snappy' type of recovery of the diode effects high di/dt
voltages on all associated power device in the converter because of load or stray inductances
present in the network. There are broadly three types of diodes used in Power electronic
applications:

Line-frequency diodes: These PIN diodes with general-purpose rectifier type applications, are
available at the highest voltage (~5kV) and current ratings (~5kA) and have excellent over-
current (surge rating about six times average current rating) and surge-voltage withstand
capability. They have relatively large Qrr and trr specifications.

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Fast recovery diodes: Fast recovery diffused diodes and fast recovery epitaxial diodes, FRED's,
have significantly lower Qrr and trr (~ 1.0 sec). They are available at high powers and are
mainly used in association with fast controlled-devices as free-wheeling or DC-DC choppers and
rectifier applications. Fast recovery diodes also find application in induction heating, UPS and
traction.

Schottky rectifiers: These are the fastest rectifiers being majority carrier devices without any
Qrr.. However, they are available with voltage ratings up to a hundred volts only though current
ratings may be high. Their conduction voltages specifications are excellent (~0.2V). The freedom
from minority carrier recovery permits reduced snubber requirements. Schottky diodes face no
competition in low voltage SPMS applications and in instrumentation.

Silicon Controlled Rectifier (SCR)


The Silicon Controlled Rectifier is the most popular of the thyristor family of four layer
regenerative devices. It is normally turned on by the application of a gate pulse when a forward
bias voltage is present at the main terminals. However, being regenerative or 'latching', it cannot
be turned off via the gate terminals specially at the extremely high amplification factor of the
gate. There are two main types of SCR's.

Converter grade or Phase Control thyristors These devices are the work horses of the
Power Electronics. They are turned off by natural (line) commutation and are reverse biased at
least for a few milliseconds subsequent to a conduction period. No fast switching feature is
desired of these devices. They are available at voltage ratings in excess of 5 KV starting from
about 50 V and current ratings of about 5 KA. The largest converters for HVDC transmission are
built with series-parallel combination of these devices. Conduction voltages are device voltage
rating dependent and range between 1.5 V (600V) to about 3.0 V (+5 KV). These devices are
unsuitable for any 'forced-commutated' circuit requiring unwieldy large commutation
components.

The dynamic di/dt and dv/dt capabilities of the SCR have vastly improved over the years
borrowing emitter shorting and other techniques adopted for the faster variety. The requirement
for hard gate drives and di/dt limting inductors have been eliminated in the process.

Inverter grade thyristors: Turn-off times of these thyristors range from about 5 to 50 secs
when hard switched. They are thus called fast or 'inverter grade' SCR's. The SCR's are mainly
used in circuits that are operated on DC supplies and no alternating voltage is available to turn
them off. Commutation networks have to be added to the basic converter only to turn-off the
SCR's. The efficiency, size and weight of these networks are directly related to the turn-off time,
tq of the SCR. The commutation circuits utilised resonant networks or charged capacitors. Quite
a few commutation networks were designed and some like the McMurray-Bedford became
widely accepted.

Asymmetrical, light-activated, reverse conducting SCR's Quite a few varieties of the


basic SCR have been proposed for specific applications. The Asymmetrical thyristor is
convenient when reactive powers are involved and the light activated SCR assists in paralleling
or series operation.

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MOSFET
The Power MOSFET technology has mostly reached maturity and is the most popular device
for SMPS, lighting ballast type of application where high switching frequencies are desired but
operating voltages are low. Being a voltage fed, majority carrier device (resistive behaviour)
with a typically rectangular Safe Operating Area, it can be conveniently utilized. Utilising shared
manufacturing processes, comparative costs of MOSFETs are attractive. For low frequency
applications, where the currents drawn by the equivalent capacitances across its terminals are
small, it can also be driven directly by integrated circuits. These capacitances are the main
hindrance to operating the MOSFETS at speeds of several MHz. The resistive characteristics of
its main terminals permit easy paralleling externally also. At high current low voltage
applications the MOSFET offers best conduction voltage specifications as the RDS(ON)
specification is current rating dependent. However, the inferior features of the inherent anti-
parallel diode and its higher conduction losses at power frequencies and voltage levels restrict its
wider application.

The IGBT
It is a voltage controlled four-layer device with the advantages of the MOSFET driver
and the Bipolar Main terminal. IGBTs can be classified as punch-through (PT) and non-punch-
through (NPT) structures. In the punch-through IGBT, a better trade-off between the forward
voltage drop and turn-off time can be achieved. Punch-through IGBTs are available up to about
1200 V. NPT IGBTs of up to about 4 KV have been reported in literature and they are more
robust than PT IGBTs particularly under short circuit conditions. However they have a higher
forward voltage drop than the PT IGBTs. Its switching times can be controlled by suitably
shaping the drive signal. This gives the IGBT a number of advantages: it does not require
protective circuits, it can be connected in parallel without difficulty, and series connection is
possible without dv/dt snubbers. The IGBT is presently one of the most popular device in view
of its wide ratings, switching speed of about 100 KHz a easy voltage drive and a square Safe
Operating Area devoid of a Second Breakdown region.

The GTO
The GTO is a power switching device that can be turned on by a short pulse of gate current and
turned off by a reverse gate pulse. This reverse gate current amplitude is dependent on the anode
current to be turned off. Hence there is no need for an external commutation circuit to turn it off.
Because turn-off is provided by bypassing carriers directly to the gate circuit, its turn-off time is
short, thus giving it more capability for highfrequency operation than thyristors. The GTO
symbol and turn-off characteristics are shown in Fig. 30.3. GTOs have the I2t withstand
capability and hence can be protected by semiconductor fuses. For reliable operation of GTOs,
the critical aspects are proper design of the gate turn-off circuit and the snubber circuit.

Power Converter Topologies


A Power Electronic Converter processes the available form to another having a different
frequency and/or voltage magnitude. There can be four basic types of converters depending upon
the function performed:

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CONVERSION
FROM/TO NAME FUNCTION SYMBOL

DC to DC Chopper Constant to variable DC or


variable to constant DC

DC to AC Inverter DC to AC of desired voltage and


frequency
~

AC to DC Rectifier AC to unipolar (DC) current


~

Cycloconverter,
AC to AC AC-PAC, AC of desired frequency and/or
~
Matrix
converter
magnitude from generally line
AC ~

Base / gate drive circuit


All discrete controlled devices, regenerative or otherwise have three terminals. Two of these are
the Main Terminals. One of the Main Terminals and the third form the Control Terminal. The
amplification factor of all the devices (barring the now practically obsolete BJT) are quite high,
though turn-on gain is not equal to turn-off gain. The drive circuit is required to satisfy the
control terminal characteristics to efficiently tun-on each of the devices of the converter, turn
them off, if possible, again optimally and also to protect the device against faults, mostly over-
currents. Being driven by a common controller, the drives must also be isolated from each other
as the potentials of the Main Terminal which doubles as a Control terminal are different at
various locations of the converter. Gate-turn-off-able devices require precise gate drive
waveform for optimal switching. This necessitates a wave-shaping amplifier. This amplifier is
located after the isolation stage.

Thus separate isolated power supplies are also required for each Power device in the
converter (the ones having a common Control Terminal - say the Emitter in an IGBT - may
require a few less). There are functionally two types of isolators: the pulse transformer which
can transmit after isolation, in a multi-device converter, both the un-shaped signal and power and
optical isolators which transmit only the signal. The former is sufficient for a SCR without
isolated power supplies at the secondary. The latter is a must for practically all other devices.
Fig. 1.7 illustrates to typical drive circuits for an IGBT and an SCR.

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IGBT

Vref
COMPARATOR TIMER

Fig. 1.7 Simple gate-drive and protection circuit for a stand-alone IGBT and a SCR

Protection of Power devices and converters


Power electronic converters often operate from the utility mains and are exposed to the
disturbances associated with it. Even otherwise, the transients associated with switching circuits
and faults that occur at the load point stress converters and devices. Consequently, several
protection schemes must be incorporated in a converter. It is necessary to protect both the Main
Terminals and the control terminals. Some of these techniques are common for all devices and
converters. However, differences in essential features of devices call for special protection
schemes particular for those devices. The IGBT must be protected against latching, and similarly
the GTO's turn-off drive is to be disabled if the Anode current exceeds the maximum permissible
turn-off-able current specification. Power semiconductor devices are commonly protected
against:

1. Over-current;
2. di/dt;
3. Voltage spike or over-voltage;
4. dv/dt ;
5. Gate-under voltage;
6. Over voltage at gate;
7. Excessive temperature rise;
8. Electro-static discharge;

Semiconductor devices of all types exhibit similar responses to most of the stresses, however
there are marked differences. The SCR is the most robust device on practically all counts. That it
has an I2t rating is proof that its internal thermal capacities are excellent. A HRC fuse, suitably
selected, and in co-ordination with fast circuit breakers would mostly protect it. This sometimes
becomes a curse when the cost of the fuse becomes exorbitant. All transistors, specially the BJT
and the IGBT is actively protected (without any operating cost!) by sensing the Main Terminal
voltage, as shown in Fig. 1.7. This voltage is related to the current carried by the device. Further,
the transistors permit designed gate current waveforms to minimise voltage spikes as a
consequence of sharply rising Main terminal currents. Gate resistances have significant effect on
turn-on and turn-off times of these devices - permitting optimisation of switching times for the
reduction of switching losses and voltage spikes.

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Protection schemes for over-voltages - the prolonged ones and those of short duration - are
guided by the energy content of the surges. Metal Oxide Varistors (MOV's), capacitive dynamic
voltage-clamps and crow-bar circuits are some of the strategies commonly used. For high dv/dt
stresses, which again have similar effect on all devices, R-C or R-C-D clamps are used
depending on the speed of the device. These 'snubbers' or 'switching-aid-networks', additionally
minimise switching losses of the device - thus reducing its temperature rise.
Gates of all devices are required to be protected against over-voltages (typically + 20 V)
specially for the voltage driven ones. This is achieved with the help of Zener clamps - the zener
being also a very fast-acting device.
Protection against issues like excessive case temperatures and ESD follow well-set practices.
Forced-cooling techniques are very important for the higher rated converters and whole
environments are air-cooled to lower the ambient.

Objective type questions


Qs#1 Which is the Power semiconductor device having

a) Highest switching speed;


b) Highest voltage / current ratings;
c) Easy drive features;
d) Can be most effectively paralleled;
e) Can be protected against over-currents with a fuse;
f) Gate-turn off capability with regenerative features;
g) Easy drive and High power handling capability

Ans: a) MOSFET; b) SCR; c) MOSFET; d) MOSFET; e) SCR ; (f) GTO; (g) IGBT

Qs#2 An SCR requires 50 mA gate current to switch it on. It has a resistive load and is supplied
from a 100 V DC supply. Specify the Pulse transformer details and the circuit following it, if the
driver circuit supply voltage is 10 V and the gate-cathode drop is about 1 V.

Ans: The most important ratings of the Pulse transformer are its volt-secs rating, the isolation
voltage and the turns ratio.
The volt-secs is decided by the product of the primary pulse-voltage multiplied by the period for
which the pulse is applied to the winding

If the primary pulse voltage = (Supply voltage drive transistor drop)


The turn-on time of he SCR may be in the range 50 secs for an SCR of this rating.
Consequently the volt secs may be in the range of 9 x 50 = 450 volt-secs

The Pulse transformer may be chosen as: 1:1, 450 Vs, Visol = 2.5 KV, IM = 150 mA
The circuit shown in Fig. 1.7 may be used. Diodes 1N4002
Series resistance
= (Supply voltage drive transistor drop gate-cathode drop)/100mA
= (10 1 1) / 100 E-3
= 80 Ohm
= 49 or 57 Ohm (nearest available lower value)

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Power Diode

Instructional Objective
On Completion the student will be able to

1. Draw the spatial distribution of charge density, electric field and electric potential in a
step junction p-n diode.
2. Calculate the voltage drop across a forward biased diode for a given forward current and
vice-verse.
3. Identify the constructional features that distinguish a power diode from a signal level
diode.
4. Differentiate between different reverse voltage ratings found in a Power Diode speciation
sheet.
5. Identify the difference between the forward characteristic of a power diode and a signal
level diode and explain it.
6. Evaluate the forward current specifications of a diode for a given application.
7. Draw the Turn On and Turn Off characteristics of a power diode.
8. Define Forward recovery voltage, Reverse recovery current Reverse Recovery
charge as applicable to a power diode.

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Power Semiconductor Diodes

2.1 Introduction
Power semiconductor diode is the power level counter part of the low power signal diodes
with which most of us have some degree of familiarity. These power devices, however, are
required to carry up to several KA of current under forward bias condition and block up to
several KV under reverse biased condition. These extreme requirements call for important
structural changes in a power diode which significantly affect their operating characteristics.
These structural modifications are generic in the sense that the same basic modifications are
applied to all other low power semiconductor devices (all of which have one or more p-n
junctions) to scale up their power capabilities. It is, therefore, important to understand the nature
and implication of these modifications in relation to the simplest of the power devices, i.e., a
power semiconductor diode.

2.2 Review of Basic p-n Diode Characteristics


A p-n junction diode is formed by placing p and n type semiconductor materials in intimate
contact on an atomic scale. This may be achieved by diffusing acceptor impurities in to an n type
silicon crystal or by the opposite sequence.
In an open circuit p-n junction diode, majority carriers from either side will defuse across the
junction to the opposite side where they are in minority. These diffusing carriers will leave
behind a region of ionized atoms at the immediate vicinity of the metallurgical junction. This
region of immobile ionized atoms is called the space charge region. This process continues till
the resultant electric field (created by the space charge density) and the potential barrier at the
junction builds up to sufficient level to prevent any further migration of carriers. At this point the
p-n junction is said to be in thermal equilibrium condition. Variation of the space charge density,
the electric field and the potential along the device is shown in Fig 2.1 (a).

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(a) (b) (c)

Fig 2.1: Space change density the electric field and the electric potential in side a p-n
junction under (a) thermal equilibrium condition, (b) reverse biased condition,
(c) forward biased condition.

When an external voltage is applied with p side move negative then the n side the junction is
said to be under reverse bias condition. This reverse bias adds to the height of the potential
barrier. The electric field strength at the junction and the width of the space change region (also
called the depletion region because of the absence of free carriers) also increases. On the other
hand, free minority carrier densities (np in the p side and pn in the n side) will be zero at the edge
of the depletion region on either side (Fig 2.1 (b)). This gradient in minority carrier density
causes a small flux of minority carriers to defuse towards the deletion layer where they are swept
immediately by the large electric field into the electrical neutral region of the opposite side. This
will constitute a small leakage current across the junction from the n side to the p side. There
will also be a contribution to the leakage current by the electron hole pairs generated in the space
change layer by the thermal ionization process. These two components of current together is
called the reverse saturation current Is of the diode. Value of Is is independent of the reverse
voltage magnitude (up to a certain level) but extremely sensitive to temperature variation.
When the applied reverse voltage exceeds some threshold value (for a given diode) the reverse
current increases rapidly. The diode is said to have undergone reverse break down.
Reverse break down is caused by "impact ionization" as explained below. Electrons accelerated
by the large depletion layer electric field due to the applied reverse voltage may attain sufficient
knick energy to liberate another electron from the covalent bonds when it strikes a silicon atom.
The liberated electron in turn may repeat the process. This cascading effect (avalanche) may
produce a large number of free electrons very quickly resulting in a large reverse current. The
power dissipated in the device increases manifold and may cause its destruction. Therefore,
operation of a diode in the reverse breakdown region must be avoided.

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When the diode is forward biased (i.e., p side more positive than n side) the potential barrier is
lowered and a very large number of minority carriers are injected to both sides of the junction.
The injected minority carriers eventually recombines with the majority carries as they defuse
further into the electrically neutral drift region. The excess free carrier density in both p and n
side follows exponential decay characteristics. The characteristic decay length is called the
"minority carrier diffusion length"
Carrier density gradients on either side of the junction are supported by a forward current IF
(flowing from p side to n side) which can be expressed as

IF = IS ( exp ( qv/kT ) ) -1 (2.1)


Where Is = Reverse saturation current ( Amps)
v = Applied forward voltage across the device (volts)
q = Change of an electron
k = Boltzmans constant
T = Temperature in Kelvin
From the foregoing discussion the i-v characteristics of a p-n junction diode can be drawn as
shown in Fig 2.2. While drawing this characteristics the ohmic drop in the bulk of the
semiconductor body has been neglected.

Fig 2.2: Volt-Ampere ( i-v ) characteristics of a p-n junction diode

Exercise 2.1

(1) Fill in the blanks with the appropriate word(s).

(i) The width of the space charge region increases as the applied ______________ voltage
increases.
(ii) The maximum electric field strength at the center of the depletion layer increases
with _______________ in the reverse voltage.
(iii) Reverse saturation current in a power diode is extremely sensitive to ___________
variation.
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(iv) Donor atoms are _____________________ carrier providers in the p type and
_________________ carrier providers in the n type semiconductor materials.
(v) Forward current density in a diode is __________________________ proportional to the
life time of carriers.

Answer: (i) Reverse, (ii) increase, (iii) temperature, (iv) Minority Majority, (v) inversely

(2) A p-n junction diode has a reverse saturation current rating of 50 nA at 32C. What
should be the value of the forward current for a forward voltage drop of 0.5V. Assume VT =
KT/q at 32C = 26 mv.

Answer
V
I F = I s e VT - 1 , Is = 510-8 A, VT = 2610-3 V V = 0.5V

I F = 11.24 Am ps.

di
(3) For the diode of Problem-2 calculate the dynamic ac resistance ra c = F d v F at 32C and a
forward voltage drop of 0.5V.

Answer:
VF VT diF Is VF
iF = Is e -1 = e VT

dVF VT

N ow I s = 5 10 -8 A , V F = 0.5V ,
-3
VT = 26 10 V at 32o C
V
dVF V - F
= ra c = T e V T = 2 .3 1 3 m
diF Is

2.3 Construction and Characteristics of Power Diodes


As mention in the introduction Power Diodes of largest power rating are required to conduct
several kilo amps of current in the forward direction with very little power loss while blocking
several kilo volts in the reverse direction. Large blocking voltage requires wide depletion layer in
order to restrict the maximum electric field strength below the impact ionization level. Space
charge density in the depletion layer should also be low in order to yield a wide depletion layer
for a given maximum Electric fields strength. These two requirements will be satisfied in a
lightly doped p-n junction diode of sufficient width to accommodate the required depletion layer.
Such a construction, however, will result in a device with high resistively in the forward
direction. Consequently, the power loss at the required rated current will be unacceptably high.
On the other hand if forward resistance (and hence power loss) is reduced by increasing the
doping level, reverse break down voltage will reduce. This apparent contradiction in the
requirements of a power diode is resolved by introducing a lightly doped drift layer of required

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thickness between two heavily doped p and n layers as shown in Fig 2.3(c). Fig 2.3 (a) and (b)
shows the circuit symbol and the photograph of a typical power diode respectively.

(b)

Fig. 2.3: Diagram of a power; (a) circuit symbol (b) photograph; (c) schematic cross
section.

To arrive at the structure shown in Fig 2.3 (c) a lightly doped n- epitaxial layer of specified width
(depending on the required break down voltage) and donor atom density (NdD) is grown on a
heavily doped n+ substrate (NdK donor atoms.Cm -3) which acts as the cathode. Finally the p-n
junction is formed by defusing a heavily doped (NaA acceptor atoms.Cm-3) p+ region into the
epitaxial layer. This p type region acts as the anode.
Impurity atom densities in the heavily doped cathode (Ndk .Cm -3) and anode (NaA.Cm -3) are
approximately of the same order of magnitude (10 19 Cm -3) while that of the epitaxial layer (also
called the drift region) is lower by several orders of magnitude (NdD 10 14 Cm-3). In a low
power diode this drift region is absent. The Implication of introducing this drift region in a power
diode is explained next.

2.3.1 Power Diode under Reverse Bias Conditions Back

As in the case of a low power diode the applied reverse voltage is supported by the depletion
layer formed at the p+ n- metallurgical junction. Overall neutrality of the space change region
dictates that the number of ionized atoms in the p+ region should be same as that in the n- region.
However, since NdD << NaA, the space charge region almost exclusively extends into the n- drift

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region. Now the physical width of the drift region (WD) can be either larger or smaller than the
depletion layer width at the break down voltage. Consequently two type of diodes exist, (i) non
punch through type, (ii) punch through type. In non-punch through diodes the depletion layer
boundary doesnt reach the end of the drift layer. On the other hand in punch through diodes
the depletion layer spans the entire drift region and is in contact with the n+ cathode. However,
due to very large doping density of the cathode, penetration of drift region inside cathode is
negligible. Electric field strength inside the drift region of both these type of diodes at break
down voltage is shown in Fig 2.4.

Fig 2.4: Electric field strength in reverse biased power Diodes; (a) Non-punch through
type; (b) punch through type.

In non-punch through type diodes the electric field strength is maximum at the p+ n- junction and
decrease to zero at the end of the depletion region. Where as, in the punch through construction
the field strength is more uniform. In fact, by choosing a very lightly doped n- drift region,
Electric field strength in this region can be mode almost constant. Under the assumption of
uniform electric field strength it can be shown that for the same break down voltage, the punch
through construction will require approximately half the drift region width of a comparable
non - punch through construction.
Lower drift region doping in a punch through diode does not carry the penalty of higher
conduction lasses due to conductivity modulation to be discussed shortly. In fact, reduced
width of the drift region in these diodes lowers the on-state voltage drop for the same forward
current density compared to a non-punch through diode.
Under reverse bias condition only a small leakage current (less than 100mA for a rated forward
current in excess of 1000A) flows in the reverse direction (i.e from cathode to anode). This
reverse current is independent of the applied reverse voltage but highly sensitive to junction
temperature variation. When the applied reverse voltage reaches the break down voltage, reverse
current increases very rapidly due to impact ionization and consequent avalanche multiplication
process. Voltage across the device dose not increase any further while the reverse current is
limited by the external circuit. Excessive power loss and consequent increase in the junction
temperature due to continued operation in the reverse brake down region quickly destroies the
diode. Therefore, continued operation in the reverse break down region should be avoided. A
typical I-V characteristic of a power diode under reverse bias condition is shown in Fig 2.5.

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Fig 2.5: Reverse bias i-v characteristics of a power Diode.

A few other important specifications of a power Diode under reverse bias condition usually
found in manufacturers data sheet are explained below.
DC Blocking Voltage (VRDC): Maximum direct voltage that can be applied in the reverse
direction (i.e cathode positive with respect to anode) across the device for indefinite period of
time. It is useful for selecting free-wheeling diodes in DC-DC Choppers and DC-AC voltage
source inverter circuits.
RMS Reverse Voltage (VRMS): It is the RMS value of the power frequency (50/60 HZ) since
wave voltage that can be directly applied across the device. Useful for selecting diodes for
controlled / uncontrolled power frequency line commutated AC to DC rectifiers. It is given by
the manufacturer under the assumption that the supply voltage may rise by 10% at the most. This
rating is different for resistive and capacitive loads.
Peak Repetitive Reverse Voltage (VRRM): This is the maximum permissible value of the
instantiations reverse voltage appearing periodically across the device. The time period between
two consecutive appearances is assumed to be equal to half the power cycle (i.e 10ms for 50 HZ
supply). This type of period reverse voltage may appear due to commutation in a converter.
Peak Non-Repetitive Reverse Voltage (VRSM): It is the maximum allowable value of the
instantaneous reverse voltage across the device that must not recur. Such transient reverse
voltage can be generated by power line switching (i.e circuit Breaker opening / closing) or
lightning surges.

Fig. 2.6 shows the relationship among these different reverse voltage specifications.

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Fig. 2.6: Reverse Voltage ratings of a power diode; (a) Supply voltage wave form; (b)
Reverse i-v characteristics

2.3.2 Power Diode under Forward Bias Condition


In the previous section it was shown how the introduction of a lightly doped drift region in the p-
n structure of a diode boosts its blocking voltage capacity. It may appear that this lightly doped
drift region will offer high resistance during forward conduction. However, the effective
resistance of this region in the ON state is much less than the apparent ohmic resistance
calculated on the basis of the geometric size and the thermal equilibrium carrier densities. This is
due to substantial injection of excess carriers from both the p+ and the n+ regions in the drift
region as explained next.
As the metallurgical p+ n- junction becomes forward biased there will be injection of excess p
type carrier into the n- side. At low level of injections (i.e p << nno) all excess p type carriers
recombine with n type carriers in the n- drift region. However at high level of injection (i.e large
forward current density) the excess p type carrier density distribution reaches the n- n+ junction
and attracts electron from the n+ cathode. This leads to electron injection into the drift region
across the n- n+ junction with carrier densities n = p. This mechanism is called double
injection
Excess p and n type carriers defuse and recombine inside the drift region. If the width of the drift
region is less than the diffusion length of carries the spatial distribution of excess carrier density
in the drift region will be fairly flat and several orders of magnitude higher than the thermal
equilibrium carrier density of this region. Conductivity of the drift region will be greatly
enhanced as a consequence (also called conductivity modulation).
The voltage dropt across a forward conducting power diode has two components i.e
Vak = Vj + VRD (2.2)
Where Vj is the drop across the p+n- junction and can be calculated from equation (2.1) for a
given forward current jF. The component VRD is due to ohmic drop mostly in the drift region.
Detailed calculation shows
VRD JF WD (2.3)
Where JF is the forword current density in the diode and WD is the width of the drift region.
Therefore
Vak = Vj + RON IF (2.3)
The ohmic drop makes the forward i-v characteristic of a power diode more linear.

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Fig 2.7: Characteristics of a forward biased power Diode; (a) Excess free carrier density
distribution; (b) i-v characteristics.

Both Vj and VAK have negative temperature coefficient as shown in the figure.
Few other important specifications related to forward bias operation of power diode as found in
manufacturers data sheet are explained next.
Maximum RMS Forward current (IFRMS): Due to predominantly resistive nature of the
forward voltage drop across a forward biased power diode, RMS value of the forward current
determines the conduction power loss. The specification gives the maximum allowable RMS
value of the forward current of a given wave shape (usually a half cycle sine wave of power
frequency) and at a specified case temperature. However, this specification can be used as a
guideline for almost all wave shapes of the forward current.
Maximum Average Forward Current (IFAVM): Diodes are often used in rectifier circuits
supplying a DC (average) current to be load. In such cases the average load current and the diode
forward current usually have a simple relationship. Therefore, it will be of interest to know the

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maximum average current a diode can conduct in the forward direction. This specification gives
the maximum average value of power frequency half cycle sine wave current allowed to flow
through the diode in the forward direction. Average current rating of a diode decreases with
reduction in conduction angle due to increase in current form factor.
Both IFRMS and IFAVM ratings are given at a specified case temperature. If the case temperature
increases beyond this limit these ratings has to be reduced correspondingly. Derating curves
provide by the manufacturers give the relationship between IFAVM (IFRMS) with allowable case
temperature as shown in Fig. 2.8.

Fig 2.8: Derating curves for the forward current of a Power Diode.
Average Forward Power loss (PAVF): Almost all power loss in a diode occurs during forward
conduction state. The forward power loss is therefore an important parameter in designing the
cooling arrangement. Average forward power loss over a full cycle is specified by the
manufacturers as a function of the average forward current (IAVF) for different conduction angles
as shown in Fig 2.9.

Fig 2.9: Average forward power loss vs. average forward current of a power Diode.
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Surge and Fault Current: In some rectifier applications a diode may be required to conduct
forward currents far in excess of its RMS or average forward current rating for some duration
(several cycles of the power frequency). This is called the repetitive surge forward current of a
diode. A diode is expected to operate normally after the surge duration is over.
On the other hand, fault current arising due to some abnormality in the power circuit may have a
higher peak valve but exists for shorter duration (usually less than an half cycle of the power
frequency). A diode circuit is expected to be disconnected from the power line following a fault.
Therefore, a fault current is a non repetitive surge current. Power diodes are capable of
withstanding both types of surge currents and this capability is expressed in terms of two surge
current ratings as discussed next.
Peak Repetitive surge current rating (IFRM): This is the peak valve of the repetitive surge
current that can be allowed to flow through the diode for a specific duration and for specified
conditions before and after the surge. The surge current waveform is assumed to be half
sinusoidal of power frequency with current pulses separated by OFF periods of equal duration.
The case temperature is usually specified at its maximum allowable valve before the surge. The
diode should be capable of withstanding maximum repetitive peak reverse voltage (VRRM) and
Maximum allowable average forward current (IFAVM) following the surge. The surge current
specification is usually given as a function of the surge duration in number of cycles of the
power frequency as shown in figure 2.10

Fig 2.10: Peak Repetitive surge current VS time curve of a power diode.

In case the surge current is specified only for a fixed number of cycles m
then the surge current specification applicable to some other cycle number n can be found from
the approximate formula.
m
I FRM \ n = I \ (2.4)
n FRM m
Peak Non-Repetitive surge current (IFRM): This specification is similar to the previous one
except that the current pulse duration is assumed to be within one half cycle of the power

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frequency. This specification is given as a function of the current pulse duration as shown in Fig
2.11.
Maximum surge current Integral (i2dt): This is a surge current related specification and gives
a measure of the heat energy generated inside the device during a non-repetitive surge. It is
useful for selecting the protective fuse to be connected in series with the diode. This specification
is also given as a function of the current pulse duration as shown Fig 2.11

Fig. 2.11: Non-repetitive surge current and surge current integral vs. current pulse width
characteristics of a power Diode.

Exercise 2.2

(1) Fill in the blanks with the appropriate word(s).

i. The ____________ region in a power diode increases its reverse voltage blocking
capacity.
ii. The maximum DC voltage rating (VRDC) of a power diode is useful for selecting
________________ diodes in a DC-DC chopper.
iii. The reverse breakdown voltage of a Power Diode must be greater than
________________ .
iv. The i-v characteristics of a power diode for large forward current is __________ .
v. The average current rating of a power diode _______________ with reduction in the
conduction angle due to increase in the current ___________________ .
vi. The derating curves of a Power diode provides relationship between the ______________
and the _________________ .
i dt rating of a power diode is useful for selecting the ________________ .
2
vii.

Answer: (i) drift, (ii) free wheeling, (iii) VRSM, (iv) linear, (v) decrease, form factor, (vi)
IFAVM/IFRM, case temperature, (vii) protective fuse.

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(2). (a) For the single phase half wove rectifier shown find out the VRRM rating of D.
(b) Will the required VRRM rating change if a inductor is placed between the diode and
n capacitor.
(c) What will be the required VRRM rating if the capacitor is removed. Assume a resistive
load.
(d) The source of the single phase rectifier circuit has an internal resistance of 2 . Find
out the required Non repetitive peak surge current rating of the diode. Also find the i2t
rating of the protective fuse to be connected in series with the diode.

Answer: (a) During every positive half cycle of the supply the capacitor charges to the peak
value of the supply voltage. If the load disconnected the capacitor voltage will not change when
the supply goes through its negative peak as shown in the associated waveform. Therefore the
diode will be subjected to a reverse voltage equal to the peak to peak supply voltage in each
cycle. Hence, the required VRRM rating will be

VRRM = 2 2 230V = 650V


(b) When an inductor is connected between the diode and the capacitor the inductor current
will have some positive value at t = t1. If the load is disconnected the stored energy in the
inductor will charge the capacitor beyond the peak supply voltage. Since there is no discharge
path for the capacitor this voltage across the capacitor will be maintained when the supply
voltage goes through negative peak. Therefore, the diode will be subjected to a reverse voltage
greater than the peak to peak supply voltage. The required VRRM rating will increase.

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(c) If the capacitor is removed and the load is resistive the voltage VKN during negative half
cycle of the supply will be zero since the load current will be zero. Therefore the reverse voltage
across the diode will be equal to the peak supply voltage. So the required VRRM rating will be
VRRM = 2 230V = 325 Volts

(d) Peak surge current will flow through the circuit when the load is accidentally short circuited.
The peak surge current rating will be
2 230
I FSM = A = 162.64 A
2
The peak non repetitive surge current should not recur. Therefore, the protective fuse (to
be connected in series with the diode) must blow during the negative half cycle following the
fault. Therefore the maximum i2t rating of the fuse is

i
2
dt = I 2 F S M S in 2 w td w t = I 2 F S m = 4 1 .5 5 1 0 3 A 2 s e c
M ax o 2

2.3.3 Switching Characteristics of Power Diodes


Power Diodes take finite time to make transition from reverse bias to forward bias condition
(switch ON) and vice versa (switch OFF).
Behavior of the diode current and voltage during these switching periods are important due to the
following reasons.
Severe over voltage / over current may be caused by a diode switching at different points
in the circuit using the diode.
Voltage and current exist simultaneously during switching operation of a diode.
Therefore, every switching of the diode is associated with some energy loss. At high
switching frequency this may contribute significantly to the overall power loss in the
diode.
Observed Turn ON behavior of a power Diode: Diodes are often used in circuits with di/dt
limiting inductors. The rate of rise of the forward current through the diode during Turn ON has
significant effect on the forward voltage drop characteristics. A typical turn on transient is shown
in Fig. 2.12.

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Fig. 2.12: Forward current and voltage waveforms of a power diode during Turn On
operation.

It is observed that the forward diode voltage during turn ON may transiently reach a significantly
higher value Vfr compared to the steady slate voltage drop at the steady current IF.
In some power converter circuits (e.g voltage source inverter) where a free wheeling diode is
used across an asymmetrical blocking power switch (i.e GTO) this transient over voltage may be
high enough to destroy the main power switch.
Vfr (called forward recovery voltage) is given as a function of the forward di/dt in the
manufacturers data sheet. Typical values lie within the range of 10-30V. Forward recovery time
(tfr) is typically within 10 us.
Observed Turn OFF behavior of a Power Diode: Figure 2.13 shows a typical turn off
behavior of a power diode assuming controlled rate of decrease of the forward current.

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Fig. 2.13: Reverse Recovery characteristics of a power diode

Salient features of this characteristics are:


The diode current does not stop at zero, instead it grows in the negative direction to Irr
called peak reverse recovery current which can be comparable to IF. In many power
electronic circuits (e.g. choppers, inverters) this reverse current flows through the main
power switch in addition to the load current. Therefore, this reverse recovery current has
to be accounted for while selecting the main switch.
Voltage drop across the diode does not change appreciably from its steady state value till
the diode current reaches reverse recovery level. In many power electric circuits
(choppers, inverters) this may create an effective short circuit across the supply, current
being limited only by the stray wiring inductance. Also in high frequency switching
circuits (e.g, SMPS) if the time period t4 is comparable to switching cycle qualitative
modification to the circuit behavior is possible.
Towards the end of the reverse recovery period if the reverse current falls too sharply,
(low value of S), stray circuit inductance may cause dangerous over voltage (Vrr) across
the device. It may be required to protect the diode using an RC snubber.

During the period t5 large current and voltage exist simultaneously in the device. At high
switching frequency this may result in considerable increase in the total power loss.
Important parameters defining the turn off characteristics are, peak reverse recovery current (Irr),
reverse recovery time (trr), reverse recovery charge (Qrr) and the snappiness factor S.
Of these parameters, the snappiness factor S depends mainly on the construction of the diode
(e.g. drift region width, doping lever, carrier life time etc.). Other parameters are interrelated and
also depend on S. Manufacturers usually specify these parameters as functions of diF/dt for
different values of IF. Both Irr and Qrr increases with IF and diF/dt while trr increases with IF and
decreases with diF/dt.
Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 19
The reverse recovery characteristics shown in Fig. 2.13 is typical of a particular type of diodes
called normal recovery or soft recovery diode (S>1). The total recovery time (trr) in this case
is a few tens of microseconds. While this is acceptable for line frequency rectifiers (these diodes
are also called rectifier grade diodes) high frequency circuits (e.g PWM inverters, SMPS)
demand faster diode recovery. Diode reverse recovery time can be reduce by increasing the rate
of decrease of the forward current (i.e, by reducing stray circuit inductance) and by using
snappy recovery (S<<1) diode. The problems with this approach are:
i) Increase of diF/dt also increases the magnitude of Irr
ii) Large recovery current coupled with snappy recovery may give rise to current and
voltage oscillation in the diode due to the resonant circuit formed by the stray circuit
inductance and the diode depletion layer capacitance. A typical recovery characteristics
of a snappy recovery diode is shown in Fig 2.14 (a).

Fig. 2.14: Diode overvoltage protection circuit; (a) Snappy recovery characteristics; (b)
Capacitive snubber circuit; (c) snubber characteristics.

Large reverse recovery current may lead to reverse voltage peak (Vrr) in excess of VRSM and
destroy the device. A capacitive protection circuit (also called a snubber circuit) as shown in
Fig. 2.14 (b) may to used to restrict Vrr. Here the current flowing through Ll at the time of diode
current snapping is bypassed to Cs. Ll,Rs & Cs forms a damped resonance circuit and the initial
energy stored in Ll is partially dissipated in Rs, thereby, restricting Vrr . Normalized values of Vrr
as a function of the damping factor with normalized Irr as a parameter is shown in Fig. 2.14(c).
However, it is difficult to correctly estimate the value of Ll and hence design a proper snubber
circuit. Also snubber circuits increase the overall power loss in the circuit since the energy stored
in the snubber capacitor is dissipated in the snubber resistance during turning ON of the diode.
Therefore, in high frequency circuits other types of fast recovery diodes (Inverter grade) are
preferred. Fast recovery diodes offer significant reduction in both Irr and trr (10% - 20% of a
rectifier grade diode of comparable rating). This improvement in turn OFF performance,
however, comes at the expense of the steady state performance. It can be shown that the forward
voltage drop in a diode is directly proportion to the width of the drift region and inversely
proportional to the carrier life time in the drift region. On the other hand both Irr and trr increases
with increase in carrier life time and drift region width. Therefore if Irr and trr are reduced by
reducing the carrier life time, forward voltage drop increases. On the other hand, if the drift

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 20


region width is reduced the reverse break down voltage of the diode reduces. The performance of
a fast recovery diode is therefore, a compromise between the steady state performance and the
switching performance. In high voltage high frequency circuits switching loss is the dominant
component of the overall power loss. Therefore, some increase in the forward voltage drop in the
diode (and hence conduction power lass) can be tolerated since the Turn OFF loss associated
with reverse recovery is greatly reduced.
In some very high frequency applications (fsw >100KHZ), improvement in the reverse recovery
performance offered by normal fast recovery diode is not sufficient. If the required reverse
blocking voltage is less (<100v) schottky diodes are preferred over fast recovery diodes.
Compared to p-n junction diodes schottky diodes have very little Turn OFF transient and almost
no Turn ON transient. On state voltage drop is also less compared to a p-n junction diode for
equal forward current densities. However, reverse breakdown voltage of these diodes are less
(below 200V) Power schottky diodes with forward current rating in excess of 100A are
available.

Exerciser 2.3

1. Fill in the blanks with appropriate word(s)

i. Forward recovery voltage appears due to higher ohmic drop in the ______________ region
of a power diode in the beginning of the Turn On process.
ii. The magnitude of the forward recovery voltage is typically of the order of few
______________ of volts.
iii. The magnitude of the forward recovery voltage also depends on the _______________ of
the diode forward current.
iv. The reverse recovery charge of a power diode increases with the _______________ of the
diode forward current.
v. For a given forward current the reverse recovery current of a Power Diode ______________
with the rate of decrease of the forward current.
vi. For a given forward current the reverse recovery time of a Power diode ______________
with the rate of decrease of the forward current.
vii. A snappy recovery diode is subjected to _________________ voltage over shoot on
recovery.
viii. A fast recovery diode has _______________________ reverse recovery current and time
compared to a __________________ recovery diode.
ix. A Schottky diode has _______________ forward voltage drop and ______________ reverse
voltage blocking capacity.
x. Schottky diodes have no __________________ transient and very little
_________________ transient.

Answer: (i) drift, (ii) tens, (iii) rate of rise, (iv) magnitude, (v) increases, (vi) decreases, (vii)
large, (viii) lower, (ix) low, law, (x) Turn On, Turn Off.

2. In the buck converter shown the diode D has a lead inductance of 0.2H and a reverse
recovery change of 10C at iF =10A. Find peak current through Q.

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Answer: Assuming iL=10A (constant) the above waveforms can be drawn
As soon as Q is turned ON. a reverse voltage is applied across D and its lead inductance.

diF 20
= A S ec = 10 7 A S ec
dt .2 1 0 -6

Assuming a snappy recovery diode (s o)

1 diF 2
Q rr = 1 I rr t rr = t rr
2 2 dt
= 1 0 1 0 -6 C
t rr = 1 . 4 1 4 s
diF
I rr = t rr = 1 4 . 1 4 A
dt

i =I +I = 24.14 A
Q peak L rr

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References
1. Ned Mohan, Tore M. Undeland, William P. Robbins, Power Electronics, Converters,
Application and Design John Wiley & Sons(Asia), Publishers. Third Edition 2003.
2. P. C. Sen, Power Electronics Tata McGraw Hill Publishing Company Limited, New
Delhi, 1987.
3. Jacob Millman, Christos C. Halkias, Integrated Electronics, Analog and Digital Circuits
and Systems, Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Company Limited, New Delhi, 1991.

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Module Summary
A p-n junction diode is a minority carrier, unidirectional, uncontrolled switching device.
A power diode incorporates a lightly doped drift region between two heavily doped p
type and n type regions.
Maximum reverse voltage withstanding capability of a power diode depends on the width
and the doping level of the drift region.
A power diode should never be subjected to a reverse voltage greater than the reverse
break down voltage.
The i-v characteristics of a forward biased power diode is comparatively more linear due
to the voltage drop in the drift region.
The forward voltage drop across a conducting power diode depends on the width of the
drift region but not affected significantly by its doping density.
For continuous forward biased operation the RMS value of the diode forward current
should always be less than its rated RMS current at a given case temperature.
Surge forward current through a diode should be less than the applicable surge current
rating.
During Turn On the instantaneous forward voltage drop across a diode may reach a
level considerably higher than its steady state voltage drop for the given forward current.
This is called forward recovery voltage.
During Turn Off the diode current goes negative first before reducing to zero. This is
called reverse recovery of a diode.
The peak negative current flowing through a diode during Turn Off is called the reverse
recovery current of the diode.
The total time for which the diode current remains negative during Turn Off is called the
reverse recovery time of the diode.
A diode can not block reverse voltage till the reverse current through the diode reaches its
peak value.
Both the reverse recovery current and the reverse recovery time of a diode depends
on the forward current during Turn Off, rate of decrease of the forward current and the
type of the diode.
Normal or slow recovery diodes have smaller reverse recovery current but longer reverse
recovery time. They are suitable for line frequency rectifier operation.
Fast recovery diodes have faster switching times but comparatively lower break down
voltages. They are suitable for high frequency rectifier or inverter free- wheeling
operation.
Fast recovery diodes need to be protected against voltage transients during Turn Off
using R-C snubber circuit.

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Schottky diodes have lower forward voltage drop and faster switching times but
comparatively lower break down voltage. They are suitable for low voltage very high
frequency switching power supply applications.

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Practice Problems and Answers

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Practice Problems (Module-2)
1. If a number of p-n junction diodes with identical i-v characteristics are connected in
parallel will they share current equally? Justify your answer.

2. A power diode have a reverse saturation current of 15A at 32C which doubles for
every 10 rise in temperature. The dc resistance of the diode is 2.5 m. Find the forward
voltage drop and power loss for a forward current of 200 Amps. Assume that the
maximum junction temperature is restricted to 102C.
VT = k T = 26 m v at 32 o C
q

3. In the voltage commutated chopper T & TA are turned ON alternately at 400 HZ. C is
initially charged to 200 V with polarity as shown. Find the IFRMS and VRRM ratings of DI
& DF.

4. In the voltage commutated chopper of Problem 5 the voltage on C reduces by 1% due to


reverse recovery of DI. Find out Irr & trr for DI. (Assume S = 1 for DI).

5. What precaution must be taken regarding the forward recovery voltage of the free
wheeling diodes in a PWM voltage source inverter employing Bipolar Junction
Transistors of the n-p-n type?

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Answers to Practice Problems
1. The reverse saturation current of a p-n junction diode increases rapidly with temperature. If
follows then (from Eqn. 2.1) the voltage drop across a diode for a given forward current
decreases with increase in temperature. In other words if the volt ampere characteristics of a
diode is modeled as a non linear (current dependent) resistant it will have a negative
temperature coefficient.
Let us now consider the situation where a number of diodes are connected in parallel. If due
to some transient disturbance the current in a diode increases momentarily the junction
temperature of that diode will increase due increased power dissipation. The voltage drop
across that particular diode will decrease as a result and more current will be diverted
towards that diode. This positive feedback mechanism will continue to increase its current
share till parasitic lead resistance drop becomes large enough to prevent farther voltage drop
across that diode. Therefore, it can be concluded that a number of p-n junction diodes conned
in parallel will not, in general, share current equally even if it is assumed that they have
identical i-v characteristics.
However, equal current sharing can be forced by connecting suitable resistances in series
with the diodes so that the total resistance of each branch has positive temperature
coefficient.

2. Since the reverse saturation current double with every 10C rise in junction temperature.

1 0 2 -3 2
Is 102o C
= 2 10
Is 32o C
= 1 .9 2 m A
KT
Vt = = 26mv at 32 o C Vt at 102 o = 31.97mv
q
V j fo r i F = 2 0 0 A is

iF
V j = Vt o
102 C
ln = 0 .3 7 V
Is 102o C

Voltage drop across drift region VR = iF RD = 0.5V

Therefore, the total voltage drop across the diode is


VD = VR + V j = 0.87V

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3. Important wave forms of the system are shown in the figure.
As soon as T is turned ON the capacitor voltage starts reversing due to the L-C resenant
circuit formed by C-T-L & DI. Neglecting all the capacitor voltage reaches a -200V.

The current idi is given by

i D I = I D IP S in n 0 n 7
w here I D IP = 200 C = 89.44 A
L
1
& n = = 22.36103
LC

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Capacitor voltage reversal time
Tn 1
= = = = 140s.
2 2 fn n
Capacitor voltage remains at -200 V till TA is turned ON when it is charged linearly towards
+200 V. Time taken for charging is

2 200 C
TC = = 400s
IL
At the end of charging DF turns ON and remains on till T is turned on again.

I DIP 140
I FRMS For D I is = 10.58 Amps
2 5000
2100
I FRMS For D F is 20 = 12.96 Amps
5000
From figure VRRM for D I is 200 V
VRRM for D F is 400 V

4. Since the Capacitor voltage reduces by 1%

Q rr = 0.01 C 200 = 40c


d i dI
w ith S = 1 Q rr = I rr t rr = t rr 2
dt
Now id I = I DIP Sin n t
di dI
= n I D IP C os n t
dt
di dI 1 C
at n t = , = n I DIP = , 200 = 2A
dt LC L s

t rr 2 = 20 10-12 sec 2 or t rr = 4.472 s


I rr = 8.94 Am ps

5. Figure shows one leg of a PWM VSI using n-p-n transistor and freewheeling diode.

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Consider turning off operation of Q1. As the current through Q1 reduces D1 turns On. The
forward recovery voltage of D1 appears as a reverse voltage across the n-p-n transistor whose
base emitter junction must with stand this reverse voltage. Therefore, the forward recovery
voltage of the free wheel diodes must be less them the reverse break down voltage of the base-
emitter junction of the n-p-n transistors for safe operation of the inverter.

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BJT

Constructional Features, Operating Principles, Characteristics and specifications of Power


Bipolar Junction transistors.

Objective: On completion the student will be able to

1. Distinguish between, cut off, active, and saturation region operation of a Bipolar Junction
Transistor.
2. Draw the input and output characteristics of a junction transistor and explain their nature.
3. List the salient constructional features of a power BJT and explain their importance.
4. Draw the output characteristics of a Power BJT and explain the applicable operating
limits under Forward and Reverse bias conditions.
5. Interpret manufacturers data sheet ratings for a Power BJT.
6. Differentiate between the characteristics of an ideal switch and a BJT.
7. Draw and explain the Turn On characteristics of a BJT.
8. Draw and explain the Turn Off characteristics of a BJT.
9. Calculate switching and conduction losses of a Power BJT.
10. Design a BJT base drive circuit.

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3.1 Introduction
Power Bipolar Junction Transistor (BJT) is the first semiconductor device to allow full control
over its Turn on and Turn off operations. It simplified the design of a large number of Power
Electronic circuits that used forced commutated thyristors at that time and also helped realize a
number of new circuits. Subsequently, many other devices that can broadly be classified as
Transistors have been developed. Many of them have superior performance compared to the
BJT in some respects. They have, by now, almost completely replaced BJTs. However, it should
be emphasized that the BJT was the first semiconductor device to closely approximate an ideal
fully controlled Power switch. Other transistors have characteristics that are qualitatively
similar to those of the BJT (although the physics of operation may differ). Hence, it will be
worthwhile studying the characteristics and operation a BJT in some depth. From the point of
view of construction and operation BJT is a bipolar (i.e. minority carrier) current controlled
device. It has been used at signal level power for a long time. However, the construction and
operating characteristics of a Power BJT differs significantly from its signal level counterpart
due to the requirement for a large blocking voltage in the OFF state and a high current carrying
capacity in the ON state. In this module, the construction, operating principle and
characteristics of a Power BJT will be explored.

3.2 Basic Operating Principle of a Bipolar Junction Transistor


A junction transistor consists of a semiconductor crystal in which a p type region is sandwiched
between two n type regions. This is called an n-p-n transistor. Alternatively an n type region
may be placed in between two p type regions to give a p-n-p transistor. Fig 3.1 shows the circuit
symbols and schematic representations of an n-p-n and a p-n-p transistor. The terminals of a
transistor are called Emitter (E), Base (B) & Collector (C) as shown in the figure.

VCE
VCE
E (n) C (n) E (p) C (p)
-
iE VBE + i iC
C
iE VBE

iB B (p) B (n)
RC RC
VBB RB VBB
iB

VCC VCC

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(Emitter) (Base) (Collector) (Emitter) (Base) (Collector)
n p n n p n

(E) (B) (C) (E) (B) (C)

S
WBE 0
A
CB
A
BE A
0
CB
S S CB BE
S
BE CB BE

S
x
A
CB
0 0 x WS
CB
S
WBE
BE BE
S
CB A
WCB WCB
A
WBE
A
WBE 0
WCB
0 0 0
WCB
WBE A WBE
WCB
JBE JCB JBE JCB

n SpB pSnB

pSnE pSnC n SpE n SpC


n poB p noB
p AnE p noE p noC
n ApE
n poE n poC
A
n A
pB
p nC p A
nB
n ApC
x x
(a) (b)
Fig. 3.1: Bipolar junction transistor under different biasing condition.
(a) n p n transistor ; (b) p n p transistor.

If no external biasing voltages are applied (i.e.; VBB and VCC are open circuited) all transistor
currents must be zero. The transistor will be in thermal equilibrium condition with potential
barriers and CB o
at the base emitter and the base collector functions respectively.
O O
Corresponding depletion layer widths will be WBE and WCB . It is clear from the diagram that p
type carriers in the base region of an n-p-n transistor are trapped in a potential well and cannot
escape. Similarly, in a p-n-p transistor p type carriers in the emitter and collector regions are
separated by a potential hill.

When biasing voltages are applied as shown in the figure, the base emitter junction (JBE)
becomes forward biased where as the base collector junction is reverse biased. Potential barrier

and depletion layer width at JBE reduces to and WBE A
respectively. Both these quantities
increase at JCB ( ACB , WCB
A
) . As the potential barrier at JBE is reduced a large number of minority
A
carriers are introduced in to Base and the Emitter regions as shown in Fig. 3.1 ( PnE , n ApB for n-p-n

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transistor and n ApE , p AnB for p-n-p transistor). A portion of the minority carriers reaching the base
recombines with majority carriers. The rest, defuse to the edge of the depletion region at JCB
where they are swept away to the collector region by the large electric field. Under this condition
the transistor is said to be in the Active region.

As VBE is increased injected minority charge into the base region increases and so does the base
current and the collector current. For a fixed collector bias voltage VCC, the voltage VCB reduces
with increase in collector current due to increasing drop in the external resistance RC. Therefore,
the potential barrier at JCB starts reducing. At one point JCB becomes forward biased. The
potential barriers and depletion layer widths under this condition are indicated in Fig. 3.1 by
variables with a super script s. Due to forward biasing of JCB there will be minority carrier
injection into the base from this junction also as shown in Fig. 3.1. The total voltage drop
between collector and emitter will be the difference between the forward bias voltage drops at
JBE and JCB. Under this condition the transistor is said to be in the saturation region.

From the operating principle described above one can form a qualitative idea about the input (iB B

vs VBE) and output (iC Vs VCE) characteristics of a transistor. In the following section these
characteristics of an n-p-n transistor will be discussed qualitatively. Similar explanation applies
to a p-n-p transistor.

When a biasing voltage VBB of appropriate polarity is applied across the junction JBE the
potential barrier at this junction reduces and at one point the junction becomes forward biased.
The current crossing this junction is governed by the forward biased p-n junction equation for
a given collector emitter voltage. The base current iB is related to the recombination of minority
B

carriers injected into the base from the emitter. The rate of recombination is directly proportional
to the amount of excess minority carrier stored in the base. Since, in a normal transistor the
emitter is much more heavily doped compared to the base the current crossing JBE is almost
entirely determined by the excess minority carrier distribution in the base. Thus, it can be
concluded that the relationship between iB and VBE will be similar to the i-v characteristics of a
B

p-n junction diode. VCE, however have some effect on this characteristic. As VCE increases
reverse bias of JCB increases and the depletion region at JCB moves deeper into the base. The
effective base width thus reduces, reducing the rate of recombination in the base region and
hence the base current. Therefore iB for a given VBE reduces with increasing VCE as shown in
B

Fig. 3.2(a).

It has been mentioned before that only a fraction (denoted by the letter ) of the total minority
carriers injected into the base reaches junction JCB where they are swept in to the collector region
by the large electric field at JCB. These minority carriers constitute the major component of the
total collector current. The other component of the collector current consists of the small reverse
saturation current of the reverse biased junction JCB.

Therefore IC = IE + Ics (3.1)


Where Ics is the reverse saturation current of junction JCB

But IE = IB + IC
B (3.2)

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ICS
IC = + IB
1- 1- (3.3)


By defining

1
IC = IB + (+1) Ics (3.4)

is called the large signal common emitter current gain of the transistor and remains fairly
constant for a large range of IC, as shown in Fig. 3.2 (c). Fig: 3 (b) shows the complete out put
characteristics (ic vs VCE) of an n-p-n transistor.

With VBB = 0 or negative there is little injected minority carrier into the base from the
emitter side. Therefore, iB = 0 and iC is negligibly small. The transistor is said to be in the cut
B

off region under this condition.

As VBB is increased from zero, base current starts flowing. From equation (3.4) it will be
expected that the collector current should increase proportionately independent of VCE. However
Fig 3.2 (b) does indicate a slight increase in iC with VCE for a given iB. This is expected because
B

with increasing VCE a larger value of VBE will be required to maintain a given iB (Fig. 3.2 (a)).
B

Therefore, the component IE of collector current will increase. ICS is ,for all practical
purpose, independent of VCE. This is the active or amplifier mode of operation of a transistor.

In the active region as iB increases iC also increases. For a given value of VCC, VCE reduces with
B

increasing iC due to increased drop in an external load (i.e., Rc in Fig 3.1). At one point the
junction JCB becomes forward biased. VCE, now is just the difference between the voltages across
two forward biased junction JBE and JCB (a few handed milli volts). This is when the transistor
enters the saturation mode of operation. The ratio iC/iB at the onset of saturation is called Min and
B

is an important parameter for a power transistor. In saturation iC is almost entirely determined by


the external load and further increase in iB changes iC or VCE very little.

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iC iB6
iB5
iB4
iB iB3 iB

Saturation
vCE Active increasing
iB2
increasing iB1
iB = 0
vBE Cut off
vCE

(a) (b)

(c)
Fig. 3.2: Input and output characteristics of an n p n transistor.
(a) Input characteristics; (b) Output characteristics; (c) Current
gain[] characteristics

Exercise 3.1

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

a) Under forward bias condition a large number of ___________________ carriers are


introduced in the base region.
b) Some minority charge carriers reaching base __________________ with majority
carriers there and the rest of them ___________________ to the collector.
c) When the base-emitter junction of a BJT is forward biased while the base-collector
junction is reverse biased the BJT is said to be in the _______________ region.
d) When both B-E & C-B junction of a BJT are reverse biased it is said to be in the
_________________ region.
e) When both B-E & C-B junction of a BJT are forward biased it is said to be in the
_______________ region.

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Answer: (a) minority; (b) recombine, diffuse; (c) active; (d) cut-off; (e) saturation.

Exercise 3.2

Why does the collector current of a BJT in the active region increases with increasing collector
voltage for a given base current.

Answer: In the active region as the VCE voltage is increased the depletion layer width at the CB
junction increases and the effective base width reduces. Therefore, for a given VBE
recombination of minority carriers in the base region reduces and base current also
reduces. In order to main constant base current with increasing VCE, VBE must
increased. Therefore, for a constant base current the number of minority carriers in the
base region will increase and consequently, collector current will increase.

Exercise 3.3

A power BJT has IC = 20 A at IB = 2.5 A. Ics = 15 mA. Find out & .


B

Answer: Ic = IB + ( + 1) Ics = ( IB + Ics) + Ics.


B B

= 7.95,

3.3 Constructional Features of a Power BJT


Power transistors face the same conflicting design requirements (i.e. large off state blocking
voltage and large on state current density) as that of a power diode. Therefore, it is only natural
to extend some of the constructional features of power diodes to power BJT. Following Section
summarizes some of the constructional features of a Power BJT. Since Power Transistors are
predominantly of the n-p-n type, in this section and subsequently only this type of transistor will
be discussed.

A power BJT has a vertically oriented alternating layers of n type and p type
semiconductor materials as shown in Fig 3.3(a). The vertical structure is preferred for
power transistors because it maximizes the cross sectional area through which the on
state current flows. Thus, on state resistance and power lass is minimized.

In order to maintain a large current gain (and hence reduce base drive current) the
emitter doping density is made several orders of magnitude higher than the base region.
The thickness of the base region is also made as small as possible.

In order to block large voltage during OFF state a lightly doped collector drift region
is introduced between the moderately doped base region and the heavily doped collector
region. The function of this drift region is similar to that in a Power Diode. However, the
doping density donation of the base region being moderate the depletion region does
penetrate considerably into the base. Therefore, the width of the base region in a power
transistor can not be made as small as that in a signal level transistor. This comparatively
larger base width has adverse effect on the current gain () of a Power transistor which

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typically varies within 5-20. As will be discusses later the collector drift region has
significant effect on the out put characteristics of a Power BJT.

Practical Power transistors have their emitters and bases interleaved as narrow fingers.
This is necessary to prevent current crowding and consequent second break down.
In addition multiple emitter structure also reduces parasitic ohmic resistance in the base
current path.

These constructional features of a Power BJT are shown schematically in Fig 3.3(a). Fig.3.3 (b)
shows the photograph of some community available Power transistors in different packages.

Emitter contact

Base
contact

n+ (emitter) n+ n+
p (Base)

n- (Collector Drift)

n+ (Collector)

(a) Collector contact

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(b)

Fig. 3.3: Constructional Features of a Power Bipolar Junction Transistor


(a) Schematic of Construction,
(b) Photograph of commercial packages.

Exercise 3.4

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

a) Doping density of the emitter of a Power BJT is several orders of magnitude


______________ than the base doping density.
b) Collector drift region is introduced in a Power BJT to block _______________ voltage.
c) Doping density of the base region in a power BJT is ________________.
d) Power BJT has ________________ DC current gain compared to signal level transistors.
e) In a Power BJT multiple, narrow finger like distributed emitter structure is used to avoid
emitter ___________________.

Answer: (a) higher; (b) high reverse; (c) moderate; (d) low; (e) current crowding.

Exercise 3.5

What are the constructional features of a power transistor that affect the dc current gain?

Large doping density of the emitter increases dc current gain.


Moderately doped base regain of relatively larger width tend to reduce the dc current
gain. The base width in a power transistor cannot be reduced below a certain level in
order to avoid reach through of the base region under large applied voltage.
Multiple, narrow emitter regions distributed uniformly over the entire device cross
section also tends to improve dc current gain by minimizing current crowding.

3.4 Output i-v characteristics of a Power Transistor


A typical output (iC vs VCE) characteristics of an n-p-n type power transistor is shown in
Fig 3.4 A power transistor exhibits Cut off, Active and Saturation regions of operation in
its output characteristics similar to a signal level transistor. In fact output characteristics of a

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Power Transistor in the Cut off and Active regions are qualitatively identical to a signal
level transistor. Certain quantitative restrictions apply, however, which are discussed next.

iC
Hard Saturation
Quasi Saturation
iB10 Second break down limit
iB9
iB8
iB7 Active
iB6 Total Power dissipation limit
iB5
iB4
iB3
iB2 Increasing iB
Primary break down voltage
iB1
iB 0
CE
Cut off
VSUS
VCE0 VCB0
(iB = 0) (iB < 0)
Fig. 3.4 Output ( ic vCE ) characteristics of an n p n type Power Transistor
In the cut off region (iB 0) the collector current is almost zero. The maximum voltage between
B

collector and emitter under this condition is termed Maximum forward blocking voltage with
base terminal open (iB = 0) and is denoted by VCEO. For all practical purpose this is the
B

maximum voltage that can be applied in the forward direction (C positive with respect to E)
across a power transistor since a power transistor is expected to see any significant forward
voltage only with iB = 0. This blocking voltage can however be increased to a value VCBO by
B

keeping the emitter terminal open. In this case iB < o. Actually VCBO is the breakdown voltage of
the collector base junction. However, since the open base configuration is more common the
value of VCEO is used by the manufacturers as the maximum voltage rating of a power transistor.
Power transistors have poor reverse voltage withstanding capability due to low break down
voltage of the base-emitter junction. Therefore, reverse voltage (C negative with respect to E)
should not appear across a power transistor.

In the active region the ratio of collector current to base current (DC current Gain ()) remains
fairly constant upto certain value of the collector current after which it falls off rapidly.
Manufacturers usually provide a graph showing the variation of as a function of the collector
current for different junction temperatures and collector emitter voltages. This graph is useful for
designing the base drive of a Power transistor. Typically, the value of the dc current gain of a
Power transistor is much smaller compared to their signal level counterpart.

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The maximum collector-emitter voltage that a power transistor can withstand in active region is
determined by the Base collector avalanche break down voltage. This voltage, denoted by VSUS
in Fig, 3.4 is usually smaller than VCEO. The voltage VSUS can be attained only for relatively
lower values of collector current. At higher collector current the limit on the total power
dissipation defines the boundary of the allowable active region as shown in Fig 3.4.

At still higher levels of collector currents the allowable active region is further restricted by a
potential failure mode called the Second Break down. It appears on the output characteristics
of the BJT as a precipitous drop in the collector-emitter voltage at large collector currents. The
collector voltage drop is often accompanied by significant rise in the collector current and a
substantial increase in the power dissipation. Most importantly this dissipation is not uniformly
spread over the entire volume of the device but is concentrated in highly localized regions. This
localized heating is a combined effect of the intrinsic non uniformity of the collector current
density distribution across the cross section of the device and the negative temperature
coefficient of resistively of minority carrier devices which leads to the formation of current
filamements (localized areas of very high current density) by a positive feed-back mechanism.
Once current filaments are formed localized thermal runaway quickly takes the junction
temperature beyond the safe limit and the device is destroyed.

It is in the saturation region that the output characteristics of a Power transistor differs
significantly from its signal level counterpart. In fact the saturation region of a Power transistor
can be further subdivided into a quasi saturation region and a hard saturation region.
Appearance of the quasi saturation region in the output characteristics of a power transistor is a
direct consequence of introducing the drift region into the structure of a power transistor. In the
quasi saturation region the base-collector junction is forward biased but the lightly doped drift
region is not completely shorted out by excess minority carrier injection from the base. The
resistivity of this region depends to some extent on the base current. Therefore, in the quasi
saturation region, the base current still retains some control over the collector current although
the value of decreases significantly. Also, since the resistivity of the drift region is still
significant the total voltage drop across the device in this mode of operation is higher for a given
collector current compared to what it will be in the hard saturation region.

In the hard saturation region base current looses control over the collector current which is
determined entirely by the collector load and the biasing voltage VCC. This behavior is similar to
what happens in a signal transistor except that the drift region of a power transistor continues to
offer a small resistance even when it is completely shorted out (by excess carrier injection from
the base). Therefore, for larger collector currents the collector-emitter voltage drop is almost
proportional to the collector current. Manufacturers usually provide the plots of the variation of
VCE (sat) vs. iC for different values of base current and junction temperature. Curves showing
the variation of VCE (sat) with iB for different values of iC and junction temperature are also
B

provided by certain manufacturers.

Applicable operating limits on a power transistors are compactly represented in two diagrams
called the Forward Bias Safe Operating Area (FBSOA) and the Reverse Bias Safe Operating
Area. (RBSOA) applicable to iB > 0 and iB 0 conditions respectively. Typical safe operating
B B

areas of power transistors are shown in Fig 3.5.

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iC
iC

ICM
ICM

10-5sec

10-4sec

10-3sec

10-2sec
DC
Log CE CE
(a) VSUS (b) VCE0 VCB0
(VBE = 0) (VBE < 0)
Fig. 3.5: Safe operating areas of a Power Transistor.
(a) FBSOA; (b) RBSOA.

The horizontal upper limit of the FBSOA is determined by the maximum allowable collector
current (ICM) that should not be exceeded even as a pulse. Exceeding this current limit may cause
bonding wire or metallization of the wafer to vaporize or otherwise fail. Since a power transistor
does not have any appreciable reverse voltage blocking capacity they are usually not used in ac
circuits. However, if the collector current, for some reason is not dc or a pulse, the rms value of
the collector current waveform should not exceed this limit.
The next applicable limit in the FBSOA (green lines) corresponds to the restriction on the
maximum allowable power dissipation and maximum junction temperature. Since FBSOA is
shown on a log-log scale constant Power dissipation (Pd = VCE iC) limits appear as straight lines.
This limit is different for dc and pulsed operation due to the thermal time constant of the device.
The DC limit is applicable to the average power loss if the transistor remains continuously in
the conduction state (active, quasi saturation or saturation). On the other hand the pulsed power
dissipation limits are applicable to conduction duration up to the value marked on them (the
figures on the right of Fig 3.5 (a)). Pulsed power dissipation limits are specified for a low value
(1%-2%) of duty cycle and are useful for shaping the switching trajectory of the transistor as will
be seen later.

The third limit of the FBSOA (red line) arises due to the second break down failure mode of
a Power transistor. It shows the limiting combinations of collector voltage and current so that
second break down does not occur. On the log log scale of the FBSOA this limit also appears as
a straight limit. Like the maximum power dissipation limit, the second break down limit is also
different for DC and Pulsed operation of different pulse durations. The interpretation of the
pulse duration (marked on the right side of Fig 3.5 (a)) corresponding to a particular limit is also
same.

The final limit of the FBSOA corresponds to the forward biased avalanche break down voltage
(VSUS) of the transistor and appear as a vertical line in the FBSOA at VCE = VSuS
Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 14
The FBSOA of a Power transistor is given at a specified case temperature. Both the maximum
power dissipation limit and the second break down limits are to be derated as per the derating
characteristics provided by the manufacturers when the case temperature exceeds the specified
value.

In contrast to the FBSOA, the RBSOA (Fig 3.5 (b)) is plotted on a linear scale and has a more
rectangular shape. RBSOA is a switching SOA since a transistor can not conduct current for any
appreciable duration under reverse biased condition. It essentially shows the limiting permissible
combinations of VCE & iC with base emitter junction reverse biased. The upper horizontal limit
corresponds to the maximum allowable collector current (ICM) and is same as that in the FBSOA.
The right hand side vertical limit corresponds the avalanche break down voltage of the transistor
with reverse bias. If the base terminal is open (i,e, iB = 0) then this voltage is VCEO. If a negative
B

voltage is applied across the BE junction the right hand side limit of the RBSOA increases
somewhat to the value VCBO at low value of the collector current.

In addition to the applicable limits on the output characteristics as represented in the FBSOA and
the RBSOA, limiting specification with respect to the base emitter junction is also provided by
the manufacturer. Typical specifications that are provided are

VEBO : This is maximum allowable reverse bias voltage across the B-E junction
IBB : Maximum allowable average base current at a given case temperature.
IBM : Maximum allowable peak base current at a given case temperature and of
specified pulse duration.

The input characteristics (iB Vs VBE) at a given case temperature is also provided.
B

Exercise 3.6

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

a) In the Cut off region collector current of a Power Transistor is _____________.


b) In the __________________ region of a Power Transistor the dc current gain remains
fairly constant.
c) Saturation region of a Power Transistor can be divided into _______________ region and
______________________ region.
d) Active region operation of a Power BJT is limited mostly by _______________
consideration.
e) Second breakdown in a Power BJT occurs due to ________________ of the collector
current distribution.

Answer: (a) negligible; (b) active; (c) Quasi saturation, hard saturation; (d) Power
dissipation; (e) non uniformity.

3.5 Switching characteristics of a Power Transistor


In a power electronic circuit the power transistor is usually employed as a switch i.e. it operates
in either cut off (switch OFF) or saturation (switch ON) regions. However, the operating

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 15


characteristics of a power transistor differs significantly from an ideal controlled switch in the
following respects.

It can conduct only finite amount of current in one direction when ON


It can block only a finite voltage in one direction.
It has a voltage drop during ON condition
It carries a small leakage current during OFF condition
Switching operation is not instantaneous
It requires non zero control power for switching
Of these the exact nature and implication of the first two has been discussed in some depth in the
previous section. The third and fourth non idealities give rise to power loss termed the
conduction power loss. In this section the nature and implications of the last two non idealities
will be discussed in detail.

Exercise 3.7

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

a) An ideal switch can conduct current in ______________ directions. While a power


transistor conducts current in _______________ direction.
b) In power transistor there will be power loss due to ON state ________________ and OFF
state _________________.
c) Unlike an ideal switch the switching of a power transistor is not ____________.

Answer: (a) two, one; (b) voltage drop, leakage current; (c) instantaneous.

3.5.1Turn On characteristics of a Power Transistor


From the description of the basic operating principle of a power transistor presented in the
previous sections it is clear that minority carriers must be moved across different regions of a
power transistor in order to make it switch between cut off and saturation regions of operation.
The time delay in the switching operation of a power transistor is due to the time taken by the
minority carriers to reach appropriate density levels in different regions. The exact level of
minority carrier densities (and depletion region widths) required for proper switching is
determined by the collector current and biasing collector voltage during switching, both of which
are determined by external circuits. The rate at which these densities are attained is determined
by the base current waveform. Therefore, the switching characteristics of a power transistor is
always specified in relation to the external load circuit and the base current waveform as shown
in Fig 3.6 which shows a clamped inductive switching circuit with a flat base drive.

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VCC

iD
D IL

iC
+
RB iB
Q VCE

VBE
-
VBB

(a)

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td tri tfv1 tfv2
VBB

VBE
VBE sat

0 t

VBB - VBE(sat)
RB

iB
t

ic
id
IL IL

vCE

VCC VCE (sat)

Pe VCC IL

vCE (sat) IL

(b)
Fig 3.6 Turn ON characteristics of a power transistor;
(a) Switching circuit, (b) Switching wave forms

The switching wave forms shown in Fig 3.6 (b) are the expanded and to some extent idealized
version of the actual waveforms that will be observed in a clamped inductive switching circuit as
shown in Fig.3.6 (a). Some simplifying assumptions have been made to draw these waveforms.
These are

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 18


The load inductor has been assumed to be large enough so that the load current does not
change during Turn ON period.
Reverse recovery characteristics of D has been ignored.
All parasitic elements have been ignored.

Before t = 0, the transistor (Q) was in the OFF state. In order to utilize the increased break
down voltage (VCBO) the base-emitter junction of a Power Transistor is usually reverse biased
during OFF state. Under this condition only negligible leakage current flows through the
transistor. Power loss due to this leakage current is negligible compared to other components of
power loss in a transistor. Therefore, it is not shown in Fig 3.6 (b). The entire load current flows
through the diode and VCE is clamped to VCC (approximately).

To turn the transistor ON at t = 0, the base biasing voltage VBB changes to a suitable positive
value. This starts the process of charge redistribution at the base-emitter junction. The process is
akin to charging of a capacitor. Indeed, the reverse biased base emitter junction is often
represented by a voltage dependent capacitor, the value of which is given by the manufacturer as
a function of the base-emitter reverse bias voltage. The rising base current that flows during this
period can be thought of as this capacitor charging current. Finally at t = td the BE junction is
forward biased. The junction voltage and the base current settles down to their steady state
values. During this period, called the Turn ON delay time no appreciable collector current
flows. The values of iO and VCE remains essentially at their OFF state levels.

At the end of the delay time (td ON) the minority carrier density at the base region quickly
approaches its steady state distribution and the collector current starts rising while the diode
current (id) starts falling. At t = tdON + tri the collector current becomes equal to the load current
(and id becomes zero) IL. At this point D starts blocking reverse voltage and VCE becomes
unclamped. tri is called the current rise time of the transistor.

At the end of the current rise time the diode D regains reverse blocking capacity. The collector
voltage VCE which has so far been clamped to VCC because of the conducting diode D starts
falling towards its saturation voltage VCE (sat). The initial fall of VCE is rapid. During this period
the switching trajectory traverses through the active region of the output characteristics of the
transistor. At the end of this rapid fall (tfv1) the transistor enters quasi saturation region. The
fall of VCE in the quasi saturation region is considerably slower. At the end of this slow fall (tfv2)
the transistor enters hard saturation region and the collector voltage settles down to the
saturation voltage level VCE (sat) corresponding to the load current IL. Turn ON process ends
here. The total turn on time is thus, TSW (ON) = td (ON) + tri + tfv1 + tfv2.

Power loss occurs at all time during the operation of a power transistor. However, the collector
leakage current is usually negligibly small and power loss due it can be safely neglected in
comparison to the power loss during ON condition. Power loss occurs during Turning ON a
Power transistor due to simultaneous existence of non-zero VCE and ic during tri, tfv1, and tfv2. The
energy lost during these periods is called the Turn ON loss and given by the area under the Pl
curve in Fig 3.6 (b). The average Turn ON loss is obtained by dividing this area by (tri + tfv1 +
tfv2). For safe Turn ON this average power loss must be less than the limit set on the maximum

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power dissipation in the FBSOA corresponding to a pulse width greater than tri + tfv1 + tfv2.
Similar restriction with respect to second break down should also be observed.

Turn ON time can be reduced by increasing the base current. However large base current
increases the quantity of excess carrier in the base and collector drift region which has to be
removed during Turn Off. As will be seen later this increases the Turn OFF time. The Turn ON
delay time can however be reduced by boosting the base current at the beginning of the Turn ON
process. This can be achieved by connecting a small capacitance across RB. This increases the
B

rate of rise of VBE & iB. Therefore, Turn ON delay time decreases. However, in steady state iB
B B

settle downs to a value determined by RB & VBB and no adverse effect on the Turn OFF time is
B

observed.

In figure 3.6 (b) the reverse recovery current of D has been neglected. If this current is not
negligible then for safe Turn ON operation the sum of the load current and the diode reverse
recovery current must be less than the ICM rating of the transistor. Thermal and second break
down limits must also be observed.

It should be noted that there is some power loss at the BE junction as well. This power loss
depends on the current gain of the transistor during hard saturation. Since current gain reduces
during saturation (typically between 5 to 10) this power loss may become significant.
Manufacturers usually provide the values of td (ON), tri, tfv as functions of ic for a given base
current and case temperature.

Exercise 3.8

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

a) For faster switching of a BJT _______________ carriers are to be swept quickly from the
________________ region.
b) The reverse biased base emitter junction can be represented as a ______________
dependent __________________.
c) In the quasi saturation region collector-emitter voltage falls at a ______________ rate.
d) Turn ON delay can be reduced by __________________ the rate of rise of the base
current.

Answer: (a) minority, base; (b) voltage, capacitor; (c) slow; (d) increasing.

3.5.2 Turn Off Characteristics of a Power Transistor


During Turn OFF a power transistor makes transition from saturation to cut off region of
operation. Just as in the case of Turn ON, substantial redistribution of minority charge carriers
are involved in the Turn OFF process. Idealized waveforms of several important variables in the
clamped inductive switching circuit of Fig. 3.6 (a) during the Turn OFF process of Q are shown
in Fig 3.7 (a)

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VBB VBE(sat)
VBE t

VBB

iB

iC

id
IL IL

VCE

VCE(Sat)
VCC

Pe

t
ts trv1
trv2 tfi

(a)

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log iC Reverse recovery current of D

ICM P FBSOA
P RBSOA
Forward recovery
Voltage of D

Turn off Turn on


Trajectory Trajectory

VCBO

log vCE
V(sus) VCEO
(b)
Fig. 3.7: Turn off, characteristics of a BJT.
(a) Switching wave forms
(b) Switching trajectory
The Turn OFF process starts with the base drive voltage going negative to a value -VBB.
The base-emitter voltage however does not change from its forward bias value of VBE(sat)
immediately, due to the excess, minority carriers stored in the base region. A negative base
current starts removing this excess carrier at a rate determined by the negative base drive voltage
and the base drive resistance. After a time ts called the storage time of the transistor, the
remaining stored charge in the base becomes insufficient to support the transistor in the hard
saturation region. At this point the transistor enters quasi saturation region and the collector
voltage starts rising with a small slope. After a further time interval trv1 the transistor completes
traversing through the quasi saturation region and enters the active region. The stored charge in
the base region at this point is insufficient to support the full negative base current. VBE starts
falling forward VBB and the negative base current starts reducing. In the active region, VCE
increases rapidly towards VCC and at the end of the time interval trv2 exceeds it to turn on D.
VCE remains clamped at VCC, thereafter by the conducting diode D. At the end of trv2 the stored
base charge can no longer support the full load current through the collector and the collector
current starts falling. At the end of the current fall time tfi the collector current becomes zero and
the load current freewheels through the diode D. Turn OFF process of the transistor ends at this
point. The total Turn OFF time is given by Ts (OFF) = ts + trv1 + trv2 + tfi

As in the case of Turn ON considerable power loss takes place during Turn OFF due to
simultaneous existence of ic and VCE in the intervals trv1, trv2 and tfi. The last trace of Fig 3.7 (a)
shows the instantaneous power loss profile during these intervals. The total energy last per turn
off operation is given by the area under this curve. For safe turn off the average power
dissipation during trv1 + trv2 + tfi should be less than the power dissipation limit set by the FBSOA
corresponding to a pulse width greater than trv1 + trv2 + tfi.

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Turn OFF time intervals of a power transistor are strongly influenced by the operating conditions
and the base drive design. Manufacturers usually specify these values as functions of collector
current for given positive and negative base current and case temperatures. Variations of these
time intervals as function of the ratio of positive to negative base currents for different collector
currents are also specified.

In this section and the precious one inductive load switching have been considered. However, if
the load is resistive. The freewheeling diode D will not be used. In that case the collector voltage
(VCE) and collector current (ic) will fall and rise respectively together during Turn ON and rise
and fall respectively together during Turn OFF. Other characteristics of the switching process
will remain same. The switching Power loss in this case will also be substantially lower.

Exercise 3.9

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

a) Turn OFF process in a BJT is associated with transition from the _______________
region to the ______________ region.
b) Negative _______________ current is required to remove excess charge carriers from the
______________ region of a BJT during Turn OFF process.
c) VCE increases rapidly in the ________________ region.

Answer: (a) Saturation, Cut-off; (b) base, base; (c) active.

3.5.3 Switching Trajectory and Switching Losses in a Power


Transistor
It has been mentioned in the earlier sections that energy loss takes place in a power transistor
during each switching operation. Instantaneous power loss during switching can be calculated
and plotted as shown in Fig 3.6 (b) and 3.7 (a). The areas under these curves indicate the energy
loss during each switching operation (Turn ON and Turn OFF). Indicating these areas as EON and
EOFF during Turn ON and Turn OFF operations respectively one can write.

E ON =
1
2 ( )
VCC I L t ri + ( VCC + VCEf1 ) I L t fv1 + VCEf1 + VCE (sat ) I L t fv2 ( 3.5 )

Where VCEf1 is the value of VCE at the end of the interval tfv1

Similarly
E OFF = 1 ( VCE ( sat ) + VCEr1 ) I L t rv1 + ( VCEr1 + VCC ) I L t rv2 + VCC I L t fi ( 3.6 )
2
If the switching frequency of the transistor is fSW, then the average switching power loss is given
by

PSW = ( E ON + E OFF ) fSW ( 3.7 )

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On the other hand the conduction energy loss is given by the area hatched black in Fig 3.6 (b)
and 3.7(a). From these figures the conduction power loss is given by

PC = VCE ( sat ) IL ( TON - t d ( ON ) - t ri - t fv1 - t fv2 + t s ) fSW ( 3.8)


Where TON is the time period for which the base drive voltage remain positive. Usually ts
TSW(ON) << TON, Therefore

PC = VCE ( sat ) IL TON fSW = VCE ( sat ) IL D ( 3.9)


Where D is the switching duly cycle.

For a given VCC and IL and base drive design, EON and EOFF are constant. Therefore, the
switching power loss is proportional to the switching frequency. Being a minority carrier device
a BJT has comparatively larger switching times (compared to some other devices broadly
categorized as transistors) and hence larger switching power loss for a given frequency. On the
other hand a BJT has the lowest ON state voltage drop VCE (sat) among all fully controlled
switches. Therefore, a BJT is suitable for switching large current at moderate (around a few
KHZ) switching frequency. At high frequency BJT based circuits tend to become inefficient due
to increased switching power loss.

Even without any restriction on the switching power loss the maximum switching frequency of a
BJT is limited by its Turn ON and Turn OFF times. The value of the maximum switching
frequency is given by

1
FSW ( Max ) = ( 3.10 )
TSW ( ON ) + TSW ( OFF )

For a given collector current and base drive design.

For safe switching operation, however it is not sufficient to merely restrict the switching power
loss. It will be necessary to restrict the switching trajectory (an instantaneous plot of ic vs VCE
during switching with time as a parameter) within the FBSOA /RBSOA region corresponding to
a pulse width greater than TSW (ON) or TSW (OFF). Fig 3.7 (b) shows these switching trajectories
superimposed on the FBSOA /RBSOA. In this diagram the green line corresponds to the Turn
ON trajectory while the blue line corresponds to the Turn OFF trajectory. These trajectories are
rectangular in nature. Clearly full voltage (VCEO) or current rating (ICM) of the transistor can not
be utilized in such a trajectory. The situation becomes worse a when the reverse recovery current
and forward recovery voltage of D is considered. Switching aid circuits or snubbers (as they
are popularly known) are used to enhance the switching performance of a power transistor. They
serve two specific purpose.

Shape the switching trajectory such that the voltage and current rating of a transistor can
be fully utilized.

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Reduce the switching power loss inside the device.
Fig. 3.8 shows a typical snubber circuit for a power transistor and the corresponding switching
trajectories.
VCC

IL

LS RS

iC
+ DS

Q VCE
RB iB CS

-
VBB +

(a)
logic
ICM
IL
RBSO

FBSO
A

Turn VCBO
on VCC

Turn off
log vCE
VCE(sus) VCEO
(b)
Fig. 3.8: Switching characteristics of a BJT with Snubber
(a) Clamped inductive switching circuit with snubber
(b) Switching trajectory.
Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 25
Fig 3.8 (a) shows the same clamped inductive switching circuit of Fig 3.6 (a) but with the
snubber elements. The inductor LS connected between the load and the collector is the Turn ON
snubber. In decouples the collector from the supply voltage during Turn ON. Therefore, as the
junction VBE becomes forward biased VCE starts falling. At the same time ic also starts rising
towards IL. The resultant switching trajectory is shown by the solid green line in Fig 3.8 (b). This
should be compared with the unsnubbed Turn ON trajectory (broken green line). In the
unsnubbed case, the collector current rises to the maximum value before VCE starts falling from
VCC. VCC, therefore, must necessarily be smaller than VCE (SUS). In the snubber assisted
trajectory VCE falls substantially before ic rises to any appreciable value. Therefore, VCC can be
made larger than VCE(sat) and can be chosen closer to VCEO. Maximum collector current that can
be handled is also considerably higher (I L Max )
= ICM - Irr ( D ) . In the unsnubbed case
maximum IL is restricted essentially by the maximum power dissipation consideration and not by
ICM. LS also helps to reduce Irr (D) by restricting the rate of decrease of current through D. This
also helps to increase I L Max

Rs-Cs-Ds constitute the Turn OFF snubber. This is popularly known as the R-C-D snubber.
During Turn OFF as the base drive of Q is removed ic starts falling and the remaining load
current is bypassed to Cs through Ds. Therefore, the collector voltage rises simultaneously giving
rise to the Turn OFF trajectory shown by the solid blue line in Fig 3.8 (b). At the end of the Turn
OFF process VCE shoots over VCC due to Ls-Cs oscillation. However, by proper design VCE Max
can be restricted well below VCBO. Therefore, the turn OFF snubber circuit can effectively utilize
the enhanced voltage withstanding capability of a power transistor with base reverse biased.

Comparison of the switching trajectories with and with out snubber circuit makes it evident that
the snubber circuit can considerably enhance the voltage and current capacity utilization of a
Power transistor.

The area enclosed under the switching trajectories is a measure of the switching loss occurring in
the device at each switching. Therefore, it is evident from Fig 3.8 (b) that the snubber circuit
reduces the switching power loss inside the device considerably. However, it should be
emphasized that the total switching loss (device + snubber resistance) may not reduce. It is also
necessary to place the snubber components very close to the transistor since any stray inductance
in the Rs Cs Ds loop may give rise to an unacceptably large voltage spike across Q.
Components should also be chosen very carefully. Rs must be non inductive and the lead
inductances of Ds and Cs must be kept to a minimum Power loss in Rs can be considerably large
and its wattage should selected accordingly. To avoid excessive power loss in Rs, lossless
(regenerate) snubber circuits have been proposed.

Exercise 3.10

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

a) BJT has large switching times, since it is a _________________ carrier device.


b) BJT has _______________ ON state voltage drop.
c) BJT is inefficient at ______________ switching frequencies.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 26


d) Turn OFF snubber circuit is used to improve _______________ withstand capacity of a
BJT.

Answer: (a) minority; (b) low; (c) high; (d) voltage.

Exercise 3.11

What are the effects of introducing a drift region in the output i-v characteristics of a power
transistor?

Answer: The drift region in a power transistor is introduced in order to block large forward
voltage. However, one effect of introducing the drift region is the appearance of a
quasi saturation region in the output i-v characteristics of a power transistor. In the
quasi saturation state the drift region is not completely shorted out by conductivity
modulation by excess carriers from the base region. In offers a resistance which is a
function of the base current. Although the base current retain some control over
collector current in this state the value of dc current gain reduces substantially due to
increased effective base width.

Another effect of introducing the drift region is to make the VCE saturation voltage
depend linearly on the collector current in the hard saturation region due to the ohmic
resistance of the conductivity modulated drift region.

Exercise 3.12

Explain the importance of the following manufacturers specifications


(a) FBSOA, (b) vs ic characteristics, (c) iB vs VBE characteristics
B

Answer: (a) FBOSOA compactly represents the safe operating limits of a power transistor in
terms of maximum forward current, maximum forward voltage, maximum average &
instantaneous power dissipation and second break down limits. It is most useful in
designing the switching trajectory of a power transistor.

(b) This characteristics gives the amount of base current required so that the transistor
can operate in the saturation mode for a given collector current.

(c) After the base current is determined, this characteristics is used to design the base
drive circuit for a given base power source.

3.5.4 Base Drive Design and Power Darlington


The performance of a Power transistor depends largely on the base drive design.

The rate of rise of base current in the beginning of the turn on process determines the turn on
delay time.
The magnitude of the base current during turn on decides the values of the voltage fall time,
current rise time and VCE (sat) for a given collector current.
Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 27
The negative base current during turn off determines the storage time, voltage rise time and
current fall time.
A negative bias at the base also enhances the voltage withstanding capacity of a power
transistor.

From the discussion of the switching characteristics of a BJT it is evident that the base drive
voltage source should be bipolar and the base drive resistance should be different during turn
on and turn off. The following step by step procedure can be followed to arrive at the values.

From the load current value (to be switched) and desired conduction power loss the desired
value of VCE (sat) is determined.
Using the desired value of VCE (sat) for the given load current, the required value of forward
base current (iBP) and the corresponding VBE (sat) is obtained from the manufacturers data
sheet.
The forward and reverse base drive voltages (VBB + & VBB -) are decided on the basis of the
availability of control power supply. These should be kept as low as possible in order to
reduce base drive power requirement.
The forward base drive resistance RBP is given by

VBB+ - VBE ( sat )


R BP = ( 3.11)
i BP
It has been mentioned earlier that the turn on delay time can be reduced by increasing the rate
of rise of iBP at the beginning of the turn ON process. This is achieved by connecting a small
capacitor across RBP.

Once iBP is known the turn on loss is fixed. The allowable turn off loss is determined by
subtracting the turn on loss for the desired total switching loss. The required current fall and
voltage rise times for the calculated turn off loss is determined for the given load current and
VCC.
A suitable negative base current (iBN) to give the desired voltage rise time is determined from
the manufacturers data sheet.
RBN is given

VBB- + VBE ( sat )


R BN = ( 3.12 )
i BN

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Once iBN is fixed the storage time (ts) can be determined from the manufacturers data sheet.
The storage time can be reduced by connecting a small capacitor across RBN.

The resulting base drive circuit can be realized as shown in Fig 3.9

VBB +

RBP

R1

R3
From Q
Control
circuit Optocoupler

R2 RBN

Electrical
Isolation VBB -

Fig 3.9: Typical base drive circuit of a power transistor

Power transistors have low values of dc current gain () compared to their signal level
counterpart. Particularly, if a low value of VCE (sat) is desired at full load current, can be as
low as 5. With such low gain large current switching becomes difficult since the base drive
circuit is required to handle about 20% of the full load current, Monolithic, Darlington connected
transistors can solve this problem. Fig 3.10 shows the circuit connection and the vertical cross
section of a Monolithic Darlington pair. The effective current gain of a Darlington pair is given
by

= M D + M + D ( 3.13)
So that even when individual s are small effective can still be quite large.

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C
iCD IL

B IBD iCM
QD
iED
QM
iBM
D

E
(a)

B iED E

n+ n+
iBD iBM

p sio2 p

n- iCD n- iCM

n+ n+

C
(b)
Fig 3.10: Monolithic Darlington connected power transistor.
(a) circuit diagram, (b) schematic cross section.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 30


In the Darlington configuration the base drive current for the main transistor is derived from the
collector biasing power supply through a drive transistor. This drive transistor should have the
same voltage rating as the main transistor but lower current rating. In a monolithic design both
are fabricated from the same crystal. The silicon protrusion through the p layer (the base region
for both transistors) isolates the two bases from each other. A discrete diode D is added (Fig 3.10
(a)) to speed up the turn off time of the main transistor.

The major quantitative difference in the operating characteristics of a Power Darlington is due to
the fact that the main transistor can not go into hard saturation. The ON state voltage drop of the
drive transistor prevents forward biasing of the C-B junction of the main transistor. Therefore,
the ON state power dissipation of the main transistor will be larger than that of an otherwise
comparable single BJT. The switching times will also be somewhat larger for the Darlington
transistor.

Exercise 3.13

A Power BJT is used to switch an inductive load carrying 20 A. The supply voltage is 200V,
switching frequency and duty cycle are 1 KHZ and 0.5 respectively. Switching times are as
follows. td = 1s, tri = tfv1 = 8 s, tfv2 = 0, ts = 12 s, tfi = trv2 = 8 s, trv1 = 0.
VCE sat = 1.0V at i c = 20 A
Calculate switching and conduction losses in the transistor.

Answer: Turn on energy loss is given by.


1
E ON = V I ( t + t ) = 32 mJ
2 CC L ri fv1
Turn off energy loss is given by

E off = 1 VCC I L ( t fi + t rv2 ) = 32mJ


2
So total energy loss per switching = EON + E0ff = 64 mJ.
Switching power loss = fsw (EON + Eoff) = 64 watts.
Conducting loss per switching is given by

E COND = I L VCE sat ( D fsw - t d )


- t ri - t fv + t s = 9.9 mJ

Conduction power loss = 9.9 watts.

Exercise 3.14

With reference to Fig. 3.9 determine the values of the base resistors RBP & RBN for the following
data

VBB+ = 10 volts, VBB- = -10 V, IBP = 2.5 A, IBN = 1.5 A, VBE sat = 0.7 V , VCE sat (of
drive transistors) = 0.3 V

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VBB + - VBE sat - VCE
Answer: R BP = sat
= 3.6 ohms.
I BP
VBE sat - VCE sat - VBB-
R BN = = 6.93 ohms
I BN

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References
1) Jacob Millman, Christos C. Halkis, Integrated Electronics, Analog and Digital circuit
and systems, Tata McGrow-Hill publishing Company Limited, New Delhi, 1991.
2) Ned Mohan, Tore M. Undeland, William P. Robbins, Power Electronics, Converters,
Application and Design. John Willey & Sons (Asia) Publishers, Third Edition, 2003.

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Lesson Summary

A Bipolar Junction Transistor is a minority carrier, current controlled unidirectional


device.
A BJT can be of n-p-n or p-n-p type with three terminals called the collector, the base
and the emitter.
A BJT can operate in cut-off, active or saturation regions.
In the cut-off region the base emitter junction is reverse biased and the collector current is
almost zero.
In the active region the ratio of collector current to base current is fairly constant. This
ratio is called the dc current gain ().
A transistor can be driven into saturation by increasing the base current for a given
collector current. In saturation the VCE voltage drop of a transistor is very low.
For power application normally, n-p-n type transistor in the common emitter
configuration with the base as the control terminal is used. They operate either in the cut-
off, or saturation mode.
For safe operation power transistors must observe maximum current, maximum voltage,
maximum power dissipation and second break down limits.
Operating restrictions applicable to a power transistor under forward and reverse bias
conditions are represented compactly in FBSOA & RBSOA diagrams respectively.
Power transistor output i-v characteristics exhibits a quasi saturation region not found in
their signal level counterpart. It is the direct consequence of introducing a lightly doped
n- drift region in the structure of a power transistor which enhances its forward voltage
blocking capacity.
Switching of Power transistors from ON (saturation) to OFF (cut-off) state involves
considerable redistribution of minority carriers. Therefore, switching operation is not
instantaneous.
Switching characteristics of a power transistor is greatly influenced by the external load
circuit and the base drive circuit.
Energy loss takes place during each switching operation of a power transistor due to
simultaneous existence of collector current and voltage. This is called switching loss.
Energy loss taking place during ON condition of the transistor is called the conduction
loss. Conduction loss during the OFF state of a Power transistor is negligibly small.
Switching power loss is proportional to the switching frequency while the conduction
power loss is proportional to the duly cycle.
BJT being a minority carrier device have low on state voltage drop and longer switching
delay times compared to some majority carrier transistors. Consequently, BJT has
higher switching loss and lower conduction loss.
A Power transistor is suitable for large current switching at low to moderate (a few kHZ)
frequency.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 34


Switching aid circuits (snubbers) are used for enhancing the capacity utilization of a
power transistor. They also reduce switching loss internal to the device.
Ordinary L-R-C-D snubber circuits may not reduce total switching loss. For that purpose
lossless (regenerative) snubber circuits are used.
Proper design of the base drive circuit helps to reduce both conduction and switching
losses. For optimal operation, base drive voltage should be bipolar and have different
output resistance for Turn ON and Turn OFF operations.
Power transistors have relatively small current gain () and hence require large base drive
current.
Monolithic Power Darlingtons can solve the problem of low current gain. But they have
larger ON state voltage drop and longer switching times.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 35


Practice Problems and Answers

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 36


VCC = 200V

RL = 20

RB
+

VBB = 12V

1. In the transistor switching circuit VBE sat = 0.75 V, VCE sat = 0.2 V 10 40 .
Find out the value of RB and Power requirement of the base source.
B

VCC = 200V

RL = 20
D3

RB
+
D1 D2

VBB = 12V

2. In the transistor switching circuit shown


VBE sat = 0.75 v, VD1 = VD2 = VD3 = 0.7 v, 10 40
Find maximum allowable value of RB and power output of the base source. Also compare
B

conduction power loss with the circuit shown in Problem 1.

3. The transistor of Problem -1 has the following switching time specifications.


td = 1s, tri = tfv = 2.5 s, ts = 5 s, tfi = trv = 2.5 s. The transistor is switched at a frequency
of 10 KHZ with duty ratio d = 0.5. Find out, (i) conduction power loss, (ii) switching power
loss.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 37


VBB

50s 50s

iC

10 A

t
td t ts tfi
ri

VCE

200v 200v

t
tfv trv
PSW (on) PSW (off)
Ploss
PCOND

4. Figure shows practical implementation of a power transistor base drive circuit. The
comparator has an output voltage swing of 12 V.
Also
For QP
VBE sat = 0.7V, VCE sat = 0.2V,

For QN
VBE sat = - 0.7 V, VCE sat = - 0.2 V,

For Q
VBE sat = 0.75 V. Min = 10. Also it is desired that negative base current should be at least
equal to positive base current. Min of QP & QN are same. Find the values of RBP, RBN and
R1

5. Explain why the dc current gain of a Power BJT is considerably lower compared to its Signal
level counterpart. What adverse effect does it have on the switching performance of a BJT?
Suggest one solution to this problem.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 38


6. Differentiate between the voltage ratings VSUS, VCEO & VCBO of a Power BJT. How can these
three voltage ratings of a BJT be utilized in an inductive switching circuit.

7. The pulsed FBSOA of a Power BJT is usually specified for a very low duty cycle. Then now
does it help to extend the usable voltage and current rating of a BJT?

Answer to Test Problems


200 - VCE sat
1. The load current I L = i c = 10 Amps
20
VCE sat = 0.2V, which indicates that the transistor is in hard saturation. Therefore = min = 10.

ic
So required base current = = 1 amps
10
VBE sat = 0.75 volts R B = VBB - VBE sat = 11.25
Power drawn from base source is 12 1 = 12 watts.

2. In this case VCE = VBE sat + VD2 + VD1 - VD3 = 1.45 volts . The transistor is not in saturation
since VCB is positive. So = max = 40
200 -1.45
IL = ic = = 9.93 Amps.
20
i
i B = c = 0.25 Amps.

For maximum value of RB current through D3 will be zero
B

V -V -V -V
So R B = BB D1 D2 BE sat = 39.4
iB
Power Drawn from base source is 12 0.25 = 3 watts.
Conduction power lass in 1st problem was 10 0.2 = 2 watts
Conduction power lass in this case is 9.93 1.45 = 14.4 watts

Note: This circuit is known as the anti-saturation clamp or the Bakers clamp.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 39


+ 15v
+ 12v VCC

RBP
IL = 50 A
iC1
iB1
QP
10 K

Rl iE1
comp 0 A
B
QP
TTL iB
iE2
Pulse
E
QN
1.5v iB2
iC2

RBN
- 12v

- 15v

3. Figure shows switching waveforms of the transistor. Major difference with clamped inductive
switching waveform is that in this case rise and fall of ic & VCE are simultaneous. In the
interval t ri ( or t fv )
t
ic = 10 = 4106 t
t ri

VCE 200 1- t = 200 ( 4 105 t ) .


t fv
where VCE sat has been neglected.
In the interval t fi ( or t rv )

i c = 10 1- t = 10 (1 - 4 105 t )
t fi
VCE = 200 t = 80 10 6 t
t rv

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 40


t ri
E SW ( ON ) =
o
VCE i c dt
2.5106
8108 t (1- 4105t ) dt
=
o

= 0.83 mJ
t fi 2.5106
8108 t (1- 4105 t ) dt
E SW ( OFF ) =
o
VCE i c dt =
o

= 0.83 mJ

E SW = E SW ( ON ) + E SW ( OFF ) = 1.66 mJ
PSW = E SW f SW = 1.6610-3 10 103 = 16.6 watts.

Conduction loss occurs in the interval from the end of tri to the beginning of tfi

E COND = VCE sat I L ( TON - td - t ri + t s )


= 0.103 mJ
PCOND = E COND f SW = 0.103 10 -3 10 103 = 1.03 watts.

4. For the transistor Q, Min = 10 , & ic = 50 A.


required positive i BP = 50 = 5 Amps
10
Now i BP = i E1 = i c1 + i B1
12 - VAB - VBE 10.55
Now i B1 = =
R1 R1
15 - VCE sat - VBE 14.1
i C1 = =
R BP R BP
10.55 14.1
So + = 5
R1 R BP

Now iBN iBP = 5A

i BN = i E2 = i B2 + i C2
VBE - VBA + 12 12.05
i B2 = =
R1 R1
VBE - VEC2 + 15 15.55
i C2 = =
R BN R BN
12.05 15.55
So + 5
R1 R BN

Now min of QP & QN are same.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 41


i C1 i
So = C2
i B1 i B2
14.1 R 1 15.55 R 1
or =
10.55 R BP 12.05 R BN
14.1 R 1 5R 1
Now 1 + =
10.55 R BP 10.55
10.55 R 1 5R 1
1+
12.05 R BN 12.05
1 1
0 5R 1 -
12.05 10.55
or R 1 > 0
choose R 1 = 100
R BP = 2.88
R BN = 2.78

5. The main reason for comparatively lower dc current gain in a power transistor is a relatively
thicker base region (a few tens of m compared to a fraction of a m incase of a signal
transistor). The thicker base region is required to withstand the large blocking voltage.
Unlike a power diode the doping density of the base region cannot be made very much large
compared to the lightly doped collector drift region since it will reduce by increasing
minority carrier injection into the emitter. As a result the depletion layer at the C-B junction
penetrates considerably in to the base region. The base width has to be larger than this
penetration depth. A thicker base leads to larger rate of recombination of minority carriers
injected by the emitter. Therefore, for a given collector current the required base current is
relatively high and the dc current gain is low.

A second reason for lowering of arises from the emitter crowding effect where by the
collector current tends to crowd near specific regions of the emitter. In these localized high
current density regions tends to fall off very sharply reducing the effective dc current gain.

Due to lower dc current gain the base current requirement of a power transistor switching
circuit increases. This requires a large base drive power supply and increased base drive
power loss.

This problem can be solved to some extent by using two power transistors connected in the
Darlington configuration as shown.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 42


iCD iL

iBD
QD
D iCM

M QM
iED

For this configuration.

i L = i CD + i CM
But i CD = D i BD
i CM = M i ED = M ( i BD + i CD )
i L = Di BD + Mi BD + M Di BD
= ( M + D + M D ) i BD = eqv i BD

equivalent (eqv) can be increased considerably due to multiplication of M & D.

Power Darlington has one problem, however. The main transistor (QM) does not go into hard
saturation due to VCE drop of QD. Therefore, the conduction loss is higher.

6. The voltage rating VSUS is the maximum allowable voltage across C & E when the transistor
is in active region with iB > 0 and collector current above a minimum value.
B

With both iB and iC greater than zero, there is considerable supply of minority carriers which
B

are accelerated by the large CB junction electric field to start avalanche breakdown at a
relatively lower voltage. Therefore, the voltage rating VSUS is the lowest of the three.

The rating VCEO is the maximum allowable voltage between C & E terminals when the
transistor is in cut off region with iB = 0 or iC is less than a specified value. Under this
B

condition the supply of minority carriers at the CB junction is much less compared to the
previous case. Therefore, avalanche breakdown of the CB junction occurs at a higher voltage.
Thus VCEO > VSUS.

The rating VCBO is the maximum allowable voltage between C & E terminals when the
transistor is in cut off with iB < 0 and iC less than a specified value. With iB = 0 the EB
B B

junction is still forward biased and there is small injection of minority carriers from the
emitter to the CB junction. However, with iB < 0 base emitter junction is reverse biased and
B

there is no supply of minority carriers to the CB junction from the emitter. Thus avalanche

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 43


break down of this junction occurs at a relatively higher voltage making the rating VCBO
largest of the three. Therefore, in general for a power transistor.

VCBO > VCEO > VSUS

In an inductive switching circuit using snubber the collector voltage falls considerably before
iC builds up to any significant level. This can be utilized to increase the usable steady state
blocking voltage of the transistor up to VCEO. Since VCE will go below VSUS before iC can
build up to the level where the rating VSUS becomes applicable.

Similarly during turn off, the overshoot in the VCE voltage can be accommodated in the
difference between VCBO and VCEO. Since during turn off iB < 0 and the voltage. overshoot
B

occurs with iC = 0 the applicable voltage limit will be VCBO and not VCEO. However,
precaution must be taken such that the voltage over shoot decays before iB becomes equal to
B

zero.

However, if a snubber circuit is not used the applicable voltage limit will always be VSUS
since in this case VCE does not fall till iC rises to its full value during turn ON. Similarly
during turn off iC does not fall till VCE rises to steady state blocking voltage level.

log iC

ICM
BP Pulsed
CP

CD DC BD

O
AD AP log vCE

7. The main difference between the DC and pulsed FBOSA is in the boundary corresponding to
maximum power dissipation and second break down. With only DC FBSOA the switching
trajectory has to be restricted to something similar to AD BD CD. However, with pulsed
FBSOA applicable limits of power dissipation and second break down increases
considerably. Both these limits require simultaneous existence of nonzero VCE & iC which for
a power transistor occurs only during switching. Therefore, the increases FBSOA can be
utilized and the switching trajectory improved to AP BP CP provided total switching time is
less than the pulse period for which the increased FBSOA is applicable.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 44


In addition pulsed FBSOA s are usually specified for a very low duty ratio. This condition
can be easily satisfied provided total turn on and turn off times of the transistor expressed as
a percentage of total ON and OFF periods of the transistor is less than this duty ratio
since during ON or OFF period the transistor remain well within DC FBSOA. In practice this
condition is satisfied by specifying a minimum ON and OFF period of the transistor.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 45


Thyristors and Triacs
Instructional objects
On completion the student will be able to

Explain the operating principle of a thyristor in terms of the two transistor analogy.
Draw and explain the i-v characteristics of a thyristor.
Draw and explain the gate characteristics of a thyristor.
Interpret data sheet rating of a thyristor.
Draw and explain the switching characteristics of a thyristor.
Explain the operating principle of a Triac.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 3


4.1 Introduction
Although the large semiconductor diode was a predecessor to thyristors, the modern power
electronics area truly began with advent of thyristors. One of the first developments was the
publication of the P-N-P-N transistor switch concept in 1956 by J.L. Moll and others at Bell
Laboratories, probably for use in Bells Signal application. However, engineers at General
Electric quickly recognized its significance to power conversion and control and within nine
months announced the first commercial Silicon Controlled Rectifier in 1957. This had a
continuous current carrying capacity of 25A and a blocking voltage of 300V. Thyristors (also
known as the Silicon Controlled Rectifiers or SCRs) have come a long way from this modest
beginning and now high power light triggered thyristors with blocking voltage in excess of 6kv
and continuous current rating in excess of 4kA are available. They have reigned supreme for two
entire decades in the history of power electronics. Along the way a large number of other devices
with broad similarity with the basic thyristor (invented originally as a phase control type device)
have been developed. They include, inverter grade fast thyristor, Silicon Controlled Switch
(SCS), light activated SCR (LASCR), Asymmetrical Thyristor (ASCR) Reverse Conducting
Thyristor (RCT), Diac, Triac and the Gate turn off thyristor (GTO).

From the construction and operational point of view a thyristor is a four layer, three terminal,
minority carrier semi-controlled device. It can be turned on by a current signal but can not be
turned off without interrupting the main current. It can block voltage in both directions but can
conduct current only in one direction. During conduction it offers very low forward voltage drop
due to an internal latch-up mechanism. Thyristors have longer switching times (measured in tens
of s) compared to a BJT. This, coupled with the fact that a thyristor can not be turned off using
a control input, have all but eliminated thyristors in high frequency switching applications
involving a DC input (i.e, choppers, inverters). However in power frequency ac applications
where the current naturally goes through zero, thyristor remain popular due to its low conduction
loss its reverse voltage blocking capability and very low control power requirement. In fact, in
very high power (in excess of 50 MW) AC DC (phase controlled converters) or AC AC
(cyclo-converters) converters, thyristors still remain the device of choice.

4.2 Constructional Features of a Thyristor


Fig 4.1 shows the circuit symbol, schematic construction and the photograph of a typical
thyristor.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 4


A

A
p

n-

G p

K n+ n+

(a) G
(c)
K
(b)

Fig. 4.1: Constructional features of a thysistor


(a) Circuit Symbol, (b) Schematic Construction, (c) Photograph

As shown in Fig 4.1 (b) the primary crystal is of lightly doped n- type on either side of
which two p type layers with doping levels higher by two orders of magnitude are grown. As in
the case of power diodes and transistors depletion layer spreads mainly into the lightly doped n-
region. The thickness of this layer is therefore determined by the required blocking voltage of the
device. However, due to conductivity modulation by carriers from the heavily doped p regions
on both side during ON condition the ON state voltage drop is less. The outer n+ layers are
formed with doping levels higher then both the p type layers. The top p layer acls as the Anode
terminal while the bottom n+ layers acts as the Cathode. The Gate terminal connections are
made to the bottom p layer.

As it will be shown later, that for better switching performance it is required to maximize
the peripheral contact area of the gate and the cathode regions. Therefore, the cathode regions are
finely distributed between gate contacts of the p type layer. An Involute structure for both the
gate and the cathode regions is a preferred design structure.

4.3 Basic operating principle of a thyristor


The underlying operating principle of a thyristor is best understood in terms of the two
transistor analogy as explained below.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 5


A
A A
IA

p p Q1 (1)
J1
iC2 iC1
- -
n n
IG
J2 (2) Q2 G
p p n-
G J2
n+ n+ J3 p
J3 IK
n+
K
G
K
K
(a) (b) (c)

Fig. 4.2: Two transistor analogy of a thyristor construction.


(a) Schematic Construction, (b) Schematic division in component
transistor
(c) Equivalent circuit in terms of two transistors.

a) Schematic construction,
b) Schematic division in component transistor
c) Equivalent circuit in terms of two transistors.

Let us consider the behavior of this p n p n device with forward voltage applied, i.e anode
positive with respect to the cathode and the gate terminal open. With this voltage polarity J1
& J3 are forward biased while J2 reverse biased.

Under this condition.

ic1 = 1 I A + I co1 ( 4.1)


ic 2 = 2 I K + I co2 ( 4.2 )

Where 1 & 2 are current gains of Q1 & Q2 respectively while Ico1 & Ico2 are reverse
saturation currents of the CB junctions of Q1 & Q2 respectively.

Now from Fig 4.2 (c).


i c1 + i c2 = I A ( 4.3)
& IA = IK ( 4.4 ) ( I G = 0 )
Combining Eq 4.1 & 4.4

I co1 + I co2 I co
IA = =
1- ( 1 + 2 ) 1- ( 1 + 2 )
( 4.5 )

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 6


Where I co I co1 + I co2 is the total reverse leakage current of J2

Now as long as VAK is small Ico is very low and both 1 & 2 are much lower than unity.
Therefore, total anode current IA is only slightly greater than Ico. However, as VAK is increased
up to the avalanche break down voltage of J2, Ico starts increasing rapidly due to avalanche
multiplication process. As Ico increases both 1 & 2 increase and 1 + 2 approaches unity.
Under this condition large anode current starts flowing, restricted only by the external load
resistance. However, voltage drop in the external resistance causes a collapse of voltage across
the thyristor. The CB junctions of both Q1 & Q2 become forward biased and the total voltage
drop across the device settles down to approximately equivalent to a diode drop. The thyristor is
said to be in ON state.

Just after turn ON if Ia is larger than a specified current called the Latching Current IL, 1 and
2 remain high enough to keep the thyristor in ON state. The only way the thyristor can be
turned OFF is by bringing IA below a specified current called the holding current (IH) where
upon 1 & 2 starts reducing. The thyristor can regain forward blocking capacity once excess
stored charge at J2 is removed by application of a reverse voltage across A & K (ie, K positive
with respect A).

It is possible to turn ON a thyristor by application of a positive gate current (flowing from gate to
cathode) without increasing the forward voltage across the device up to the forward break-over
level. With a positive gate current equation 4.4 can be written as

IK = IA + IG ( 4.6 )
2 I G + I co
Combining with Eqns. 4.1 to 4.3 I A =
1- ( 1 + 2 )
( 4.7 )

Obviously with sufficiently large IG the thyristor can be turned on for any value of Ico (and hence
VAK). This is called gate assisted turn on of a Thyristor. This is the usual method by which a
thyristor is turned ON.

When a reverse voltage is applied across a thyristor (i.e, cathode positive with respect to anose.)
junctions J1 and J3 are reverse biased while J2 is forward biased. Of these, the junction J3 has a
very low reverse break down voltage since both the n+ and p regions on either side of this
junction are heavily doped. Therefore, the applied reverse voltage is almost entirely supported by
junction J1. The maximum value of the reverse voltage is restricted by

a) The maximum field strength at junction J1 (avalanche break down)


b) Punch through of the lightly doped n- layer.

Since the p layers on either side of the n- region have almost equal doping levels the avalanche
break down voltage of J1 & J2 are almost same. Therefore, the forward and the reverse break
down voltage of a thyristor are almost equal.Up to the break down voltage of J1 the reverse
current of the thyristor remains practically constant and increases sharply after this voltage.
Thus, the reverse characteristics of a thyristor is similar to that of a single diode.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 7


If a positive gate current is applied during reverse bias condition, the junction J3 becomes
forward biased. In fact, the transistors Q1 & Q2 now work in the reverse direction with the roles
of their respective emitters and collectors interchanged. However, the reverse 1 & 2 being
significantly smaller than their forward counterparts latching of the thyristor does not occur.
However, reverse leakage current of the thyristor increases considerably increasing the OFF state
power loss of the device.

If a forward voltage is suddenly applied across a reverse biased thyristor, there will be
considerable redistribution of charges across all three junctions. The resulting current can
become large enough to satisfy the condition 1 + 2 = 1 and consequently turn on the thyristor.
This is called dv turn on of a thyristor and should be avoided.
dt

Exercise 4.1
1) Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. A thyristor is a ________________ carrier semi controlled device.


ii. A thyristor can conduct current in ________________ direction and block voltage in
________________ direction.
iii. A thyristor can be turned ON by applying a forward voltage greater than forward
________________ voltage or by injecting a positive ________________ current pulse
under forward bias condition.
iv. To turn OFF a thyristor the anode current must be brought below ________________
current and a reverse voltage must be applied for a time larger than ________________
time of the device.
v. A thyristor may turn ON due to large forward ________________.

Answers: (i) minority; (ii) one, both; (iii) break over, gate; (iv) holding, turn off;
(v) dv
dt

2. Do you expect a thyristor to turn ON if a positive gate pulse is applied under reverse bias
condition (i. e cathode positive with respect to anode)?

Answer: The two transistor analogy of thyristor shown in Fig 4.2 (c) indicates that when a
reverse voltage is applied across the device the roles of the emitters and collectors of the
constituent transistors will reverse. With a positive gate pulse applied it may appear that the
device should turn ON as in the forward direction. However, the constituent transistors have very
low current gain in the reverse direction. Therefore no reasonable value of the gate current will
satisfy the turn ON condition (i.e.1 + 2 = 1). Hence the device will not turn ON.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 8


4.4 Steady State Characteristics of a Thyristor

4.4.1 Static output i-v characteristics of a thyristor


IA VBRF

+ VAK -

A IA K

ig Ig
ig1 ig2 ig3 ig4
VBRR VBRF
IL
Is IH

VAK
ig4 > ig3 > ig2 > ig1 > ig = 0
VH
ig4 > ig3 > ig2 > ig1 > ig = 0

Fig. 4.3: Static output characteristics of a Thyristor

The circuit symbol in the left hand side inset defines the polarity conventions of the variables
used in this figure.

With ig = 0, VAK has to increase up to forward break over voltage VBRF before significant anode
current starts flowing. However, at VBRF forward break over takes place and the voltage across
the thyristor drops to VH (holding voltage). Beyond this point voltage across the thyristor (VAK)
remains almost constant at VH (1-1.5v) while the anode current is determined by the external
load.

The magnitude of gate current has a very strong effect on the value of the break over voltage as
shown in the figure. The right hand side figure in the inset shows a typical plot of the forward
break over voltage (VBRF) as a function of the gate current (Ig)

After Turn ON the thyristor is no more affected by the gate current. Hence, any current pulse
(of required magnitude) which is longer than the minimum needed for Turn ON is sufficient to
effect control. The minimum gate pulse width is decided by the external circuit and should be
long enough to allow the anode current to rise above the latching current (IL) level.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 9


The left hand side of Fig 4.3 shows the reverse i-v characteristics of the thyristor. Once the
thyristor is ON the only way to turn it OFF is by bringing the thyristor current below holding
current (IH). The gate terminal has no control over the turn OFF process. In ac circuits with
resistive load this happens automatically during negative zero crossing of the supply voltage.
This is called natural commutation or line commutation. However, in dc circuits some
arrangement has to be made to ensure this condition. This process is called forced
commutation.

During reverse blocking if ig = 0 then only reverse saturation current (Is) flows until the reverse
voltage reaches reverse break down voltage (VBRR). At this point current starts rising sharply.
Large reverse voltage and current generates excessive heat and destroys the device. If ig > 0
during reverse bias condition the reverse saturation current rises as explained in the previous
section. This can be avoided by removing the gate current while the thyristor is reverse biased.

The static output i-v characteristics of a thyristor depends strongly on the junction temperature as
shown in Fig 4.4.

VBRF IA

Tj =
150 135 25 75 125
25 75 125 150 Tj

VAK

Tj = 125 75 25 135 150

Fig. 4.4: Effect of junction temperature (Tj) on the output


i v characteristics of a thyristor.

4.4.2 Thyristor Gate Characteristics


The gate circuit of a thyristor behaves like a poor quality diode with high on state voltage drop
and low reverse break down voltage. This characteristic usually is not unique even within the
same family of devices and shows considerable variation from device to device. Therefore,
manufacturers data sheet provides the upper and lower limit of this characteristic as shown in
Fig 4.5.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 10


Vg Vg max A

E c d
Rg
ig
S2 E Vg
Pgav Max
Load line
Pgm K
Vg min b e
h

S1
Vng
f
g Ig max

Ig min Ig

Fig. 4.5: Gate characteristics of a thyristor.

Each thyristor has maximum gate voltage limit (Vgmax), gate current limit (Igmax) and maximum
average gate power dissipation limit ( Pgav Max ) . These limits should not be exceeded in order to
avoid permanent damage to the gate cathode junction. There are also minimum limits of Vg
(Vgmin) and Ig (Igmin) for reliable turn on of the thyristor. A gate non triggering voltage (Vng) is
also specified by the manufacturers of thyristors. All spurious noise signals should be less than
this voltage Vng in order to prevent unwanted turn on of the thyristor. The useful gate drive area
of a thyristor is then b c d e f g h.

Referring to the gate drive circuit in the inset the equation of the load line is given by

Vg = E - Rgig

A typical load line is shown in Fig 4.5 by the line S1 S2.

The actual operating point will be some where between S1 & S2 depending on the particular
device.

For optimum utilization of the gate ratings the load line should be shifted forwards the Pgav Max

curve without violating Vg Max or IgMax ratings. Therefore, for a dc source E c f represents the
optimum load line from which optimum values of E & Rg can be determined.

It is however customary to trigger a thyristor using pulsed voltage & current. Maximum power
dissipation curves for pulsed operation (Pgm) allows higher gate current to flow which in turn
reduces the turn on time of the thyristor. The value of Pgm depends on the pulse width (TON) of
the gate current pulse. TON should be larger than the turn on time of the thyristor. For TON larger

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 11


than 100 s, average power dissipation curve should be used. For TON less than 100 s the
following relationship should be maintained.

Pgm Pgav Max ( 4.9 )


Where = TON f p, f p = pulse frequency.

The magnitude of the gate voltage and current required for triggering a thyristor is inversely
proportional to the junction temperature.

The gate cathode junction also has a maximum reverse (i.e, gate negative with respect to the
cathode) voltage specification. If there is a possibility of the reverse gate cathode voltage
exceeding this limit a reverse voltage protection using diode as shown in Fig 4.6 should be used.

A A

Rg

G
E E

K K
(a) (b)
Fig. 4.6: Gate Cathode reverse voltage protection circuit.

Exercise 4.2
1) Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. Forward break over voltage of a thyristor decreases with increase in the


________________ current.
ii. Reverse ________________ voltage of a thyristor is ________________ of the gate
current.
iii. Reverse saturation current of a thyristor ________________ with gate current.
iv. In the pulsed gate current triggering of a thyristor the gate current pulse width should be
larger than the ________________ time of the device.
v. To prevent unwanted turn ON of a thyristor all spurious noise signals between the gate
and the cathode must be less than the gate ________________ voltage.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 12


Answer: (i) gate; (ii) break down, independent; (iii) increases; (iv) Turn ON; (v) non-
trigger.

2) A thyristor has a maximum average gate power dissipation limit of 0.2 watts. It is triggered
with pulsed gate current at a pulse frequency of 10 KHZ and duly ratio of 0.4. Assuming the gate
cathode voltage drop to be 1 volt. Find out the allowable peak gate current magnitude.

Answer: On period of the gate current pulse is

0.4
TON = TS = = sec = 40 s < 100 s.
fs 10 4

Therefore, pulsed gate power dissipation limit Pgm can be used. From Equation 4.9

Pgm Pgav ( Max )


0.2
or Pgm watts = .5watts

.5
But Pgm = Ig Vg; Vg = 1V I g Max = = 0.5Amps.
1

4.5 Thyristor ratings


Some useful specifications of a thyristor related to its steady state characteristics as found in a
typical manufacturers data sheet will be discussed in this section.

4.5.1 Voltage ratings


Peak Working Forward OFF state voltage (VDWM): It specifics the maximum forward (i.e,
anode positive with respect to the cathode) blocking state voltage that a thyristor can withstand
during working. It is useful for calculating the maximum RMS voltage of the ac network in
which the thyristor can be used. A margin for 10% increase in the ac network voltage should be
considered during calculation.

Peak repetitive off state forward voltage (VDRM): It refers to the peak forward transient
voltage that a thyristor can block repeatedly in the OFF state. This rating is specified at a
maximum allowable junction temperature with gate circuit open or with a specified biasing
resistance between gate and cathode. This type of repetitive transient voltage may appear across
a thyristor due to commutation of other thyristors or diodes in a converter circuit.

Peak non-repetitive off state forward voltage (VDSM): It refers to the allowable peak value of
the forward transient voltage that does not repeat. This type of over voltage may be caused due to
switching operation (i.e, circuit breaker opening or closing or lightning surge) in a supply
network. Its value is about 130% of VDRM. However, VDSM is less than the forward break over
voltage VBRF.

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Peak working reverse voltage (VDWM): It is the maximum reverse voltage (i.e, anode negative
with respect to cathode) that a thyristor can with stand continuously. Normally, it is equal to the
peak negative value of the ac supply voltage.

Peak repetitive reverse voltage (VRRM): It specifies the peak reverse transient voltage that may
occur repeatedly during reverse bias condition of the thyristor at the maximum junction
temperature.

Peak non-repetitive reverse voltage (VRSM): It represents the peak value of the reverse
transient voltage that does not repeat. Its value is about 130% of VRRM. However, VRSM is less
than reverse break down voltage VBRR.

Fig 4.7 shows different thyristor voltage ratings on a comparative scale.


IA

VBRR VRSM VRRM VRWM

VAK
VDWM VDRM VDSM VBRF

Fig. 4.7: Voltage ratings of a thyristor.

4.5.2 Current ratings


Maximum RMS current (Irms): Heating of the resistive elements of a thyristor such as metallic
joints, leads and interfaces depends on the forward RMS current Irms. RMS current rating is used
as an upper limit for dc as well as pulsed current waveforms. This limit should not be exceeded
on a continuous basis.

Maximum average current (Iav): It is the maximum allowable average value of the forward
current such that

i. Peak junction temperature is not exceeded


ii. RMS current limit is not exceeded

Manufacturers usually provide the forward average current derating characteristics which
shows Iav as a function of the case temperature (Tc ) with the current conduction angle as a
parameter. The current wave form is assumed to be formed from a half cycle sine wave of power
frequency as shown in Fig 4.8.

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Iav = 180
Amps 120
= 120
100

80 = 60

60 = 30

40

20

0
60 80 100 120 140
TC (C)
Fig. 4.8: Average forward current derating characteristics

Maximum Surge current (ISM): It specifies the maximum allowable non repetitive current the
device can withstand. The device is assumed to be operating under rated blocking voltage,
forward current and junction temperation before the surge current occurs. Following the surge
the device should be disconnected from the circuit and allowed to cool down. Surge currents are
assumed to be sine waves of power frequency with a minimum duration of cycles.
Manufacturers provide at least three different surge current ratings for different durations.

For example
I sM = 3000 A for 1 cycle
2
I sM = 2100 A for 3 cycles
I sM = 1800 A for 5 cycles

Alternatively a plot of IsM vs. applicable cycle numbers may also be provided.

Maximum Squared Current integral (i2dt): This rating in terms of A2S is a measure of the
energy the device can absorb for a short time (less than one half cycle of power frequency). This
rating is used in the choice of the protective fuse connected in series with the device.

Latching Current (IL): After Turn ON the gate pulse must be maintained until the anode
current reaches this level. Otherwise, upon removal of gate pulse, the device will turn off.

Holding Current (IH): The anode current must be reduced below this value to turn off the
thyristor.

Maximum Forward voltage drop (VF): Usually specified as a function of the instantaneous
forward current at a given junction temperature.
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Average power dissipation Pav): Specified as a function of the average forward current (Iav) for
different conduction angles as shown in the figure 4.9. The current wave form is assumed to be
half cycle sine wave (or square wave) for power frequency.

Pav
= 180
90
60
30
iF

Iav
Fig. 4.9: Average power dissipation vs average forward current in a thyristor.

In the above diagram

1
I av =
2 o F
i d ( 4.10 )
1
Pav =
2 o F F
v i d ( 4.11)

4.5.3 Gate Specifications


Gate current to trigger (IGT): Minimum value of the gate current below which reliable turn on
of the thyristor can not be guaranteed. Usually specified at a given forward break over voltage.

Gate voltage to trigger (VGT): Minimum value of the gate cathode forward voltage below
which reliable turn on of the thyristor can not be guaranteed. It is specified at the same break
over voltage as IGT.

Non triggering gate voltage (VGNT): Maximum value of the gate-cathode voltage below which
the thyristor can be guaranteed to remain OFF. All spurious noise voltage in the gate drive circuit
must be below this level.

Peak reverse gate voltage (VGRM): Maximum reverse voltage that can appear between the gate
and the cathode terminals without damaging the junction.

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Average Gate Power dissipation (PGAR): Average power dissipated in the gate-cathode
junction should not exceed this value for gate current pulses wider than 100 s.

Peak forward gate current (IGRM): The forward gate current should not exceed this limit even
on instantaneous basis.

Exercise 4.3
1) Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. Peak non-repetitive over voltage may appear across a thyristor due to ________________
or ________________ surges in a supply network.
ii. VRSM rating of a thyristor is greater than the ________________ rating but less than the
________________ rating.
iii. Maximum average current a thristor can carry depends on the ________________ of the
thyristor and the ________________ of the current wave form.
iv. The ISM rating of a thyristor applies to current waveforms of duration ________________
than half cycle of the power frequency where as the i2dt rating applies to current durations
________________ than half cycle of the power frequency.
v. The gate non-trigger voltage specification of a thyristor is useful for avoiding unwanted
turn on of the thyristor due to ________________ voltage signals at the gate.

Answer: (i) switching, lightning; (ii) VRRM, VBRR; (iii) case temperature, conduction
angle; (iv) greater, less; (v) noise

2. A thyristor has a maximum average current rating 1200 Amps for a conduction angle of 180.
Find the corresponding rating for = 60. Assume the current waveforms to be half cycle sine
wave.

Answer: The form factor of half cycle sine waves for a conduction angle is given by

I
F.F = RMS =
1
2

Sin d
o
2

=
(
- 1 Sin 2
2 )
Iav 1 1- Cos
2 Sin d
o

For = 180, F.F =


2
RMS current rating of the thyristor = 1200 = 1885 Amps.
2

For = 60, F.F = 2 - 3 = 2.778


3 4
Since RMS current rating should not exceeded

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 17


1200
Maximum Iav for = 60 = = 679.00 Amps.
4 - 3
3 4

4.6 Switching Characteristics of a Thyristor


During Turn on and Turn off process a thyristor is subjected to different voltages across it and
different currents through it. The time variations of the voltage across a thyristor and the current
through it during Turn on and Turn off constitute the switching characteristics of a thyristor.

4.6.1 Turn on Switching Characteristics


A forward biased thyristor is turned on by applying a positive gate voltage between the gate and
cathode as shown in Fig 4.10.
+ -
ig vAK

iA
ig
t
Vi R
iA 0.9 ION

ION
0.1 ION Firing angle
t Vi
vAK vAK iA
0.9 VON

VON
0.1 VON Expanded scale
t
tON
td tr tp
Fig. 4.10: Turn on characteristics of a thyristor.
Fig 4.10 shows the waveforms of the gate current (ig), anode current (iA) and anode cathode
voltage (VAK) in an expanded time scale during Turn on. The reference circuit and the associated
waveforms are shown in the inset. The total switching period being much smaller compared to
the cycle time, iA and VAK before and after switching will appear flat.

As shown in Fig 4.10 there is a transition time tON from forward off state to forward on state.
This transition time is called the thyristor turn of time and can be divided into three separate
intervals namely, (i) delay time (td) (ii) rise time (tr) and (iii) spread time (tp). These times are
shown in Fig 4.10 for a resistive load.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 18


Delay time (td): After switching on the gate current the thyristor will start to conduct over the
portion of the cathode which is closest to the gate. This conducting area starts spreading at a
finite speed until the entire cathode region becomes conductive. Time taken by this process
constitute the turn on delay time of a thyristor. It is measured from the instant of application of
the gate current to the instant when the anode current rises to 10% of its final value (or VAK falls
to 90% of its initial value). Typical value of td is a few micro seconds.

Rise time (tr): For a resistive load, rise time is the time taken by the anode current to rise from
10% of its final value to 90% of its final value. At the same time the voltage VAK falls from 90%
of its initial value to 10% of its initial value. However, current rise and voltage fall
characteristics are strongly influenced by the type of the load. For inductive load the voltage falls
faster than the current. While for a capacitive load VAK falls rapidly in the beginning. However,
as the current increases, rate of change of anode voltage substantially decreases.

If the anode current rises too fast it tends to remain confined in a small area. This can give rise to
local hot spots and damage the device. Therefore, it is necessary to limit the rate of rise of the
di
ON state current A by using an inductor in series with the device. Usual values of maximum
dt
allowable di A is in the range of 20-200 A/s.
dt

Spread time (tp): It is the time taken by the anode current to rise from 90% of its final value to
100%. During this time conduction spreads over the entire cross section of the cathode of the
thyristor. The spreading interval depends on the area of the cathode and on the gate structure of
the thyristor.

4.6.2 Turn off Switching Characteristics


Once the thyristor is on, and its anode current is above the latching current level the gate loses
control. It can be turned off only by reducing the anode current below holding current. The turn
off time tq of a thyristor is defined as the time between the instant anode current becomes zero
and the instant the thyristor regains forward blocking capability. If forward voltage is applied
across the device during this period the thyristor turns on again.
During turn off time, excess minority carriers from all the four layers of the thyristor must be
removed. Accordingly tq is divided in to two intervals, the reverse recovery time (trr) and the gate
recovery time (tqr). Fig 4.11 shows the variation of anode current and anode cathode voltage with
time during turn off operation on an expanded scale.

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vAK
iA
iA
di A
dt
ig
Vi
t
Qrr
Irr

vAK vi
iA
t

t
vi
Expanded
Vrr scale

trr tgr
tq

Fig. 4.11: Turn off characteristics of a thyristor.

The anode current becomes zero at time t1 and starts growing in the negative direction with the
same di A till time t2. This negative current removes excess carriers from junctions J1 & J3. At
dt
time t2 excess carriers densities at these junctions are not sufficient to maintain the reverse
current and the anode current starts decreasing. The value of the anode current at time t2 is called
the reverse recovery current (Irr). The reverse anode current reduces to the level of reverse
saturation current by t3. Total charge removed from the junctions between t1 & t3 is called the
reverse recovery charge (Qrr). Fast decaying reverse current during the interval t2 t3 coupled with
the di limiting inductor may cause a large reverse voltage spike (Vrr) to appear across the
dt
device. This voltage must be limited below the VRRM rating of the device. Up to time t2 the
voltage across the device (VAK) does not change substantially from its on state value. However,
after the reverse recovery time, the thyristor regains reverse blocking capacity and VAK starts
following supply voltage vi. At the end of the reverse recovery period (trr) trapped charges still
exist at the junction J2 which prevents the device from blocking forward voltage just after trr.
These trapped charges are removed only by the process of recombination. The time taken for this
recombination process to complete (between t3 & t4) is called the gate recovery time (tgr). The
time interval tq = trr + tgr is called device turn off time of the thyristor.

No forward voltage should appear across the device before the time tq to avoid its inadvertent
turn on. A circuit designer must provide a time interval tc (tc > tq) during which a reverse voltage
is applied across the device. tc is called the circuit turn off time.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 20


The reverse recovery charge Qrr is a function of the peak forward current before turn off and its
di
rate of decrease A . Manufacturers usually provide plots of Qrr as a function of di A for
dt dt
different values of peak forward current. They also provide the value of the reverse recovery
current Irr for a given IA and di A . Alternatively Irr can be evaluated from the given Qrr
dt
characteristics following similar relationships as in the case of a diode.

As in the case of a diode the relative magnitudes of the time intervals t1 t2 and t2 t3 depends on
the construction of the thyristor. In normal recovery converter grade thyristor they are almost
equal for a specified forward current and reverse recovery current. However, in a fast recovery
inverter grade thyristor the interval t2 t3 is negligible compared to the interval t1 t2. This helps
reduce the total turn off time tq of the thyristor (and hence allow them to operate at higher
switching frequency). However, large voltage spike due to this snappy recovery will appear
across the device after the device turns off. Typical turn off times of converter and inverter
grade thyristors are in the range of 50-100 s and 5-50 s respectively.

As has been mentioned in the introduction thyristor is the device of choice at the very highest
power levels. At these power levels (several hundreds of megawatts) reliability of the thyristor
power converter is of prime importance. Therefore, suitable protection arrangement must be
made against possible overvoltage, overcurrent and unintended turn on for each thyristor. At the
highest power level (HVDC transmission system) thyristor converters operate from network
voltage levels in excess of several hundreds of kilo volts and conduct several tens of kilo amps
of current. They usually employ a large number of thyristors connected in series parallel
combination. For maximum utilization of the device capacity it is important that each device in
this series parallel combination share the blocking voltage and on state current equally. Special
equalizing circuits are used for this purpose.

Exercise 4.4
1) Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. A thyristor is turned on by applying a ________________ gate current pulse when it is


________________ biased.
ii. Total turn on time of a thyristor can be divided into ________________ time
________________ time and ________________ time.
iii. During rise time the rate of rise of anode current should be limited to avoid creating local
________________.
iv. A thyristor can be turned off by bringing its anode current below ________________
current and applying a reverse voltage across the device for duration larger than the
________________ time of the device.
v. Reverse recovery charge of a thyristor depends on the ________________ of the forward
current just before turn off and its ________________.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 21


vi. Inverter grade thyristors have ________________ turn off time compared to a converter
grade thyristor.
Answer: (i) positive, forward; (ii) delay, rise, spread; (iii) hot spots (iv) holding, turn off; (v)
magnitude, rate of decrease (vi) faster

2. With reference to Fig 4.10 find expressions for (i) turn on power loss and (ii) conduction
power loss of the thyristor as a function of the firing angle . Neglect turn on delay time and
spread time and assume linear variation of voltage and current during turn on period. Also
assume constant on state voltage VH across the thyristor.

Answer: (i) For a firing angle the forward bias voltage across the thyristor just before turn on
is
VON = 2Vi Sin ; Vi = RMS value of supply voltage.
Current after the thyristor turns on for a resistive load is

VON Vi
I ON = = 2 Sin
R R

Neglecting delay and spread time and assuming linear variation of voltage and current during
turn on

Vak = 2 Vi Sin 1 - t . where V has been neglected.



t ON
H

2 Vi Sin t
ia =
R t ON
Total switching energy loss
t ON 2Vi 2 t ON
1 - t t
E ON = v ak i a dt =Sin 2 dt
o R o t ON t ON
2Vi 2 t 2 Vi 2
= Sin 2 ON 1 - = Sin 2 t ON
R 2 3 3R

EON occurs once every cycle. If the supply frequency is f then average turn on power loss is
given by.

Vi 2
PON = E ON f = Sin 2 t ON f
3R

(ii) If the firing angle is the thyristor conducts for - angle. Instantaneous current through the
device during this period is
2 Vi Sin t
ia = R <t
R
Where tON & VH have been neglected for simplicity.

total conduction energy loss over one cycle is

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 22


1 2 Vi 2 Vi VH
E C = Vak i a dt =
H
V
R
Sin d =
R
(1 + Cos )

2 Vi VH
Average conduction power loss = PC = E cf =
2R
(1 + Cos )

Fuse

i1

Vi
if
220 V
50 HZ

3. In the ideal single phase fully controlled converter T1 & T2 are fired at a firing angle after
the positive going zero crossing of Vi while T3 & T4 are fired angle after the negative going
zero crossing of Vi, If all thyristors have a turn off time of 100 s, find out maximum allowable
value of .

Answer: As T1 & T2 are fired at an angle after positive going zero crossing of Vi, T3 & T4 are
subjected to a negative voltage of Vi. Since this voltage remain negative for a duration (-)
angle (after which Vi becomes positive) for safe commutation
( - Max) t off Max = 178.2 .
0

4.7 The Triac


The Triac is a member of the thyristor family. But unlike a thyristor which conducts only in one
direction (from anode to cathode) a triac can conduct in both directions. Thus a triac is similar to
two back to back (anti parallel) connected thyristosr but with only three terminals. As in the case
of a thyristor, the conduction of a triac is initiated by injecting a current pulse into the gate
terminal. The gate looses control over conduction once the triac is turned on. The triac turns off
only when the current through the main terminals become zero. Therefore, a triac can be
categorized as a minority carrier, a bidirectional semi-controlled device. They are extensively
used in residential lamp dimmers, heater control and for speed control of small single phase
series and induction motors.

4.7.1 Construction and operating principle


Fig. 4.12 (a) and (b) show the circuit symbol and schematic cross section of a triac respective. As
the Triac can conduct in both the directions the terms anode and cathode are not used for
Triacs. The three terminals are marked as MT1 (Main Terminal 1), MT2 (Main Terminal 2) and
the gate by G. As shown in Fig 4.12 (b) the gate terminal is near MT1 and is connected to both

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 23


N3 and P2 regions by metallic contact. Similarly MT1 is connected to N2 and P2 regions while
MT2 is connected to N4 and P1 regions.

MT1
N2
MT2 N2
P2 G
P2
N3
N3 P2 N1

G P1
N1
MT1

N4 P1
(a)

(b)
MT2
Fig. 4.12: Circuit symbol and schematic construction of a Triac
(a) Circuit symbol (b) Schematic construction.
Since a Triac is a bidirectional device and can have its terminals at various combinations of
positive and negative voltages, there are four possible electrode potential combinations as given
below

1. MT2 positive with respect to MT1, G positive with respect to MT1


2. MT2 positive with respect to MT1, G negative with respect to MT1
3. MT2 negative with respect to MT1, G negative with respect to MT1
4. MT2 negative with respect to MT1, G positive with respect to MT1

The triggering sensitivity is highest with the combinations 1 and 3 and are generally used.
However, for bidirectional control and uniforms gate trigger mode sometimes trigger modes 2
and 3 are used. Trigger mode 4 is usually averded. Fig 4.13 (a) and (b) explain the conduction
mechanism of a triac in trigger modes 1 & 3 respectively.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 24


IG IG
G MT1
MT1
(-)
(+)

IG N2 N3 IG

P2 P2

N1
N1
P1
P1 N4

MT2 MT2
(+) (-)
(a) (b)
Fig. 4.13: Conduction mechanism of a triac in trigger modes 1
and 3
(a) Mode 1 , (b) Mode 3 .
In trigger mode-1 the gate current flows mainly through the P2 N2 junction like an ordinary
thyristor. When the gate current has injected sufficient charge into P2 layer the triac starts
conducting through the P1 N1 P2 N2 layers like an ordinary thyristor.

In the trigger mode-3 the gate current Ig forward biases the P2 P3 junction and a large number of
electrons are introduced in the P2 region by N3. Finally the structure P2 N1 P1 N4 turns on
completely.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 25


4.7.2 Steady State Output Characteristics and Ratings of a Triac
I

Ig3 > Ig2 > Ig1 > Ig = 0


-VBO

VBO V
Ig = 0
-Ig3 < Ig2 < Ig1

Fig. 4.14: Steady state V I characteristics of a Triac

From a functional point of view a triac is similar to two thyristors connected in anti parallel.
Therefore, it is expected that the V-I characteristics of Triac in the 1st and 3rd quadrant of the V-I
plane will be similar to the forward characteristics of a thyristors. As shown in Fig. 4.14, with no
signal to the gate the triac will block both half cycle of the applied ac voltage provided its peak
value is lower than the break over voltage (VBO) of the device. However, the turning on of the
triac can be controlled by applying the gate trigger pulse at the desired instance. Mode-1
triggering is used in the first quadrant where as Mode-3 triggering is used in the third quadrant.
As such, most of the thyristor characteristics apply to the triac (ie, latching and holding current).
However, in a triac the two conducting paths (from MT1 to MT2 or from MT1 to MT1) interact
with each other in the structure of the triac. Therefore, the voltage, current and frequency ratings
of triacs are considerably lower than thyristors. At present triacs with voltage and current ratings
of 1200V and 300A (rms) are available. Triacs also have a larger on state voltage drop compared
to a thyristor. Manufacturers usually specify characteristics curves relating rms device current
and maximum allowable case temperature as shown in Fig 4.15. Curves relating the device
dissipation and RMS on state current are also provided for different conduction angles.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 26


A

Bidirectional ON state current 200

150

100
(RMS)

For all conduction angles


50

0 C
20 40 60 80 100 120
Maximum allowable case temperature (TC)
Fig. 4.15: RMS ON state current Vs maximum case temperature.

4.7.3 Triac Switching and gate trigger circuit


Unlike a thyristor a triac gets limited time to turn off due to bidirectional conduction. As a result
the triacs are operated only at power frequency. Switching characteristics of a triac is similar to
that of a thyristor. However, turn off of a triac is extremely sensitive to temperature variation and
may not turn off at all if the junction temperature exceeds certain limit. Problem may arise when
a triac is used to control a lagging power factor load. At the current zero instant (when the triac
turns off) a reverse voltage will appear across the triac since the supply voltage is negative at that
instant. The rate of rise of this voltage is restricted by the triac junction capacitance only. The
resulting dv may turn on the triac again. Similar problem occurs when a triac is used to
dt
control the power to a resistive element which has a very low resistance before normal working
condition is reached. If such a load (e.g. incandescent filament lamp) is switch on at full supply
voltage very large junction capacitance charging current will turn ON the device. To prevent
such condition an R-C snubber is generally used across a triac.

The triac should be triggered carefully to ensure safe operation. For phase control application,
the triac is switched on and off in synchronism with the mains supply so that only a part of each
half cycle is applied across the load. To ensure clean turn ON the trigger signal must rise
rapidly to provide the necessary charge. A rise time of about 1 s will be desirable. Such a triac
gate triggering circuit using a diac and an R-C timing network is shown in Fig 4.16.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 27


LOAD

R1

R
D1
R2
V1

C1 C

Fig. 4.16: Triac triggering circuit using a diac.

In this circuit as Vi increases voltage across C1 increases due to current flowing through load, R1,
R2 and C1. The voltage drop across diac D1 increases until it reaches its break over point. As D1
conducts a large current pulse is injected into the gate of the triac. By varying R2 the firing can
be controlled from zero to virtually 100%.

Exercise 4.5
1) Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. A Triac is a ________________ minority carrier device


ii. A Triac behaves like two ________________ connected thyristors.
iii. The gate sensitivity of a triac is maximum when the gate is ________________ with
respect to MT1 while MT2 is positive with respect to MT1 or the gate is
________________ with respect to MT1 while MT2 is negative with respect to MT1
iv. A Triac operates either in the ________________ or the ________________ quadrant of
the i-v characteristics.
v. In the ________________ quadrant the triac is fired with ________________ gate
current while in the ________________ quadrant the gate current should be
________________.
vi. The maximum possible voltage and current rating of a Triac is considerably
________________ compared to thyristor due to ________________ of the two current
carrying paths inside the structure of the triac.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 28


vii. To avoid unwanted turn on of a triac due to large dv ________________ are used
dt
across triacs.
viii. For clean turn ON of a triac the ________________ of the gate current pulse should be
as ________________ as possible.

Answer: (i) bidirectional; (ii) anti parallel; (iii) positive, negative; (iv) first, third; (v) first,
positive, third, negative (vi) lower, interaction; (vii) R-C shubbers; (viii) rise time,
small.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 29


References
1. Dr. P.C. Sen, Power Electronics; Tata McGrow Hill Publishing Company Limited;
New Delhi.
2. Dr. P.S. Bimbhra, Power Electronics Khanna Publishers

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 30


Lesson Summary
Thyristor is a four layer, three terminal, minority carrier, semi-controlled device.
The three terminals of a thyristor are called the anode, the cathode and the gate.
A thyristor can be turned on by increasing the voltage of the anode with respect to the
cathode beyond a specified voltage called the forward break over voltage.
A thyristor can also be turned on by injecting a current pulse into the gate terminal when
the anode voltage is positive with respect to the cathode. This is called gate triggering.
A thyristor can block voltage of both polarity but conducts current only from anode to
cathode.
After a thyristor turns on the gate looses control. It can be turned off only by bringing the
anode current below holding current.
After turn on the voltage across the thyristor drops to a very low value (around 1 volt). In
the reverse direction a thyristor blocks voltage up to reverse break down voltage.
A thyristor has a very low conduction voltage drop but large switching times. For this
reason thyristors are preferred for high power, low frequency line commutated
application.
A thyristor is turned off by bringing the anode current below holding current and
simultaneously applying a negative voltage (cathode positive with respect to anode) for a
minimum time called turn off time.
A triac is functionally equivalent to two anti parallel connected thyristors. It can block
voltages in both directions and conduct current in both directions.
A triac has three terminals like a thyristor. It can be turned on in either half cycle by
either a positive on a negative current pulse at the gate terminal.
Triacs are extensively used at power frequency ac load (eg heater, light, motors) control
applications.

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Practice Problems and Answers

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 32


1. Explain the effect of increasing the magnitude of the gate current and junction
temperature on (i) forward and reverse break down voltages, (ii) forward and reverse
leakage currents.

Th
15 V R

N1 N2
iB

2. The thyristor Th is triggered using the pulse transformer shown in figure. The pulse
transformer operates at 10 KHZ with a duty cycle of 40%. The thyristor has maximum
average gate power dissipation limit of 0.5 watts and a maximum allow able gate voltage
limit of 10 volts. Assuming ideal pulse transformer, find out the turns ratio N1/N2 and the
value of R.
Fuse

i1

Vi
if
220 V
50 HZ

3. A thyristor full bridge converter is used to drive a dc motor as shown in the figure. The
thyristors are fired at a firing angle = 0 when motor runs at rated speed. The motor has
on armature resistance of 0.2 and negligible armature inductance. Find out the peak
surge current rating of the thyristors such that they are not damaged due to sudden loss of
field excitation to the motor. The protective fuse in series with the motor is designed to
disconnect the motor within 1 cycle of fault. Find out the i 2 dt rating of the
2
thyristors.
4. Why is it necessary to maximize the peripheral contact area of the gate and the cathode
regions? A thyristor used to control the voltage applied to a load resistance from a 220v,

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 33


di a
50HZ single phase ac supply has a maximum rating of 50 A / s. Find out the
dt
di a
value of the limiting inductor to be connected in series with the load resistance.
dt
THM

-
200V C
+ THA
20 A
200V

5. In a voltage commutated dc dc thyristor chopper the main thyristor THM is


commutated by connecting a pre-charged capacitor directly across it through the auxiliary
thyristor THA as shown in the figure. The main thyristor THM has a turn off time off
50s and maximum dv rating of 500v/ s. Find out a suitable value of C for safe
dt
commutation of THM.

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Answers to Practice Problems

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 35


1.
i. Forward break down voltage reduces with increasing gate current. It increases with
junction temperature up to certain value of the junction temperature and then falls rapidly
with any further increase in temperature.
Reverse break down voltage is independent of the gate current magnitude but decreases
with increasing junction temperature.
ii. Forward leakage current is independent of the gate current magnitude but increases with
junction temperature.
Reverse leakage current increases with both the junction temperature and the magnitude
of the gate current.
THM

-
200V C
+ THA
20 A
200V

2. Figure shows the equivalent gate drive circuit of the thyristor. For this circuit one can write
E = R i g + Vg OR Vg = E - R i g

The diode D clamps the gate voltage to zero when E goes negative.

Now for ig = O, Vg = E. Since Vg Max = 10 v E = 10 v


N2 N2
But E = 15 = 15 = 1.5
N1 N1 10

Gate pulse width = 0.4 10-4 Sec = 40s. <100s.

instantaneous gate power dissipation limit can be used.

Pav
0.2
Vg i g Max
== = 0.5 watts

Max
0.4
For maximum utilization of the gate power dissipation limit the gate load line ie Vg = E igR =
10 igR should be tangent to the maximum power dissipation curve Vg ig = 0.5

Let the operating Vg and ig be Vgo & igo

Vgo = 10 - i go R
Vgo i go = 0.5
i go 2 R - 10 i go + 0.5 = 0

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 36


Since Vg = 10 ig R is tangent to Vg ig = 0.5 at Vgo, igo.

Slope of the tangent of Vgig = 0.5 at (Vgo, igo) = -R

dv g - vg v
-R = = = - go
di g ( vgo,igo ) i g ( vgo,igo ) i go
v go v i 0.5
R = = go 2go = 2
i go i go i go
0.5
i go 2 - 10i go + 0.5 = 0 or 10i go = 1 or i go = 0.1
i go 2
0.5
R = 0.5 2 = = 50
i go .01

Back emf.
Va

t
ia
(normal)
t
ia
(with field loss)

3. Figure shows the armature voltage (firm line) and armature current of the motor under normal
operating condition at rated speed. If there is a sudden loss of field excitation back emf will
become zero and armature current will be limited solely by the armature resistance.
220 2
The peak magnitude of the fault current will be = 1556(Amps) .
.2
It the thyristors have to survive this fault at least for 1 cycle (after which the fuse blows) IsM >
2
1556 Amps.

The fuse blows within 1 cycle of the fault occurring. Therefore the thyristors must withstand
2
the fault for at least 1 cycle.
2
2
Therefore, the i t rating of the thyristor should be

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 37


10-2
i dt = (1556 Sin 100 t )
2 2
0

(1556 )
2
10-2
=
2
0
[1 - Cos 200 t ] dt

= 1 10 -2 (1556 ) = 1.21 10 4 A 2 Sec


2
2

4. At the beginning of the turn on process the thyristor starts conducting through the area
adjacent to the gate. This area spreads at a finite speed. However, if rate of increase of anode
current is lager than the rate of increase of the current conduction are, the current density
increases with time. This may lead to thyristor failure due to excessive local heating. However, if
the contact area between the gate and the cathode is large a thyristor will be able to handle a
di
relatively large a without being damaged.
dt

di a
The maximum will occur when the thyristor is triggered at = 90. Then
dt

di a
L = 2 220 Sin 90 0
dt

di a
Since = 50 10 6 A Sec
dt Max

2 220
L = = 6.22 10 -6 H = 6.22 H
min
di a
dt
Max

VC toff 200 V

vTHM
dv / dt
t

iC

20 Amps.
t

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 38


5. As soon as THA is turned on the load current transfer from THM to C. the voltage across
THM is the negative of the capacitance voltage. Figure shows the waveforms of voltage across
the capacitor (vc), voltage across the main thyristor (VTHM) and the capacitor current ic. From
dv i
figure = c
dt c
dv
Now ic = 20 Amps & = 500 v s
dt Max

ic 20
C = = 6 = 4 10
-8
F = 0.04 F
Min dv 50010
dt Max

The circuit turn off time is the time taken by the capacitor voltage to reach zero from an initial
value of 200v. This time must be greater than the turn off time of the device.

dv c
Now C = i c = 20
dt
20 t
v c = v = 200 - 0 = 200
c
t = t off
20 50 10 -6
200 =
C
20 50 10 -6
C = = 5 F
200

For safe commutation of THM the higher value of C must the chosen

the required value of C = 5 F.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 39


GTO (Gate Turn Off Thyristor)
Instructional objective
On completion the student will be able to

Differentiate between the constructional features of a GTO and a Thyristor.


Explain the turn off mechanism of a GTO.
Differentiate between the steady state output and gate characteristics of a GTO and a
thyristor.
Draw and explain the switching characteristics of a GTO.
Draw the block diagram of a GTO gate drive unit and explain the functions of different
blocks.
Interpret the manufacturers data sheet of a GTO.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 3


Introduction
The thyristor has reigned supreme for well over two decades in the power electronics industry
and continues to do so at the very highest level of power. It, however, has always suffered from
the disadvantage of being a semi-controlled device. Although it could be turned on by applying a
gate pulse but to turn it off the main current had to be interrupted. This proved to be particularly
inconvenient in DC to AC and DC to DC conversion circuits, where the main current does not
naturally becomes zero. A bulky and expensive commutation circuit had to be used to ensure
proper turning off of the thyristor. The switching speed of the device was also comparatively
slow even with fast inverter grade thyristor. The development of the Gate Turn off thyristor
(GTO) has addressed these disadvantages of a thyristor to a large extent. Although it has made a
rather late entry (1973) into the thyristor family the technology has matured quickly to produce
device comparable in rating (5000V, 4000Amp) with the largest available thyristor.
Consequently it has replaced the forced commutated inverter grade thyristor in all DC to AC and
DC to DC converter circuits.

Like thyristor, the GTO is a current controlled minority carrier (i.e. bipolar) device. GTOs differ
from conventional thyristor in that, they are designed to turn off when a negative current is sent
through the gate, thereby causing a reversal of the gate current. A relatively high gate current is
need to turn off the device with typical turn off gains in the range of 4-5. During conduction, on
the other hand, the device behaves just like a thyristor with very low ON state voltage drop.

Several different varieties of GTOs have been manufactured. Devices with reverse blocking
capability equal to their forward voltage ratings are called symmetric GTOs. However, the
most poplar variety of the GTO available in the market today has no appreciable reverse voltage
(20-25v) blocking capacity. These are called Asymmetric GTOs. Reverse conducting GTOs
(RC-GTO) constitute the third family of GTOs. Here, a GTO is integrated with an anti-parallel
freewheeling diode on to the same silicon wafer. This lesson will describe the construction,
operating principle and characteristic of Asymmetric GTOs only.

5.2 Constructional Features of a GTO


Fig 5.1 shows the circuit symbol and two different schematic cross section of a GTO.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 4


Anode
A Contact
p+ n+ p+ n+ p+ p+
J1 n
Anode
Short. Buffer
n Layer n-
J2
p J3 p
G
K n+ n+ n+ n+

(a) G G

C C
(b) (c)
Fig. 5.1: Circuit symbol and schematic cross section of a GTO
(a) Circuit Symbol, (b) Anode shorted GTO structure,
(c) Buffer layer GTO structure.

Like a thyristor, a GTO is also a four layer three junction p-n-p-n device. In order to obtain high
emitter efficiency at the cathode end, the n+ cathode layer is highly doped. Consequently, the
break down voltage of the function J3 is low (typically 20-40V). The p type gate region has
conflicting doping requirement. To maintain good emitter efficiency the doping level of this
layer should be low, on the other hand, from the point of view of good turn off properties,
resistively of this layer should be as low as possible requiring the doping level of this region to
be high. Therefore, the doping level of this layer is highly graded. Additionally, in order to
optimize current turn off capability, the gate cathode junction must be highly interdigitated. A
3000 Amp GTO may be composed of upto 3000 individual cathode segments which are a
accessed via a common contact. The most popular design features multiple segments arranged in
concentric rings around the device center.

The maximum forward blocking voltage of the device is determined by the doping level and the
thickness of the n type base region next. In order to block several kv of forward voltage the
doping level of this layer is kept relatively low while its thickness is made considerably higher (a
few hundred microns). Byond the maximum allowable forward voltage either the electric field at
the main junction (J2) exceeds a critical value (avalanche break down) or the n base fully
depletes, allowing its electric field to touch the anode emitter (punch through).

The junction between the n base and p+ anode (J1) is called the anode junction. For good turn
on properties the efficiency of this anode junction should be as high as possible requiring a
heavily doped p+ anode region. However, turn off capability of such a GTO will be poor with
very low maximum turn off current and high losses. There are two basic approaches to solve this
problem.

In the first method, heavily doped n+ layers are introduced into the p+ anode layer. They make
contact with the same anode metallic contact. Therefore, electrons traveling through the base can
directly reach the anode metal contact without causing hole injection from the p+ anode. This is
the classic anode shorted GTO structure as shown in Fig 5.1 (b). Due to presence of these
anode shorts the reverse voltage blocking capacity of GTO reduces to the reverse break down
Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 5
voltage of junction J3 (20-40 volts maximum). In addition a large number of anode shorts
reduces the efficiency of the anode junction and degrades the turn on performance of the device.
Therefore, the density of the anode shorts are to be chosen by a careful compromise between
the turn on and turn off performance.

In the other method, a moderately doped n type buffer layer is juxtaposed between the n- type
base and the anode. As in the case of a power diode and BJT this relatively high density buffer
layer changes the shape of the electric field pattern in the n- base region from triangular to
trapezoidal and in the process, helps to reduce its width drastically. However, this buffer layer in
a conventional anode shorted GTO structure would have increased the efficiency of the anode
shorts. Therefore, in the new structure the anode shorts are altogether dispensed with and a thin
p+ type layer is introduce as the anode. The design of this layer is such that electrons have a high
probability of crossing this layer without stimulating hole injection. This is called the
Transparent emitter structure and is shown in Fig 5.1 (c).

Exercise 5.1

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. A GTO is a _______________ controlled _______________ carrier device.


ii. A GTO has _______________ layers and _______________ terminals.
iii. A GTO can be turned on by injecting a _______________ gate current and turned off by
injecting a _______________ gate current.
iv. The anode shorts of a GTO improves the _______________ performance but degrades
the _______________ performance.
v. The reverse voltage blocking capacity of a GTO is small due to the presence of
_______________.

Answer: (i) current, minority; (ii) four, three; (iii) positive, negative; (iv) turn off, turn on; (v)
anode shorts.

5.3 Operating principle of a GTO


GTO being a monolithic p-n-p-n structure just like a thryistor its basic operating principle can be
explained in a manner similar to that of a thyristor. In particular, the p-n-p-n structure of a GTO
can be though of consisting of one p-n-p and one n-p-n transistor connected in the regenerative
configuration as shown in Fig 5.2.

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A A A
G
p IA p
p n p
n iB n
n iC1
iC2
p p n
IG p
p n G G
iB2 n p
Hole current n Hole current
Electron Electron
IK current C A
current G C C
(a) (b)

Fig 5.2: Current distribution in a GTO


(a) During turn on; (b) During turn off.

From the two transistor analogy (Fig 5.2 (a)) of the GTO structure one can write.

i C1 = p I A + ICBO1 ( 5.1)
i B1 = i C 2 = n I k + ICBO2 ( 5.2 )
I k = I A + IG and IA = i B1 + i C1 ( 5.3)
n IG + ( iCBO1 + i CBO2 )
Combining I A = ( 5.4 )
1- ( n + p )

With applied forward voltage VAK less than the forward break over voltage both ICBO1 and ICBO2
are small. Further if IG is zero IA is only slightly higher than (ICBO1 + ICBO2). Under this condition
both n and p are small and (p + n) <<1. The device is said to be in the forward blocking
mode.

To turn the device on either the anode voltage can be raised until ICBO1 and ICBO2 increases by
avalanche multiplication process or by injecting a gate current. The current gain of silicon
transistors rises rapidly as the emitter current increases. Therefore, any mechanism which causes
a momentary increase in the emitter current can be used to turn on the device. Normally, this is
done by injecting current into the p base region via the external gate contract. As n + p
approaches unity the anode current tends to infinity. Physically as n + p nears unity the device
starts to regenerate and each transistor drives its companion into saturation. Once in saturation,
all junctions assume a forward bias and total potential drop across the device becomes
approximately equal to that of a single p-n diode. The anode current is restricted only by the
external circuit. Once the device has been turned on in this manner, the external gate current is
no longer required to maintain conduction, since the regeneration process is self-sustaining.
Reversion to the blocking mode occurs only when the anode current is brought below the
holding current level.

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To turn off a conducting GTO the gate terminal is biased negative with respect to the cathode.
The holes injected from the anode are, therefore, extracted from the p base through the gate
metallization into the gate terminal (Fig 5.2 (b)). The resultant voltage drop in the p base above
the n emitter starts reverse biasing the junction J3 and electron injection stops here. The process
originates at the periphery of the p base and the n emitter segments and the area still injecting
electron shrinks. The anode current is crowded into higher and higher density filaments in most
remote areas from the gate contact. This is the most critical phase in the GTO turn off process
since highly localized high temperature regions can cause device failure unless these current
filaments are quickly extinguished. When the last filament disappears, electron injection stops
completely and depletion layer starts to grow on both J2 and J3. At this point the device once
again starts blocking forward voltage. However, although the cathode current has ceased the
anode to gate current continues to flow (Fig 5.2 (b)) as the n base excess carriers diffuse towards
J1. This tail current then decays exponentially as the n base excess carriers reduce by
recombination. Once the tail current has completely disappeared does the device regain its steady
state blocking characteristics. Anode Shorts (or transparent emitter) helps reduce the tail
current faster by providing an alternate path to the n base electrons to reach the anode contact
without causing appreciable hole injection from anode.

Exercise 5.2

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. After a GTO turns on the gate current can be _______________.


ii. A conducting GTO reverts back to the blocking mode when the anode current falls below
_______________ current.
iii. To turn off a conducting GTO the gate terminal is biased _______________ with respect
to the _______________.
iv. Current filaments produced during the turn off process of a GTO can destroy the device
by creating local _______________.
v. Anode shorts help to reduce the _______________ current in a GTO.

Answer: (i) removed; (ii) holding; (iii) negatively, cathode; (iv) hot spot; (v) tail.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 8


5.4 Steady state and dynamic characteristics of a GTO

5.4.1Steady state output and gate characteristics


+ VAK -
IA - IG
IA vg
Min Max
IG +
IL
VBRR
IL

VAK
VBRF
vg

(a) (b)

Fig. 5.3: Steady state characteristics of a GTO


(a) Output characteristics; (b) Gate characteristics.
This characteristic in the first quadrant is very similar to that of a thyristor as shown in Fig. 5.3
(a). However, the latching current of a GTO is considerably higher than a thyristor of similar
rating. The forward leakage current is also considerably higher. In fact, if the gate current is not
sufficient to turn on a GTO it operates as a high voltage low gain transistor with considerable
anode current. It should be noted that a GTO can block rated forward voltage only when the gate
is negatively biased with respect to the cathode during forward blocking state. At least, a low
value resistance must be connected across the gate cathode terminal. Increasing the value of this
resistance reduces the forward blocking voltage of the GTO. Asymmetric GTOs have small (20-
30 V) reverse break down voltage. This may lead the device to operate in reverse avalanche
under certain conditions. This condition is not dangerous for the GTO provided the avalanche
time and current are small. The gate voltage during this period must remain negative.

Fig 5.3 (b) shows the gate characteristics of a GTO. The zone between the min and max curves
reflects parameter variation between individual GTOs. These characteristics are valid for DC and
low frequency AC gate currents. They do not give correct voltage when the GTO is turned on
dI
with high dia and G . VG in this case is much higher.
dt dt

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5.4.2 Dynamic characteristics of a GTO
iA, VAK di
dt VDM Vd
VD IL
0.9VD VD
0.9IL RL
tON
IL
VT
Itail di/dt
0.1IL
0.1VD limiting
t L
td tr
Ig Vg dig/dt ts
tf ttail ig
IGM IG
vg
t
VgR
QgQ

IgQ
digQ
dt

Fig. 5.4: Switching characteristics of a GTO.

Fig 5.4 shows the switching characteristics of a GTO and refers to the resistive dc load switching
circuit shown on the right hand side. When the GTO is off the anode current is zero and VAK =
Vd. To turn on the GTO, a positive gate current pulse is injected through the gate terminal. A
substantial gate current ensure that all GTO cathode segments are turned on simultaneously and
within a short time. There is a delay between the application of the gate pulse and the fall of
anode voltage, called the turn on delay time td. After this time the anode voltage starts falling
while the anode current starts rising towards its steady value IL. Within a further time interval tr
they reach 10% of their initial value and 90% of their final value respectively. tr is called the
current rise time (voltage fall time). Both td and maximum permissible on state di A are very
dt
much gate current dependent. High value of I gM and dig at turn on reduces these times and
dt
di
increases maximum permissible on state A . It should be noted that large value of ig (IgM)
dt
and dig are required during td and tr only. After this time period both vg and ig settles down to
dt
their steady value. A minimum ON time period tON (min) is required for homogeneous anode
current conduction in the GTO. This time is also necessary for the GTO to be able to turn off its
rated anode current.

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To turn off a GTO the gate terminal is negatively biased with respect to the cathode. With the
application of the negative bias the gate current starts growing in the negative direction.
However, the anode voltage,current or the gate voltage does not change appreciably from their
on state levels for a further time period called the storage time (ts). The storage time increases
di
with the turn off anode current and decrease with gQ . During storage time the load current at
dt
the cathode end is gradually diverted to the gate terminal. At the end of the storage time gate
current reaches its negative maximum value IgQ. At this point both the junctions J2 & J3 of the
GTO starts blocking voltage. Consequently, both the gate cathode and the anode cathode voltage
starts rising towards their final value while the anode current starts decreasing towards zero. At
the end of current fall time tf the anode current reaches 10% of its initial value after which both
the anode current and the gate current continues to flow in the form of a current tail for a further
duration of ttail. A GTO is normally used with a R-C turn off snubber. Therefore, VAK does not
start to rise appreciably till tf. At this point VAK starts rising rapidly and exceeds the dc voltage
Vd (VdM) (due to resonance of snubber capacitor with di limiting inductor) before setting
dt
down at its steady value Vd . A GTO should not be retriggered within a minimum off period off
(min) to avoid the risk of failure due to localized turn ON. GTOs have typically low turn off gain
in the range of 4-5.

5.4.3 GTO gate drive circuit


A GTO gate drive has to fulfill the following functions.

Turn the GTO on by means of a high current pulse (IGM)


Maintain conduction through provision of a continuous gate current (IG, also known as
the back-porch current).
Turn the GTO off with a high negative gate current pulse.
Reinforce the blocking state of the device by a negative gate voltage.
A typical gate drive arrangement for a large power GTO is show in Fig 5.5.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 11


H.F.DC to H.F. AC to DC Output
AC INV. H.F TXF Rectifier Stage

A B C D
E
F
Optical
Fiber optic Control
cable Logic
Electrical
Optical -
Electrical
Converter (a)
+ A

R1 R2

C2
+ ON T1
-
G
OFF T2
- R3
-
+ K
(b)
Fig. 5.5: Gate drive circuit of a GTO.
(a) Block diagram,
(b) Circuit diagram of the output stage

In the block diagram of Fig 5.5 (a) it is assumed that there is a potential difference of several kVs
between the master control and individual gate units.

The ON and OFF pulses for a GTO is communicated to individual gate units through fiber optic
cables. These optical signals are converted to electrical signals by a optical electrical converter.
These electrical signals through the control logic then produces the ON and OFF signal for the
out put stage which in turn sends positive and negative gate current to the GTO. Depending on
the requirement the control logic may also supervise GTO conduction by monitoring the gate-
cathode voltage. Any fault is relayed back via fiber optic cable to the master control. Power
supply for the Gate drive units are derived from a common power supply through a high
frequency SMPS (Blocks A, B & C) arrangement.

Fig 5.5 (b) shows the circuit implementation of the output stage. The top switch T1 sends positive
gate pulse to the GTO gate. At the instant of turn on of T1 ,C2 acts almost as a short circuit and
Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 12
the positive gate current is determined by the parallel combination of R1 and R2. However, at
steady state only R1 determines the gate current IG.

The bottom switch T2 is used for biasing the GTO gate negative with respect to the cathode.
Since, relatively large negative gate current flows during turn off, no external resistance is used
in series with T2. Instead, the ON state resistance of T2 is utilized for this purpose. In practice, a
large number of switches are connected in parallel to obtain the required current rating of T2. A
low value resistance R3 is connected between the gate and the cathode terminals of the GTO to
ensure minimum forward blocking voltage.

Exercise 5.3

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. The _______________ current and forward _______________ current of a GTO are


considerably higher compared to a thyristor.
ii. If the gate current is insufficient a GTO can operate as a low gain _______________.
iii. Reverse blocking voltage of _______________ GTO is small.
iv. To ensure that all GTO cathode segments are turned on simultaneously the magnitude of
the _______________ current should be _______________.
v. High value of gate current and dig/dt enhances the _______________ capability of a
GTO during turn on.
vi. During storage time the load current in a GTO is diverted from the _______________ to
the _______________ terminal.
vii. GTOs have low turn off _______________ gain.
viii. After the current fall time during turn off of a GTO the anode current continuous for
some more time in the form of a _______________.
ix. The gate drive unit of a GTO should provide continuous positive gate _______________
during ON period and continuous negative gate _______________ during OFF period.
x. In the gate drive unit of a GTO a low value resistance is connected between the gate and
the cathode terminals to ensure minimum _______________ voltage.

Answer: (i) latching, leakage; (ii) transistor; (iii) asymmetric; (iv) gate, high; (v) di/dt;
(vi) cathode, gate; (vii) current; (viii) current tail; (ix) current, voltage; (x)
forward blocking.

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5.5 GTO Ratings

5.5.1Steady state voltage and current rating


VDRM: It is the maximum repetitive forward voltage the GTO can block in the forward
direction assuming line frequency sinusoidal voltage waveform. It is important to note that GTO
can block rated voltage only if the gate is reverse biased or at least connected to the cathode
through a low value resistance. Manufactures usually provide the forward voltage withstanding
capacity of the GTO as a functions of the gate cathode reverse voltage (and /or resistance) for a
given forward dv .
dt

VRRM: It is the maximum repetitive reverse voltage the GTO is able to withstand. For all
asymmetric GTOs this value is in the range of 20-30 V, since it is determined by the gate
cathode junction break down voltage. Due to the anode shorted structure of the GTO the anode
base junction (J1) does not block any reverse voltage. Unlike VDRM, VRRM rating may be
exceeded for a short time without destroying the device. This reverse avalanche capability of
the GTO is useful in certain situations as explained in Fig 5.6.

VG1
IG1 IG1
VG1
IG1 IL VD
G1 D1 VG1
t
IL
VD ID2
VG2
VD IL
VG2 t
G2 D2 ID2 Vfr > VRRM

(a) (b)

Fig. 5.6: Reverse avalanche capability of a GTO


(a) Voltage source inverter phase leg;
(b) Voltage, current waveforms.
In the voltage source inverter phase leg shown in Fig 5.6 (a), as the GTO G1 is turned off the
current through it (IG1) starts reducing. The difference current (IL - IG1) is transferred to the
snubber capacitance of G1 and the voltage across G1 (VG1) starts increasing. When if becomes
equal to the dc link voltage VD , D2 is forward biased. However, due to the forward recovery
voltage of D2 (Vfr) the reverse voltage across G2 may exceed VRRM rating of G2 and drive it into
reverse avalanche. This condition is not dangerous for G2 provided the avalanche time and
current are small (typically within 10 s and 1000 A respectively). However, the gate voltage
must remain negative during this time.

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VDC: This is the maximum continuous DC voltage the device can withstand. Exceeding this
voltage does not immediately lead to device failure, but the probability of a cosmic radiation
failure increases progressively with the applied dc voltage.

IFAVM and IFRMS: These are maximum average and RMS on state current respectively. They are
specified at a given case temperature assuming half wave sinusoidal on state current at power
frequency.

IFSM: This is the maximum allowed peak value of a power frequency half sinusoidal non-
repetitive surge current. The pulse is assumed to be applied at an instant when the GTO is
operating at its maximum junction temperature. The voltage across the device just after the surge
should be zero.

i dt : This is the limiting value of the surge current integral assuming half cycle sine wave
2

surge current. The junction temperature is assumed to be at the maximum value before the surge
and the voltage across the device following the surge is assumed to be zero. The i2t rating of a
semiconductor fuse must be less than this value in order to protect the GTO. Plots of both IFSM
and i 2 dt as functions of surge pulse width are usually provided by the manufacturer.

VF : This is the plot of the instantaneous forward voltage drop vs instantaneous forward
current at different junction temperatures.

Pav : For some frequently encountered current waveforms (e.g. sine wave, square wave) the
plot of the average on state power dissipation as a function of the average on state current is
provided by the manufacturers at a given junction temperature.

IH: This is the holding current of the GTO. This current, in case of a GTO1 , is considerably
higher compared to a similarly rated thyristor. Serious problem may arise due to anode current
variation because the GTO may un-latch at an in appropriate moment. This problem can be
avoided by feeding a continuous current into the gate (called the back porch current) during
ON period of the device. This DC gate current should be about 20% higher than the gate trigger
current (IGT) at the lowest expected junction temperature.

di
crit : This is the maximum permissible value of the rate of change of forward current during
dt
turn on. This value is very much dependent on the peak gate current magnitude and the rate of
increase of the gate current. A substantial gate current ensures that all GTO cathode segments are
turned ON simultaneously and within a short time so that no local hot spot is created.
di
The g and IgM values specified in the operating conditions should, therefore, be considered as
dt
minimum values.

5.5.2 Gate specification


Ig vs Vg: It is a plot of instantaneous gate current as a function of the gate voltage. This
characteristic is valid for DC and low frequency AC gate currents. They do not define the gate

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di g
voltage when the GTO is turned on from high anode voltage with high di/dt and . Vg in this
dt
case is much higher. Generally the gate cathode impedance of a GTO is much lower than that of
a conventional thyristor.

Vgt, Igt: Igt is the gate trigger current and Vgt , the instantaneous gate cathode voltage when Igt is
flowing into the gate. Igt has a strong junction temperature dependence and increases very rapidly
with reduced junction temperature. Igt merely specifies the minimum back porch current
necessary to turn on the GTO at a low di and maintain it in conduction.
dt

Vgrm: It is the maximum repetitive reverse gate voltage, exceeding which drives the gate
cathode junction into avalanche breakdown.

Igrm: It is the peak repetitive reverse gate current at Vgrm and Tj (max).

Igqm: It is the maximum negative turn off gate current. The gate unit should be designed to
di
deliver this current under any condition. It is a function of turn off anode current, g during
dt
turn off and the junction temperature.

5.5.3 Specifications related to the switching performance


td, tr, :These are turn on delay time and anode voltage fall time respectively. Both of them can
di
be reduced with higher g and IgM for a given turn on anode voltage, current and di .
dt dt
ton (min) : This is the minimum time the GTO requires to establish homogeneous anode current.
This time is also necessary for the GTO to be able to turn off its rated anode current.

EON : It is the energy dissipated during each turn on operation. Manufacturers specify them as
functions of turn on anode current for different turn on di/dt and anode voltage EON reduces with
increased IgM .

IFgqm : It is the maximum anode current that can be repetitively turned off by a negative gate
current. It can be increased by increasing the value of the turn off snubber capacitance which
limits the dv/dt at turn off. A large negative dig/dt during turn off also helps to increase IFgqm.

ts : The storage time ts is defined as the time between the start of negative gate current and
the decrease in anode current. High value of the turn off anode current and junction temperature
increases it while a large negative dig/dt during turn off decreases it.

tf : This is the anode current fall time. It can not be influenced much by gate control.

toff(min) : This is the minimum off time before the GTO may be triggered again by a positive
gate current. If the device is re-triggered during this time, localized turn on may destroy it.

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Eoff : This is the energy dissipated during each turn off operation of the GTO. Eoff increases
with increase in the turn off anode current and junction temperature while it reduces with turn off
snubber capacitance.

Exercise 5.4

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. A GTO can block rated forward voltage only when the gate is _______________ biased
with respect to the _______________.
ii. A GTO can operate in the reverse _______________ region for a short time.
iii. The holding current of a GTO is much _______________ compared to a thyristor.
iv. After a current surge the voltage across a GTO should be reduced to _______________.
v. The gate cathode impedance of a GTO is much _______________ compared to a
thyristor.
vi. The turn on di/dt capability of a GTO can be increased by in creasing the
_______________ magnitude of the gate current and _______________ during turn on.
vii. The turn on delay time and current rise time of a GTO can be reduced by increasing the
gate current _______________ and _______________ during turn ON.
viii. The maximum anode current that can be turned off repetitively can be increased by
increasing the turn off snubber _______________ and negative _______________.

Answer: (i) negatively, cathode; (ii) avalanche; (iii) larger; (iv) zero; (v) smaller; (vi)
peak, dig/dt; (vii) magnitude, dig/dt; (viii) capacitance, dig/dt.

Reference
1) GTO and GCT product guide, ABB semiconductors AG, 1997.
2) GTO Thyristors , Makoto Azuma and Mamora Kurata, Proceedings of the IEEE,
Vol.76, No. 4, April 1988, pp 419-427.
3) Power Electronics, P. S. Bimbhra, Khanna Publlishers, 1993.

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Lesson Summary
GTO is a four layer, three terminal current controlled minority carrier device.
A GTO can be turned on by applying a positive gate current pulse when it is forward
biased and turned off by applying a negative gate current.
A GTO has a shorted anode and highly inter-digitized gate cathode structure to
improve the gate turn off performance.
Due to the presence of anode shorts a GTO can block only a small reverse voltage.
These are called asymmetric GTOs.
The forward i-v characteristics of a GTO is similar to that of a thyristor. However, they
have relatively larger holding current and gate trigger current.
The turn on di/dt capability of a GTO is significantly enhanced by using higher peak gate
current and large rate of rise of the gate current.
Due to relatively larger holding current of a GTO a continuous low value gate current
(called the back porch current) should be injected through out the on period of the GTO.
GTOs have relatively low turn off current gain.
The GTO gate drive unit should be capable of injecting large positive and negative gate
currents with large rate of rise for satisfactory switching of the device.
A GTO can block rated forward voltage only when the gate cathode junction is reverse
biased.
A GTO can operate safely in the reverse avalanche region for a short time provided the
gate cathode junction is reverse biased.
The switching delay times and energy loss of a GTO can be reduced by increasing the
gate current magnitude and its rate of rise.
The maximum turn off anode current of a GTO can be increased by increasing the turn
off snubber capacitance.

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Practice Problems and Answers

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1. What are the constructional features of a GTO that bestows it with a gate turn off
capability? How do they affect the turn on performance of the GTO?
2. What are the main differences in the steady state output characteristics of a GTO and a
thyristor? What effect do they have on the gate drive requirement of a GTO?
3. What are the desirable characteristics of the gate drive circuit of a GTO? How do they
influence the switching performance of a GTO?
4. What is the significance of the specifications IFAVM and IFRMS in relation to a GTO? Is the
specification IFgqm. Same as IFAVM / IFRMS? If not, then which current should one use in a
particular application?
5. Which paramers of the gate current waveform reduces the turn on energy loss (EON) of a
GTO? How does one reduce the turn off energy lass of a GTO?

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Answers to practice problems
1. Although a GTO is a four layer (p-n-p-n) three junction devices like a thyristor it has two
important constructional differences with a thyristor which bestows it with the gate turn off
capability.

The Gate-cathode junction of a GTO is far more inter digitized compared to a thyristor.
Thousands of cathode segments, normally arranged in concentric rings around the device
center, from the cathode structure of a GTO. This highly inter digitized structure of the
GTO cathode ensures that any current filament formed during the turn off process of a
GTO is quickly extinguished.
Anode shorts are introduced at the p+ type anode and n type base junction of a GTO.
Anode shorts consists of heavily doped n+ type region introduced inside the p+ type
anodes. They make direct contact with the anode metal plate and provide an alternate path
for the electrons traveling through the n base to reach the anode metal contact without
causing bole injection from the p+ anode. This helps to reduce the tail current during turn
off of a GTO.
Highly inter digitized gate-cathode structure of a GTO helps to enhance the turn on di/dt
capability of the device due to faster and more even spreading of the injected gate current
to adjacent cathodes.
On the other hand, presence of anode shorts has adverse effect on the turn on performance
of a GTO. Referring to Fig 5.2 (a), introduction of anode shorts effectively reduces the
current gain p of the top p-n-p transistor. This has the effect of increasing the latching
and holding current of a GTO compared to a thyristor. The minimum gate current required
to trigger a GTO also increases.

2. In the first quadrant of the output i-v plane the steady state output characteristics of a GTO
appears to be similar to that of a thyristor. There are some important differences however.

Both holding and latching current of a GTO are considerably higher compared to a
similarly rated thyrisstor.
The minimum gate current require to trigger a GTO at a given forward blocking voltage is
higher compared to a thyristor.
The forward leakage current of a GTO is considerably higher compared to a thyristor of
equal rating. In fact, if the gate current is not sufficient to turn on a GTO it may operate as
a high voltage low gain transistor with considerable anode current.
A GTO can block rated forward voltage only when the gate voltage is negative with respect
to the cathode or at least the gate is connected to the cathode through a low value
resistance.
In the reverse blocking region (i.e third quadrant of the output i-v plane) an asymmetric
GTO has much lower reverse break down voltage (20-30V) compared to a thyristors.
Exceeding this reverse voltage forces the GTO to operate in the reverse avalanche mode.

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This mode of operation does not destroy the device provided the gate is negatively biased
and the time of such operation is small.
Since the holding current of a GTO is considerably higher than that of a thyristor anode
current variations can generate serious problem because the GTO might unlatch at an
inappropriate moment. To avoid this problem the gate drive unit of a GTO must feed the
gate terminal with a continuous back porch current during the entire on period of the
GTO. This back porch current must be larger than the gate trigger current.
To avoid localized transistor operation during turn on from a high anode voltage with large
di/dt, the gate drive unit must inject a peak gate current considerably larger (3-10 times)
than the gate trigger current with fast rate of rise.
To ensure that the GTO blocks rated forward voltage and operates safely in the reverse
avalanche mode the gate voltage must be maintained negative with respect to the cathode
for the entire off duration of the GTO.

3. The gate drive unit of a GTO should.

Turn the GTO on with a large (3-10 times the minimum gate trigger current) positive gate
current pulse with high rate of rise.
Maintain conduction of the GTO through out the ON period by injecting a positive back
porch gate current which is larger than the minimum gate trigger current.
Turn the GTO off with a large negative gate current with high rate of fall. The peak
magnitude of the negative gate current should be at least 20-25% of the maximum anode
current during turn off.
Reinforce the blocking state of the device by applying a negative voltage to the gate with
respect to cathode for the entire off duration of the GTO.

Both the turn on delay time (td) and the voltage fall time (tr) of a GTO can be reduced by
increasing the peak positive gate current and its rate of rise during turn on. Energy loss per
turn on (EON) also reduces.

A large negative gate current during turn off with a stiff slope considerably reduces the
storage time (ts) and enhances maximum anode current turn off (IFgqm) capability.

4. The specifications of IFAVM and IFRMS are given with reference to power frequency half
cycle sine wave anode current. If the GTO is employed in a line commutated phase
controlled converter application then these specifications give the maximum allowable
average and RMS current through the device respectively. However, in most GTO
applications the current waveform is for removed from a sinusoidal shape and the
switching losses are a considerable part of the total power losses. IFAVM / IFRMS ratings, in
such cases, does not have any practical significance except for comparison of current
carrying capacity of different devices.

On the other hand, IFgqm rating of a GTO gives the maximum anode current that can be
repetitively turned off by gate control. This rating is usually lower than IFAVM / IFRMS. In

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high frequency switching application this specification gives the absolute peak value of any
desired current waveform the GTO can conduct.

5. Eon is reduced by increasing the peak magnitude of the positive gate current during turn on.
Eoff is reduced by increasing the turn off snubber capacitance across the GTO.

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MOSFET

Constructional Features, operating principle and characteristics of Power Metal Oxide


Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor (MOSFET).

Instructional Objectives
On completion the student will be able to

Differentiate between the conduction mechanism of a MOSFET and a BJT.


Explain the salient constructional features of a MOSFET.
Draw the output i-v characteristics of a MOSFET and explain it in terms of the operating
principle of the device.
Explain the difference between the safe operating area of a MOSFET and a BJT.
Draw the switching characteristics of a MOSFET and explain it.
Design the gate drive circuit of a MOSFET.
Interpret the manufacturers data sheet rating of a MOSFET.

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6.1 Introduction
Historically, bipolar semiconductor devices (i.e, diode, transistor, thyristor, thyristor, GTO etc)
have been the front runners in the quest for an ideal power electronic switch. Ever since the
invention of the transistor, the development of solid-state switches with increased power
handling capability has been of interest for expending the application of these devices. The BJT
and the GTO thyristor have been developed over the past 30 years to serve the need of the power
electronic industry. Their primary advantage over the thyristors have been the superior switching
speed and the ability to interrupt the current without reversal of the device voltage. All bipolar
devices, however, suffer from a common set of disadvantages, namely, (i) limited switching
speed due to considerable redistribution of minority charge carriers associated with every
switching operation; (ii) relatively large control power requirement which complicates the
control circuit design. Besides, bipolar devices can not be paralleled easily.

The reliance of the power electronics industry upon bipolar devices was challenged by the
introduction of a new MOS gate controlled power device technology in the 1980s. The power
MOS field effect transistor (MOSFET) evolved from the MOS integrated circuit technology. The
new device promised extremely low input power levels and no inherent limitation to the
switching speed. Thus, it opened up the possibility of increasing the operating frequency in
power electronic systems resulting in reduction in size and weight. The initial claims of infinite
current gain for the power MOSFET were, however, diluted by the need to design the gate drive
circuit to account for the pulse currents required to charge and discharge the high input
capacitance of these devices. At high frequency of operation the required gate drive power
becomes substantial. MOSFETs also have comparatively higher on state resistance per unit area
of the device cross section which increases with the blocking voltage rating of the device.
Consequently, the use of MOSFET has been restricted to low voltage (less than about 500 volts)
applications where the ON state resistance reaches acceptable values. Inherently fast switching
speed of these devices can be effectively utilized to increase the switching frequency beyond
several hundred kHz.

From the point of view of the operating principle a MOSFET is a voltage controlled
majority carrier device. As the name suggests, movement of majority carriers in a MOSFET is
controlled by the voltage applied on the control electrode (called gate) which is insulated by a
thin metal oxide layer from the bulk semiconductor body. The electric field produced by the gate
voltage modulate the conductivity of the semiconductor material in the region between the main
current carrying terminals called the Drain (D) and the Source (S). Power MOSFETs, just like
their integrated circuit counterpart, can be of two types (i) depletion type and (ii) enhancement
type. Both of these can be either n- channel type or p-channel type depending on the nature of
the bulk semiconductor. Fig 6.1 (a) shows the circuit symbol of these four types of MOSFETs
along with their drain current vs gate-source voltage characteristics (transfer characteristics).

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D D
D D
ID ID
ID ID
G G
G G

S S S
S

ID ID ID ID

VGS VGS VGS VGS


n-channel depletion type p-channel depletion type n-channel enhancement p-channel enhancement
MOSFET MOSFET type MOSFET type MOSFET
(a)

(b)

Fig 6.1: Different types of power MOSFET.


(a) Circuit symbols and transfer characteristics
(b) Photograph of n-channel enhancement type MOSFET.

From Fig 6.1 (a) it can be concluded that depletion type MOSFETs are normally ON type
switches i.e, with the gate terminal open a nonzero drain current can flow in these devices. This
is not convenient in many power electronic applications. Therefore, the enhancement type
MOSFETs (particularly of the n-channel variety) is more popular for power electronics
applications. This is the type of MOSFET which will be discussed in this lesson. Fig 6.1 (b)
shows the photograph of some commercially available n-channel enhancement type Power
MOSFETs.

6.2 Constructional Features of a Power MOSFET


As mentioned in the introduction section, Power MOSFET is a device that evolved from
MOS integrated circuit technology. The first attempts to develop high voltage MOSFETs were
by redesigning lateral MOSFET to increase their voltage blocking capacity. The resulting
technology was called lateral double deffused MOS (DMOS). However it was soon realized that
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much larger breakdown voltage and current ratings could be achieved by resorting to a vertically
oriented structure. Since then, vertical DMOS (VDMOS) structure has been adapted by virtually
all manufacturers of Power MOSFET. A power MOSFET using VDMOS technology has
vertically oriented three layer structure of alternating p type and n type semiconductors as shown
in Fig 6.2 (a) which is the schematic representation of a single MOSFET cell structure. A large
number of such cells are connected in parallel (as shown in Fig 6.2 (b)) to form a complete
device.

Source
Gate conductor
FIELD OXIDE Gate oxide

n+ n+ n+ n+
p(body) p(body)

n- (drain drift)
n+

Drain

(a)
Contact to source

Source
Conductor
Field oxide
Gate
Oxide

Gate
Conductor
Single
n- MOSFET
Cell
n+ p n+ n+ p n+ n+

n-

n+

(b)
Fig. 6.2: Schematic construction of a power MOSFET
(a) Construction of a single cell.
(b) Arrangement of cells in a device.
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The two n+ end layers labeled Source and Drain are heavily doped to approximately the
same level. The p type middle layer is termed the body (or substrate) and has moderate doping
level (2 to 3 orders of magnitude lower than n+ regions on both sides). The n- drain drift region
has the lowest doping density. Thickness of this region determines the breakdown voltage of the
device. The gate terminal is placed over the n- and p type regions of the cell structure and is
insulated from the semiconductor body be a thin layer of silicon dioxide (also called the gate
oxide). The source and the drain region of all cells on a wafer are connected to the same metallic
contacts to form the Source and the Drain terminals of the complete device. Similarly all gate
terminals are also connected together. The source is constructed of many (thousands) small
polygon shaped areas that are surrounded by the gate regions. The geometric shape of the source
regions, to same extent, influences the ON state resistance of the MOSFET.

D D
S G MOSFET
Parasitic BJT
+ +
n p n
Body spreading Parasitic BJT
resistance
n- G G
n+ Body diode

S S
D

Fig. 6.3: Parasitic BJT in a MOSFET cell.

One interesting feature of the MOSFET cell is that the alternating n+ n- p n+ structure
embeds a parasitic BJT (with its base and emitter shorted by the source metallization) into
each MOSFET cell as shown in Fig 6.3. The nonzero resistance between the base and the
emitter of the parasitic npn BJT arises due to the body spreading resistance of the p type
substrate. In the design of the MOSFET cells special care is taken so that this resistance is
minimized and switching operation of the parasitic BJT is suppressed. With an effective
short circuit between the body and the source the BJT always remain in cut off and its
collector-base junction is represented as an anti parallel diode (called the body diode) in
the circuit symbol of a Power MOSFET.

6.3 Operating principle of a MOSFET


At first glance it would appear that there is no path for any current to flow between the
source and the drain terminals since at least one of the p n junctions (source body and
body-Drain) will be reverse biased for either polarity of the applied voltage between the
source and the drain. There is no possibility of current injection from the gate terminal
either since the gate oxide is a very good insulator. However, application of a positive
voltage at the gate terminal with respect to the source will covert the silicon surface
beneath the gate oxide into an n type layer or channel, thus connecting the Source to the
Drain as explained next.

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The gate region of a MOSFET which is composed of the gate metallization, the gate
(silicon) oxide layer and the p-body silicon forms a high quality capacitor. When a small
voltage is application to this capacitor structure with gate terminal positive with respect to
the source (note that body and source are shorted) a depletion region forms at the interface
between the SiO2 and the silicon as shown in Fig 6.4 (a).

VGS1
Gate Electrode
Source
+++ ++++++++
Electrode
Si02
n+

Ionized Depletion layer


p acceptor boundary.

n-

(a)

VGS2
VGS2 > VGS1
Gate Electrode
Source
+++ ++++++++
Electrode
Si02
n+

Depletion layer
p Ionized boundary.
acceptor Free
electron
n-

(b)

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VGS3
VGS3 > VGS2 > VGS1 Gate Electrode
Source
+++ ++++++++
Electrode
Si02
Inversion layer
n+ with free electrons

Depletion layer
boundary.
p
Ionized
n- acceptor

(c)
Fig. 6.4: Gate control of MOSFET conduction.
(a) Depletion layer formation;
(b) Free electron accumulation;
(c) Formation of inversion layer.

The positive charge induced on the gate metallization repels the majority hole carriers from
the interface region between the gate oxide and the p type body. This exposes the
negatively charged acceptors and a depletion region is created.

Further increase in VGS causes the depletion layer to grow in thickness. At the same time
the electric field at the oxide-silicon interface gets larger and begins to attract free electrons
as shown in Fig 6.4 (b). The immediate source of electron is electron-hole generation by
thermal ionization. The holes are repelled into the semiconductor bulk ahead of the
depletion region. The extra holes are neutralized by electrons from the source.

As VGS increases further the density of free electrons at the interface becomes equal to the
free hole density in the bulk of the body region beyond the depletion layer. The layer of
free electrons at the interface is called the inversion layer and is shown in Fig 6.4 (c). The
inversion layer has all the properties of an n type semiconductor and is a conductive path or
channel between the drain and the source which permits flow of current between the
drain and the source. Since current conduction in this device takes place through an n- type
channel created by the electric field due to gate source voltage it is called Enhancement
type n-channel MOSFET.

The value of VGS at which the inversion layer is considered to have formed is called the
Gate Source threshold voltage VGS (th). As VGS is increased beyond VGS(th) the
inversion layer gets some what thicker and more conductive, since the density of free
electrons increases further with increase in VGS. The inversion layer screens the depletion
layer adjacent to it from increasing VGS. The depletion layer thickness now remains
constant.

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Exercise 6.1 (after section 6.3)

1. Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. A MOSFET is a ________________ controlled ________________ carrier device.


ii. Enhancement type MOSFETs are normally ________________devices while depletion
type MOSFETs are normally ________________ devices.
iii. The Gate terminal of a MOSFET is isolated from the semiconductor by a thin layer of
________________.
iv. The MOSFET cell embeds a parasitic ________________ in its structure.
v. The gate-source voltage at which the ________________ layer in a MOSFET is formed
is called the ________________ voltage.
vi. The thickness of the ________________ layer remains constant as gate source voltage
is increased byond the ________________ voltage.

Answer: (i) voltage, majority; (ii) off, on; (iii) SiO2, (iv) BJT, (v) inversion, threshold; (vi)
depletion, threshold.

2. What are the main constructional differences between a MOSFET and a BJT? What
effect do they have on the current conduction mechanism of a MOSFET?

Answer: A MOSFET like a BJT has alternating layers of p and n type semiconductors.
However, unlike BJT the p type body region of a MOSFET does not have an external
electrical connection. The gate terminal is insulated for the semiconductor by a thin layer of
SiO2. The body itself is shorted with n+ type source by the source metallization. Thus
minority carrier injection across the source-body interface is prevented. Conduction in a
MOSFET occurs due to formation of a high density n type channel in the p type body
region due to the electric field produced by the gate-source voltage. This n type channel
connects n+ type source and drain regions. Current conduction takes place between the
drain and the source through this channel due to flow of electrons only (majority carriers).
Where as in a BJT, current conduction occurs due to minority carrier injection across the
Base-Emitter junction. Thus a MOSFET is a voltage controlled majority carrier device
while a BJT is a minority carrier bipolar device.

6.4 Steady state output i-v characteristics of a MOSFET


The MOSFET, like the BJT is a three terminal device where the voltage on the gate
terminal controls the flow of current between the output terminals, Source and Drain. The
source terminal is common between the input and the output of a MOSFET. The output
characteristics of a MOSFET is then a plot of drain current (iD) as a function of the Drain
Source voltage (vDS) with gate source voltage (vGS) as a parameter. Fig 6.5 (a) shows such a
characteristics.

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VGS VGS (th) = VDS
Electron Drift
iD Velocity
ohmic Increasing VGS
VGS6
rDS(ON) Active
VGS5 [VGSVGS(th)]<VDS
VGS4
VGS3
VGS2
vgs1
Cut off (VGS < VGS (th))
VDSS vDS Electric
(a) (c) Field
G
S iD

n+
Source Channel Drift
region p resistance region
resistance iD resistance
n-
Drain
n+ resistance
VGS(th) VGS
(b)
D (d)

Fig. 6.5: Output i-v characteristics of a Power MOSFET


(a) i-v characteristics;
(b) Components of ON-state resistance;
(c) Electron drift velocity vs Electric field;
(d) Transfer
With gate-source voltage (VGS) below the threshold voltage (vGS (th)) the MOSFET
operates in the cut-off mode. No drain current flows in this mode and the applied drain
source voltage (vDS) is supported by the body-collector p-n junction. Therefore, the
maximum applied voltage should be below the avalanche break down voltage of this
junction (VDSS) to avoid destruction of the device.

When VGS is increased beyond vGS(th) drain current starts flowing. For small values of vDS
(vDS < (vGS vGS(th)) iD is almost proportional to vDS. Consequently this mode of operation
is called ohmic mode of operation. In power electronic applications a MOSFET is
operated either in the cut off or in the ohmic mode. The slope of the vDS iD characteristics
in this mode is called the ON state resistance of the MOSFET (rDS (ON)). Several physical
resistances as shown in Fig 6.5 (b) contribute to rDS (ON). Note that rDS (ON) reduces with
increase in vGS. This is mainly due to reduction of the channel resistance at higher value of

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vGS. Hence, it is desirable in power electronic applications, to use as large a gate-source
voltage as possible subject to the dielectric break down limit of the gate-oxide layer.

At still higher value of vDS (vDS > (vGS vGS (th)) the iD vDS characteristics deviates from
the linear relationship of the ohmic region and for a given vGS, iD tends to saturate with
increase in vDS. The exact mechanism behind this is rather complex. It will suffice to state
that, at higher drain current the voltage drop across the channel resistance tends to decrease
the channel width at the drain drift layer end. In addition, at large value of the electric field,
produced by the large Drain Source voltage, the drift velocity of free electrons in the
channel tends to saturate as shown in Fig 6.5 (c). As a result the drain current becomes
independent of VDS and determined solely by the gate source voltage vGS. This is the
active mode of operation of a MOSFET. Simple, first order theory predicts that in the
active region the drain current is given approximately by

i D = K(vGS - vGS (th))2 (6.1)

Where K is a constant determined by the device geometry.

At the boundary between the ohmic and the active region


vDS = vGS - vGS (th) (6.2)
Therefore, i D = KvDS2 (6.3)

Equation (6.3) is shown by a dotted line in Fig 6.5 (a). The relationship of Equation (6.1)
applies reasonably well to logic level MOSFETs. However, for power MOSFETs the
transfer characteristics (iD vs vGS) is more linear as shown in Fig 6.5 (d).

At this point the similarity of the output characteristics of a MOSFET with that of a BJT
should be apparent. Both of them have three distinct modes of operation, namely, (i)cut off,
(ii) active and (iii) ohmic (saturation for BJT) modes. However, there are some important
differences as well.

Unlike BJT a power MOSFET does not undergo second break down.
The primary break down voltage of a MOSFET remains same in the cut off and in
the active modes. This should be contrasted with three different break down
voltages (VSUS, VCEO & VCBO) of a BJT.

The ON state resistance of a MOSFET in the ohmic region has positive temperature
coefficient which allows paralleling of MOSFET without any special arrangement
for current sharing. On the other hand, vCE (sat) of a BJT has negative temperature
coefficient making parallel connection of BJTs more complicated.

As in the case of a BJT the operating limits of a MOSFET are compactly represented in a
Safe Operating Area (SOA) diagram as shown in Fig 6.6. As in the case of the FBSOA of a

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BJT the SOA of a MOSFET is plotted on a log-log graph. On the top, the SOA is restricted
by the absolute maximum permissible value of the drain current (IDM) which should not be
exceeded even under pulsed operating condition. To the left, operating restriction arise due
to the non zero value of rDS(ON) corresponding to vGS = vGS(Max). To the right, the first
operating restriction is due to the limit on the maximum permissible junction temperature
rise which depends on the power dissipation inside the MOSFET. This limit is different for
DC (continuous) and pulsed operation of different pulse widths. As in the case of a BJT the
pulsed safe operating areas are useful for shaping the switching trajectory of a MOSFET. A
MOSFET does not undergo second break down and no corresponding operating limit
appears on the SOA. The final operation limit to the extreme right of the SOA arises due to
the maximum permissible drain source voltage (VDSS) which is decided by the avalanche
break down voltage of the drain -body p-n junction. This is an instantaneous limit. There is
no distinction between the forward biased and the reverse biased SOAs for the MOSFET.
They are identical.

Log (iD)
IDM

10-5sec

rDS(ON) limit 10-4sec


(VGS = VGS(max))
Max. 10-3sec
Power
Dissipation DC
Limit (Timax) Primary voltage breakdown
limit
VDSS Log (vDS)

Fig. 6.6: Safe operating area of a MOSFET.

Due to the presence of the anti parallel body diode, a MOSFET can not block any reverse
voltage. The body diode, however, can carry an RMS current equal to IDM. It also has a
substantial surge current carrying capacity. When reverse biased it can block a voltage
equal to VDSS.

For safe operation of a MOSFET, the maximum limit on the gate source voltage (VGS
(Max)) must be observed. Exceeding this voltage limit will cause dielectric break down of
the thin gate oxide layer and permanent failure of the device. It should be noted that even
static charge inadvertently put on the gate oxide by careless handling may destroy it. The
device user should ground himself before handling any MOSFET to avoid any static charge
related problem.

Exercise 6.2

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. A MOSFET operates in the ________________ mode when vGS < vGS(th)

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ii. In the ohmic region of operation of a MOSFET vGS vGS (th) is greater than
________________.
iii. rDS (ON) of a MOSFET ________________ with increasing vGS.
iv. In the active region of operation the drain current iD is a function of ________________
alone and is independent of ________________.
v. The primary break down voltage of MOSFET is ________________ of the drain
current.
vi. Unlike BJT a MOSFET does not undergo ________________.
vii. ________________ temperature coefficient of rDS(ON) of MOSFETs facilitates easy
________________ of the devices.
viii. In a Power MOSFET the relation ship between iD and vGS vGS(th) is almost
________________ in the active mode of operation.
ix. The safe operating area of a MOSFET is restricted on the left hand side by the
________________ limit.

Answer: (i) Cut off; (ii) vDS; (iii) decreases; (iv) vGS, vDS; (v) independent; (vi) second
break down; (vii) Positive, paralleling; (viii) linear; (ix) rDS (ON);

6.5 Switching characteristics of a MOSFET

6.5.1 Circuit models of a MOSFET cell


Like any other power semiconductor device a MOSFET is used as a switch in all power
electronic converters. As a switch a MOSFET operates either in the cut off mode (switch
off) or in the ohmic mode (switch on). While making transition between these two states it
traverses through the active region. Being a majority carrier device the switching process in
a MOSFET does not involve any inherent delay due to redistribution of minority charge
carriers. However, formation of the conducting channel in a MOSFET and its
disappearance require charging and discharging of the gate-source capacitance which
contributes to the switching times. There are several other capacitors in a MOSFET
structure which are also involved in the switching process. Unlike bipolar devices,
however, these switching times can be controlled completely by the gate drive circuit
design.

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G
S

Gate oxide
+
n CGD
CGS CGD
p Drain body CGD1 idealized
depletion
CDS layer Actual
n-
CGD2
n+
VGS VGS (th) = VDS VDS
D
(a) (b)

D D D

CGD CGD CGD

G (cut off) G iD = f(vGS) G rDS(ON)


(Active) (Ohmic)
CGS CGS CGS

S S S
(c)
Fig. 6.7: Circuit model of a MOSFET
(a) MOSFET capacitances
(b) Variation of CGD with VDS
(c) Circuit models.
Fig 6.7 (a) shows three important capacitances inherent in a MOSFET structure. The most
prominent capacitor in a MOSFET structure is formed by the gate oxide layer between the
gate metallization and the n+ type source region. It has the largest value (a few nano farads)
and remains more or less constant for all values of vGS and vDS. The next largest capacitor
(a few hundred pico forwards) is formed by the drain body depletion region directly
below the gate metallization in the n- drain drift region. Being a depletion layer capacitance
its value is a strong function of the drain source voltage vDS. For low values of vDS (vDS <
(vGS vGS (th))) the value of CGD (CGD2) is considerably higher than its value for large vDS
as shown in Fig 6.7 (b). Although variation of CGD between CGD1 and CGD2 is continuous a
step change in the value of CGD at vDS = vGS vGS(th) is assumed for simplicity. The lowest
value capacitance is formed between the drain and the source terminals due to the drain
body depletion layer away form the gate metallization and below the source metallization.
Although this capacitance is important for some design considerations (such as snubber
design, zero voltage switching etc) it does not appreciably affect the hard switching
performance of a MOSFET. Consequently, it will be neglected in our discussion. From the

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above discussion and the steady state characteristics of a MOSFET the circuit models of a
MOSFET in three modes of operation can be drawn as shown in Fig 6.7 (c).

6.5.2 Switching waveforms


The switching behavior of a MOSFET will be described in relation to the clamped
inductive circuit shown in Fig 6.8. For simplicity the load current is assumed to remain
constant over the small switching interval. Also the diode DF is assumed to be ideal with
no reverse recovery current. The gate is assumed to be driven by an ideal voltage source
giving a step voltage between zero and Vgg in series with an external gate resistance Rg.

VD

DF IO
if
+
iD
CGD VDS

Rg
ig -
Vgg +
-
CGS

Fig. 6.8: Clamped inductive switching circuit using a MOSFET.

To turn the MOSFET on, the gate drive voltage changes from zero to Vgg. The gate
source voltage which was initially zero starts rising towards Vgg with a time constant 1 =
Rg (CGS + CGD1) as shown in Fig 6.9.

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Vgg
2
VGS
VGSI0
VGS(th) 1
2 = Rg(CGS+CGD2)
t
ig 1 = Rg(CGS+CGD1)
Vgg
R g igI0
t
igI0
Vgg

Rg
iD, if iD if

I0 I0
if iD
t
VDS

I0ros (ON)

t
tdON tri tfv1 tfv2 td(off) trv2 trvi tfi
tON toff

Fig. 6.9: Switching waveforms of a clamped inductive switching circuit using MOSFET
Note that during this period the drain voltage vDS is clamped to the supply voltage VD
through the free wheeling diode DF. Therefore, CGS and CGD can be assumed to be
connected in parallel effectively. A part of the total gate current ig charges CGS while the
other part discharges CGD.

Till vGS reaches vGS (th) no drain current flows. This time period is called turn on delay
time (td(ON)). Note that td(ON) can be controlled by controlling Rg. Byond td(ON) iD
increases linearly with vGS and in a further time tri (current rise time) reaches Io. The
corresponding value of vGS and ig are marked as VGS Io and ig Io respectively in Fig 6.9.

At this point the complete load current has been transferred to the MOSFET from the free
wheeling diode DF. iD does not increase byond this point. Since in the active region iD and
vGS are linearly related, vGS also becomes clamped at the value vGSIo. The gate current ig
now discharges CGD and the drain voltage starts falling.

d d d ig V -V I
v DS = ( vGS + vGD ) = v GD = = GG GS o ( 6.4 )
dt dt dt CGD CGD R g

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The fall of vDS occurs in two distinct intervals. When the MOSFET is in the active region
(vDS > (vGS vGS (th)) CGD = CGD1.Since CGD1 << CGD2, vDS falls rapidly. This fast fall
time of vDS is marked tfv1 in Fig 6.9. However, once in the ohmic region, CGD = CGD2 >>
CGD1. Therefore, rate of fall of vDS slows down considerably (tfv2). Once vDS reaches its
on state value (rDS(ON) Io) vGS becomes unclamped and increases towards Vgg with a
time constant 2 = Rg (CGS + CGD2). Note that all switching periods can be reduced by
increasing Vgg or / and decreasing Rg. The total turn on time is tON = td(ON) + tri + tfv1 +
tfv2.

To turn the MOSFET OFF, Vgg is reduced to zero triggering the exact reverse process of
turn on to take place. The corresponding waveforms and switching intervals are show in
Fig 6.9. The total turn off time toff = td(off) + trv1 + trv2 + tfi.

6.5.3 MOSFET Gate Drive


MOSFET, being a voltage controlled device, does not require a continuous gate current
to keep it in the ON state. However, it is required to charge and discharge the gate-source and the
gate-drain capacitors in each switching operation. The switching times of a MOSFET essentially
depends on the charging and discharging rate of these capacitors. Therefore, if fast charging and
discharging of a MOSFET is desired at fast switching frequency the gate drive power
requirement may become significant. Fig 6.10 (a) shows a typical gate drive circuit of a
MOSFET.

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VGG VD R1
RG +
VGG (1 +1)

R1

Q1
Logic level RG
gate pulse RG
Q2 VGG
Q3

(b)
(a)

VD
D

DF
IL R

RG G
D R

S
B RB
G (d)
S

(c)

Fig. 6.10: MOSFET gate drive circuit.


(a) Gate drive circuit; (b) Equivalent circuit during turn on and off;
(b) Effect of parasitic BJT; (d) Parallel connection of MOSFETs.

To turn the MOSFET on the logic level input to the inverting buffer is set to high state so
that transistor Q3 turns off and Q1 turns on. The top circuit of Fig 6.10 (b) shows the
equivalent circuit during turn on. Note that, during turn on Q1 remains in the active
region. The effective gate resistance is RG + R1 / (1 + 1). Where, 1 is the dc current gain
of Q1.

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To turn off the MOSFET the logic level input is set to low state. Q3 and Q2 turns on
whole Q1 turns off. The corresponding equivalent circuit is given by the bottom circuit of
Fig 6.10 (b)

The switching time of the MOSFET can be adjusted by choosing a proper value of RG.
Reducing RG will incase the switching speed of the MOSFET. However, caution should
be exercised while increasing the switching speed of the MOSFET in order not to turn on
the parasitic BJT in the MOSFET structure inadvertently. The drain-source capacitance
(CDS) is actually connected to the base of the parasitic BJT at the p type body region. The
body source short has some nonzero resistance. A very fast rising drain-source voltage
will send sufficient displacement current through CDS and RB as shown in Fig 6.10 (c).
The voltage drop across RB may become sufficient to turn on the parasitic BJT. This
problem is largely avoided in a modern MOSFET design by increasing the effectiveness
of the body-source short. The devices are now capable of dvDS/dt in excess to 10,000
V/s. Of course, this problem can also be avoided by slowing down the MOSFET
switching speed.

Since MOSFET on state resistance has positive temperature coefficient they can be
paralleled without taking any special precaution for equal current sharing. To parallel two
MOSFETs the drain and source terminals are connected together as shown in Fig 6.10
(d). However, small resistances (R) are connected to individual gates before joining them
together. This is because the gate inputs are highly capacitive with almost no losses.
Some stray inductance of wiring may however be present. This stray inductance and the
MOSFET capacitance can give rise to unwanted high frequency oscillation of the gate
voltage that can result in puncture of the gate qxide layer due to voltage increase during
oscillations. This is avoided by the damping resistance R.

Exercise 6.3

1. Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. The Gate-Source capacitance of a MOSFET is the ________________ among all three


capacitances.
ii. The Gate-Drain transfer capacitance of a MOSFET has large value in the
________________ region and small value in the ________________ region.
iii. During the turn on delay time the MOSFET gate source voltage rises from zero to the
________________ voltage.
iv. The voltage fall time of a MOSFET is ________________ proportional to the gate
charging resistance.
v. Unlike BJT the switching delay times in a MOSFET can be controlled by proper design
of the ________________ circuit.

Answer: (i) largest; (ii) ohmic, active; (iii) threshold; (iv) inversely; (v) gate drive.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 20


2. A Power MOSFET has the following data
CGS = 800 pF ; CGD = 150 pF; gf = 4; vGS(th) = 3V;
It is used to switch a clamped inductive load (Fig 6.8) of 20 Amps with a supply voltage VD=
200V. The gate drive voltage is vgg = 15V, and gate resistance Rg = 50. Find out maximum
did dv DS
value of and during turn ON.
dt dt

Answer: During turn on


i D g f ( v gs - v gs (th) )
di D dv gs
= gf
dt dt
dv V -v
But ( CGS + CGD ) gs = gg gs
dt Rg
di D dv gf

dt
= g f gs =
dt R g ( CGS + CGD )
( Vgg - vgs )
di D gf g f ( Vgg - vgs (th) )

dt
=
R g ( CGS + CGD )
(V
gg - vgs Min )= R g ( CGS + CGD )
Max

di D
since for vgs < vgs (th) iD = =0
dt
di D 4
-12 (
= 15 - 3) = 1.01109 A sec
dt Max 5095010

From equation (6.4)

dv DS Vgg - VGS , Io
=
dt CGD R g

For Io = 20 A, vgs(th) = 3V, and gf = 4


I 20
VGS , Io = o + vgs (th) = + 3 = 8 volts
gf 4
dv DS 15 -8
= = 933106 V sec.
dt 15010-12 50

6.6 MOSFET Ratings


Steady state operating limits of a MOSFET are usually specified compactly as a safe
operating area (SOA) diagram. The following limits are specified.

VDSS: This is the drain-source break down voltage. Exceeding this limit will destroy the
device due to avalanche break down of the body-drain p-n junction.

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IDM: This is the maximum current that should not be exceeded even under pulsed current
operating condition in order to avoid permanent damage to the bonding wires.

Continuous and Pulsed power dissipation limits: They indicate the maximum
allowable value of the VDS, iD product for the pulse durations shown against each limit.
Exceeding these limits will cause the junction temperature to rise beyond the acceptable
limit.

All safe operating area limits are specified at a given case temperature.

In addition, several important parameters regarding the dynamic performance of the


device are also specified. These are

Gate threshold voltage (VGS (th)): The MOSFET remains in the cut off region when vGS
in below this voltage. VGS (th) decreases with junction temperature.

Drain Source on state resistance (rDS (ON)): This is the slope of the iD vDS
characteristics in the ohmic region. Its value decreases with increasing vGS and increases
with junction temperature. rDS (ON) determines the ON state power loss in the device.

Forward Transconductance (gfs): It is the ratio of iD and (vGS vGS(th)). In a MOSFET


switching circuit it determines the clamping voltage level of the gate source voltage and
thus influences dvDS/dt during turn on and turn off.

Gate-Source breakdown voltage: Exceeding this limit will destroy the gate structure of
the MOSFET due to dielectric break down of the gate oxide layer. It should be noted that
this limit may by exceeded even by static charge deposition. Therefore, special
precaution should be taken while handing MOSFETs.

Input, output and reverse transfer capacitances (CGS, CDS & CGD): Value of these
capacitances are specified at a given drain-source and gate-source voltage. They are
useful for designing the gate drive circuit of a MOSFET.

In addition to the main MOSFET, specifications pertaining to the body diode are also
provided. Specifications given are

Reverse break down voltage: This is same as VDSS


Continuous ON state current (IS): This is the RMS value of the continuous current that
can flow through the diode.
Pulsed ON state current (ISM): This is the maximum allowable RMS value of the ON
state current through the diode given as a function of the pulse duration.
Forward voltage drop (vF): Given as an instantaneous function of the diode forward
current.
Reverse recovery time (trr) and Reverse recovery current (Irr): These are specified as
functions of the diode forward current just before reverse recovery and its decreasing
slope (diF/dt).

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Exercise 6.4

Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s)

i. The maximum voltage a MOSFET can with stand is ________________ of drain current.
ii. The FBSOA and RBSOA of a MOSFET are ________________.
iii. The gate source threshold voltage of a MOSFET ________________ with junction
temperature while the on state resistance ________________ with junction temperature.
iv. The gate oxide of a MOSFET can be damaged by ________________ electricity.
v. The reverse break down voltage of the body diode of a MOSFET is equal to
________________ while its RMS forward current rating is equal to ________________.

Answer: (i) independent; (ii) identical; (iii) decreases, increases; (iv) static; (v) VDSS; IDM.

Reference
[1] Evolution of MOS-Bipolar power semiconductor Technology, B. Jayant Baliga,
Proceedings of the IEEE, VOL.76, No-4, April 1988.
[2] Power Electronics ,Converters Application and Design Third Edition, Mohan,
Undeland, Robbins. John Wiley & Sons Publishers 2003.
[3] GE Power MOSFET data sheet.

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Lesson Summary
MOSFET is a voltage controlled majority carrier device.
A Power MOSFET has a vertical structure of alternating p and n layers.
The main current carrying terminals of an n channel enhancement mode MOSFET are
called the Drain and the Source and are made up of n+ type semiconductor.
The control terminal is called the Gate and is isolated form the bulk semiconductor by a
thin layer of SiO2.
p type semiconductor body separates n+ type source and drain regions.
A conducting n type channel is produced in the p type body region when a positive voltage
greater than a threshold voltage is applied at the gate.
Current conduction in a MOSFET occurs by flow of electron from the source to the drain
through this channel.
When the gate source voltage is below threshold level a MOSFET remains in the Cut Off
region and does not conduct any current.
With vGS > vGS (th) and vDS < (vGS vGS (th)) the drain current in a MOSFET is
proportional to vDS. This is the Ohmic region of the MOSFET output characteristics.
For larger values of vDS the drain current is a function of vGS alone and does not depend on
vDs. This is called the active region of the MOSFET.
In power electronic applications a MOSFET is operated in the Cut Off and Ohmic
regions only.
The on state resistance of a MOSFET (VDS (ON)) has a positive temperature coefficient.
Therefore, MOSFETs can be easily paralleled.
A MOSFET does not undergo second break down.
The safe operating area (SOA) of a MOSFET is similar to that of a BJT except that it does
not have a second break down limit.
Unlike BJT the maximum forward voltage withstanding capability of a MOSFET does not
depend on the drain current.
The safe operating area of a MOSFET does not change under Forward and Reverse bias
conditions.
The drain body junction in a MOSFET structure constitute an anti parallel diode
connected between the source and the drain. This is called the MOSFET body diode.
The body diode of a MOSFET has the same break down voltage and forward current rating
as the main MOSFET.
The switching delays in a MOSFET are due to finite charging and discharging time of the
input and output capacitors.
Switching times of a MOSFET can be controlled completely by external gate drive design.

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The input capacitor along with the gate drive resistance determine the current rise and fall
time of a MOSFET during switching.
The transfer capacitor (Cgd) determines the drain voltage rise and fall times.
rDS (ON) of a MOSFET determines the conduction loss during ON period.
rDS (ON) reduces with higher vgs. Therefore, to minimize conduction power loss maximum
permissible vgs should be used subject to dielectric break down of the gate oxide layer.
The gate oxide layer can be damaged by static charge. Therefore MOSFETs should be
handled only after discharging one self through proper grounding.
For similar voltage rating, a MOSFET has a relatively higher conduction loss and lower
switching loss compared to a BJT. Therefore, MOSFETs are more popular for high
frequency (>50 kHz) low voltage (<100 V) circuits.

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Practice Problems and Answers

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Practice Problems
1. How do you expect the gate source capacitance of a MOSFET to varry with gate source
voltage. Explain your answer.

2. The gate oxide layer of a MOSFET is 1000 Angstrom thick Assuming a break down field
strength of 5 106 V/cm and a safely factor of 50%, find out the maximum allowable
gate source voltage.

3. Explain why in a high voltage MOSFET switching circuit the voltage rise and fall time is
always greater than current fall and rise times.

4. A MOSFET has the following parameters

VGS(th) = 3V, gfs = 3, CGS = 800 PF, CGD = 250 PF. The MOSFET is used to switch an
inductive load of 15 Amps from 150V supply. The switching frequency is 50 kHz. The
gate drive circuit has a driving voltage of 15V and output resistance of 50. Find out the
switching loss in the MOSFET.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 27


Answer to practice problems
1. When the gate voltage is zero the thickness of the gate-source capacitance is
approximately equal to the thickness of the gate oxide layer. As the gate source voltage
increases the width of the depletion layer in the p body region also increases. Since the
depletion layer is a region of immobile charges it in effect increases the thickness of the
gate-source capacitance and hence the value of this capacitances decreases with
increasing vGS. However, as vGS is increased further free electrons generated by thermal
ionization get attracted towards the gate oxide-semiconductor interface. These free
electrons screen the depletion layer partially and the gate-source capacitance starts
increasing again. When vGS is above vgs (th) the inversion layer completely screens the
depletion layer and the effective thickness of the gate-source capacitance becomes once
again equal to the thickness of the oxide layer. There after the value of CGS remains more
or less constant.

2. From the given data the break down gate source voltage

v GS BD = E BD t gs
where EBD = Break down field strength
tgs = thickness of the oxide layer.

So v GS BD = 5106 100010-8 = 50V


Let vgs Max be the maximum allowable gate source voltage assuming 50% factor of
safety.
1.5 vgs Max = vGS BD = 50 V
50
vgs Max = V 33 Volts.
1.5

3. We Know that for MOSFET


i D = g fs ( VGS - VGS (th) )


di D d
= g fs vGS = g fs
( Vgg - vGS )
dt dt R g CGS
During current rise Vgg >> vGS
di g fs
D Vgg
dt R g CGS
Io
t ri = t fi R g CGS where Io = load current.
g fs Vgg

Now From equation (6.4)

d Vgg - Vg s , Io Vgg
v DS =
dt R g CGD R g CGD

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Since Vgg >> Vgs, Io
V
t rr = t fv D R g CGD where VD = Load voltage.
Vgg
t ri t I CG S
= fi = o
t rr t fr VD g fs CG D

That is current rise and fall times are much shorter than voltage rise and fall times.

4. Referring to Fig 6.9 energy loss during switching occurs during intervals tri , tfv1, tfv2, trv2,trv1,
and tfi. For simplicity it will be assumed that tfv2 = trv2 = 0. Also the rise and fall of iD and vDS
will be assumed to be linear.
During tri
i D = g fs (vgs - vgs (th))
di D d Vgg - v gs
= g fs v gs = g fs
dt dt (CGS + CGD )R g
di D g fs Vgg
sinceVgg >> v gs during current rise
dt (CGS + CGD )R g
Io
t ri = (CGS + CGD )R g
g fs Vgg
Energy loss during tri is
1 V I2
E ON1 = t ri VD Io = D o (CGS + CGD )R g
2 2g fs Vgg
During tfv
dVDS Vgg - Vgs, Io
=
dt CGD R g
I
But Vgs , Io = o + vgs (th)
g fs
I
Vgg - v gs (th) - o
dVDS g fs
=
dt R g CGD
VD
t fv = R g CGD
Io
Vgg - Vgs (th) -
g fs

Energy loss during tfv is


E ON2 = 1 t fv Io VD
2
VD 2 Io
= R g CGD
2 Vgg - vgs (th) - o
I
g fs
Energy loss during Turn on is

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 29


VD Io R g Io ( CGS + CGD ) VD CGD
E ON = E ON1 + E ON2 = +
2

g fs Vgg ( Vgg - Vgs (th) )
From the symmetry of the Turn ON and the Turn OFF operation of MOSFET (i.e. tri = tfi, tfv =
trv)

E ON = EOFF

Total switching energy lass is Esw = EON + EOFF = 2 EON




I g C VD Vgg
E sw = VD Io R g CGD o fs 1+ GS +
Vgg CGD Vgs (th) Io g fs
-
V gg Vgg


C I g VD Vgg
Psw E sw = VD Io R g CGD f sw 1+ GS o fs +
CGD Vgg v gs (th) Io g fs
1- -
Vgg v gg
Substituting the values given
Psw = 32 mw,

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 30


Constructional features, operating principle and characteristics of Insulated Gate Bipolar
Transistors (IGBT)

Instructional objects
On completion the student will be able to

Differentiate between the constructional features of an IGBT and a MOSFET.


Draw the operational equivalent circuit of an IGBT and explain its operating principle in
terms of the schematic construction and the operational equivalent circuit.
Draw and explain the steady state output and transfer characteristics of an IGBT.
Draw the switching characteristics of an IGBT and identify its differences with that of a
MOSFET.
Design a basic gate drive circuit for an IGBT.
Interpret the manufacturers date sheet of an IGBT.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 3


7.1 Introduction
The introduction of Power MOSFET was originally regarded as a major threat to the power
bipolar transistor. However, initial claims of infinite current gain for the power MOSFETs were
diluted by the need to design the gate drive circuit capable of supplying the charging and
discharging current of the device input capacitance. This is especially true in high frequency
circuits where the power MOSFET is particularly valuable due to its inherently high switching
speed. On the other hand, MOSFETs have a higher on state resistance per unit area and
consequently higher on state loss. This is particularly true for higher voltage devices (greater
than about 500 volts) which restricted the use of MOSFETs to low voltage high frequency
circuits (eg. SMPS).

With the discovery that power MOSFETs were not in a strong position to displace the BJT,
many researches began to look at the possibility of combining these technologies to achieve a
hybrid device which has a high input impedance and a low on state resistance. The obvious first
step was to drive an output npn BJT with an input MOSFET connected in the Darlington
configuration. However, this approach required the use of a high voltage power MOSFET with
considerable current carrying capacity (due to low current gain of the output transistor). Also,
since no path for negative base current exists for the output transistor, its turn off time also tends
to get somewhat larger. An alternative hybrid approach was investigated at GE Research center
where a MOS gate structures was used to trigger the latch up of a four layer thyristor. However,
this device was also not a true replacement of a BJT since gate control was lost once the thyristor
latched up.

After several such attempts it was concluded that for better results MOSFET and BJT
technologies are to be integrated at the cell level. This was achieved by the GE Research
Laboratory by the introduction of the device IGT and by the RCA research laboratory with the
device COMFET. The IGT device has undergone many improvement cycles to result in the
modern Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT). These devices have near ideal characteristics
for high voltage (> 100V) medium frequency (< 20 kHZ) applications. This device along with
the MOSFET (at low voltage high frequency applications) have the potential to replace the BJT
completely.

7.2 Constructional Features of an IGBT


Vertical cross section of a n channel IGBT cell is shown in Fig 7.1. Although p channel IGBTs
are possible n channel devices are more common and will be the one discussed in this lesson.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 4


Gate
Emitter

SiO2 SiO2
(Gate oxide) + - (Gate oxide)
n n
p Body region
J3
Drain drift
J2 n- region
J1 n+ Buffer layer
p+ Injecting layer

Collector
Fig. 7.1: Vertical cross section of an IGBT cell.

The major difference with the corresponding MOSFET cell structure lies in the addition of a p+
injecting layer. This layer forms a pn junction with the drain layer and injects minority carriers
into it. The n type drain layer itself may have two different doping levels. The lightly doped n-
region is called the drain drift region. Doping level and width of this layer sets the forward
blocking voltage (determined by the reverse break down voltage of J2) of the device. However, it
does not affect the on state voltage drop of the device due to conductivity modulation as
discussed in connection with the power diode. This construction of the device is called Punch
Trough (PT) design. The Non-Punch Through (NPT) construction does not have this added n+
buffer layer. The PT construction does offer lower on state voltage drop compared to the NPT
construction particularly for lower voltage rated devices. However, it does so at the cost of lower
reverse break down voltage for the device, since the reverse break down voltage of the junction
J1 is small. The rest of the construction of the device is very similar to that of a vertical
MOSFET (Link to 6.2) including the insulated gate structure and the shorted body (p type)
emitter (n+ type) structure. The doping level and physical geometry of the p type body region
however, is considerably different from that of a MOSFET in order to defeat the latch up action
of a parasitic thyristor embedded in the IGBT structure. A large number of basic cells as shown
in Fig 7.1 are grown on a single silicon wafer and connected in parallel to form a complete IGBT
device.

The IGBT cell has a parasitic p-n-p-n thyristor structure embedded into it as shown in Fig 7.2(a).
The constituent p-n-p transistor, n-p-n transistor and the driver MOSFET are shown by dotted
lines in this figure. Important resistances in the current flow path are also indicated.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 5


Gate
Emitter

MOSFET n+
J3
n-p-n p
Body spreading resistance
Drift J2
resistance p-n-p n-
n+
J1
p+

Collector
(a)

Drift
region Collector Drift
resistance region Collector
resistance

Gate Body
spreading
resistance
Emitter
Gate
(c)
Emitter
(b)
Fig. 7.2: Parasitic thyristor in an IGBT cell.
(a) Schematic structure
(b) Exact equivalent circuit.
(c) Approximate equivalent circuit

Fig 7.2(b) shows the exact static equivalent circuit of the IGBT cell structure. The top p-n-p
transistor is formed by the p+ injecting layer as the emitter, the n type drain layer as the base and
the p type body layer as the collector. The lower n-p-n transistor has the n+ type source, the p
type body and the n type drain as the emitter, base and collector respectively. The base of the
lower n-p-n transistor is shorted to the emitter by the emitter metallization. However, due to
imperfect shorting, the exact equivalent circuit of the IGBT includes the body spreading
resistance between the base and the emitter of the lower n-p-n transistor. If the output current is
large enough, the voltage drop across this resistance may forward bias the lower n-p-n transistor
and initiate the latch up process of the p-n-p-n thyristor structure. Once this structure latches up
the gate control of IGBT is lost and the device is destroyed due to excessive power loss.

A major effort in the development of IGBT has been towards prevention of latch up of the
parasitic thyristor. This has been achieved by modifying the doping level and physical geometry
of the body region. The modern IGBT is latch-up proof for all practical purpose. Fig 7.3(a) and
(b) shows the circuit symbol and photograph of an IGBT.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 6


C

E
(a) (b)

Fig. 7.3: Circuit symbol of an IGBT.


(a) Circuit symbol.
(b) Photograph.

Exercise 7.1
Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s).

i. An IGBT is a __________________ device combining the advantages of a


__________________ and a __________________.
ii. IGBT is suitable for __________________ voltage __________________ frequency
applications.
iii. In an IGBT cell structure a __________________ type injecting layer is added on top of
the drain of an n channel MOSFET.
iv. The forward blocking voltage of an IGBT is determined by the __________________
and __________________ of the drain drift layer.
v. A punch through IGBT has __________________ reverse break down voltage while
the Non punch through IGBT has __________________ voltage blocking capacity.
vi. The IGBT cell has a parasitic __________________ structure embedded into it.
vii. The parasitic __________________ structure of an IGBT cell can __________________
at large collector current due to imperfect body emitter shorting.
viii. The doping level and physical geometry of the IGBT __________________ region is
designed to be considerably different from that of a MOSFET to prevent its
__________________.

Answers:
i) hybrid, MOSFET, BJT ; ii) high, medium ; iii) p+ ; iv) thickness, doping level ; v) low,
symmetrical ; vi) thyristor; vii) thryistor, latch up ; viii) body, latch up.

7.3 Operating principle of an IGBT


Operating principle of an IGBT can be explained in terms of the schematic cell structure and
equivalent circuit of Fig 7.2(a) and (c). From the input side the IGBT behaves essentially as a

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 7


MOSFET. Therefore, when the gate emitter voltage is less then the threshold voltage no
inversion layer is formed in the p type body region and the device is in the off state. The forward
voltage applied between the collector and the emitter drops almost entirely across the junction J2.
Very small leakage current flows through the device under this condition. In terms of the
equivalent current of Fig 7.2(c), when the gate emitter voltage is lower than the threshold voltage
the driving MOSFET of the Darlington configuration remains off and hence the output p-n-p
transistor also remains off.

When the gate emitter voltage exceeds the threshold, an inversion layer forms in the p type body
region under the gate. This inversion layer (channel) shorts the emitter and the drain drift layer
and an electron current flows from the emitter through this channel to the drain drift region. This
in turn causes substantial hole injection from the p+ type collector to the drain drift region. A
portion of these holes recombine with the electrons arriving at the drain drift region through the
channel. The rest of the holes cross the drift region to reach the p type body where they are
collected by the source metallization.

From the above discussion it is clear that the n type drain drift region acts as the base of the
output p-n-p transistor. The doping level and the thickness of this layer determines the current
gain of the p-n-p transistor. This is intentionally kept low so that most of the device current
flows through the MOSFET and not the output p-n-p transistor collector. This helps to reduced
the voltage drop across the body spreading resistance shown in Fig 7.2 (b) and eliminate the
possibility of static latch up of the IGBT.

The total on state voltage drop across a conducting IGBT has three components. The
voltage drop across J1 follows the usual exponential law of a pn junction. The next component of
the voltage drop is due to the drain drift region resistance. This component in an IGBT is
considerably lower compared to a MOSFET due to strong conductivity modulation by the
injected minority carriers from the collector. This is the main reason for reduced voltage drop
across an IGBT compared to an equivalent MOSFET. The last component of the voltage drop
across an IGBT is due to the channel resistance and its magnitude is equal to that of a
comparable MOSFET.

7.4 Steady state characteristics of an IGBT


The i-v characteristics of an n channel IGBT is shown in Fig 7.4 (a). They appear
qualitatively similar to those of a logic level BJT except that the controlling parameter is not a
base current but the gate-emitter voltage.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 8


VCC iC Increasing iC
Saturation V
VCC VgE6 gE
RL
Active F
ic + RL VgE5
C Load line Fault
G VcE A Load line
E VgE4
VgE - VgE3
B VgE2
gfs
VgE1
VRM C
Cut off
VCC VCES VCE VgE (th) VgE

(a) (b)

Fig. 7.4: Static characteristics of an IGBT


(a) Output characteristics; (b) Transfer characteristics
When the gate emitter voltage is below the threshold voltage only a very small leakage
current flows though the device while the collector emitter voltage almost equals the supply
voltage (point C in Fig 7.4(a)). The device, under this condition is said to be operating in the cut
off region. The maximum forward voltage the device can withstand in this mode (marked VCES
in Fig 7.4 (a)) is determined by the avalanche break down voltage of the body drain p-n
junction. Unlike a BJT, however, this break down voltage is independent of the collector current
as shown in Fig 7.4(a). IGBTs of Non-punch through design can block a maximum reverse
voltage (VRM) equal to VCES in the cut off mode. However, for Punch Through IGBTs VRM is
negligible (only a few tens of volts) due the presence of the heavily doped n+ drain buffer layer.

As the gate emitter voltage increases beyond the threshold voltage the IGBT enters into the
active region of operation. In this mode, the collector current ic is determined by the transfer
characteristics of the device as shown in Fig 7.4(b). This characteristic is qualitatively similar to
that of a power MOSFET and is reasonably linear over most of the collector current range. The
ratio of ic to (VgE vgE(th)) is called the forward transconductance (gfs) of the device and is an
important parameter in the gate drive circuit design. The collector emitter voltage, on the other
hand, is determined by the external load line ABC as shown in Fig 7.4(a).

As the gate emitter voltage is increased further ic also increases and for a given load resistance
(RL) vCE decreases. At one point vCE becomes less than vgE vgE(th). Under this condition the
driving MOSFET part of the IGBT (Fig 7.2(c)) enters into the ohmic region and drives the
output p-n-p transistor to saturation. Under this condition the device is said to be in the
saturation mode. In the saturation mode the voltage drop across the IGBT remains almost
constant reducing only slightly with increasing vgE.

In power electronic applications an IGBT is operated either in the cut off or in the saturation
region of the output characteristics. Since vCE decreases with increasing vgE, it is desirable to use
the maximum permissible value of vgE in the ON state of the device. vgE(Max) is limited by the
maximum collector current that should be permitted to flow in the IGBT as dictated by the
latch-up condition discussed earlier. Limiting VgE also helps to limit the fault current through

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 9


the device. If a short circuit fault occurs in the load resistance RL (shown in the inset of Fig
7.4(a)) the fault load line is given by CF. Limiting vgE to vgE6 restricts the fault current
corresponding to the operating point F. Most IGBTs are designed to with stand this fault current
for a few microseconds within which the device must be turned off to prevent destruction of the
device.

It is interesting to note that an IGBT does not exibit a BJT-like second break down failure. Since,
in an IGBT most of the collector current flows through the drive MOSFET with positive
temperature coefficient the effective temperature coefficient of vCE in an IGBT is slightly
positive. This helps to prevent second break down failure of the device and also facilitates
paralleling of IGBTs.

Exercise 7.2
Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s).

i. From the input side the IGBT behaves essentially as a __________________.


ii. When the gate emitter voltage is below __________________ no __________________
layer is formed in the p type body region.
iii. Electrons arriving through the drive MOSFET causes __________________ injection
from the __________________ to the drain drift region.
iv. In an IGBT most of the collector current flows through the __________________ and not
through the __________________.
v. When the gate-emitter voltage of an IGBT is below threshold if operates in the
__________________ region.
vi. In the active region of operation the collector current of an IGBT is determined by the
__________________ characteristics which is reasonably __________________ over
most of the collector current range.
vii. For the same load resistance as the vgE of an IGBT is increased it enters
__________________ region.
viii. The forward voltage drop of an IGBT in the saturation region remains approximately
__________________.
ix. An IGBT has small __________________ temperature coefficient of on state voltage
drop.
x. An IGBT does not exhibit __________________ failure mode.

Answers:
i) MOSFET; ii) threshold, inversion; iii) hole, collector; iv) MOSFET, BJT; v) cut-off; vi)
transfer, linear; vii)saturation; viii) constant; ix) positive; x) second break down.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 10


7.5 Switching characteristics of IGBT
Switching characteristics of the IGBT will be analyzed with respect to the clamped inductive
switching circuit shown in Fig 7.5(a). The equivalent circuit of the IGBT shown in Fig 7.5 (b)
will be used to explain the switching waveforms.
VCC
C
iL iD
DF D
iC + CGD
C VCE
Rg ig G Q1 G S
E CgE E
-
Vgg
(b)
(a)

Fig. 7.5: Inductive switching circuit using an IGBT


(a) Switching circuit; (b) Equivalent circuit of the IGBT
The switching waveforms of an IGBT is, in many respects, similar to that of a Power MOSFET.
This is expected, since the input stage of an IGBT is a MOSFET as shown in Fig 7.5(b). Also in
a modern IGBT a major portion of the total device current flows through the MOSFET.
Therefore, the switching voltage and current waveforms exhibit a strong similarity with those of
a MOSFET. However, the output p-n-p transistor does have a significant effect on the switching
characteristics of the device, particularly during turn off. Another important difference is in the
gate drive requirement. To avoid dynamic latch up, (to be discussed later) the gate emitter
voltage of an IGBT is maintained at a negative value when the device is off.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 11


Vgg VgE(th)
VgE(th)
2 = Rg(CGS+CGD2)
VgE
VgE,IL VgE,IL
t
1 = Rg(CGS+CGD1)

VCE
VCE(sat)
VCC VCC

iC

iD IL IL IL IL

t
tdON tri tfv1 tfv2 trv1 trv2 tfi2
tfi1

Fig. 7.6: Switching waveforms of an IGBT.


The switching waveforms of an IGBT is shown in Fig 7.6. Similarity of these waveforms with
those of a MOSFET is obvious. To turn on the IGBT the gate drive voltage changes from Vgg to
+Vgg. The gate emitter voltage vgE follows Vgg with a time constant 1. Since the drain source
voltage of the drive MOSFET is large the gate drain capacitor assumes the lower value CGD1.
The collector current ic does not start increasing till vgE reaches the threshold voltage vgE(th).
Thereafter, ic increases following the transfer characteristics of the device till vgE reaches a value
vgEIL corresponding to ic = iL. This period is called the current rise time tri. The free wheeling
diode current falls from IL to zero during this period. After ic reaches IL, vgE becomes clamped at
vgE IL similar to a MOSFET. vCE also starts falling during this period. First vCE falls rapidly (tfv1)
and afterwards the fall of vCE slows down considerably. Two factors contribute to the slowing
down of voltage fall. First the gate-drain capacitance Cgd will increase in the MOSFET portion of
the IGBT at low drain-source voltages. Second, the pnp transistor portion of the IGBT traverses
the active region to its on state more slowly than the MOSFET portion of the IGBT. Once the
pnp transistor is fully on after tfv2, the on state voltage of the device settles down to vCE(sat). The
turn ON process ends here.

The turn off process of an IGBT follows the inverse sequence of turn ON with one major
difference. Once vgE goes below vgE(th) the drive MOSFET of the IGBT equivalent circuit turns
off. During this period (tfi1) the device current falls rapidly. However, when the drive MOSFET
turns off, some amount of current continues of flow through the output p-n-p transistor due to
stored charge in its base. Since there is no reverse voltage applied to the IGBT terminals that
could generate a negative drain current, there is no possibility for removing the stored charge by
carrier sweep-out. The only way these excess carriers can be removed is by recombination within
the IGBT. During this recombination period (tfi2) the remaining current in the IGBT decays
relatively slowly forming a current fail. A long tfi2 is undesirable, because the power dissipation

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 12


in this interval will be large due to full collector-emitter voltage. tfi2 can be reduced by
decreasing the excess carrier life time in the p-n-p transistor base. However, in the process, on
state losses will increase. Therefore, judicious design trade offs are made in a practical IGBT to
give minimum total loss.

The gate drive circuit of an IGBT should ensure fast and reliable switching of the device. In
particular, it should.

Apply maximum permissible VgE during ON period.


Apply a negative voltage during off period.
Control dic dt during turn ON and turn off to avoid excessive Electro magnetic
interference (EMI).
Control dvce dt during switching to avoid IGBT latch up.

Minimize switching loss.


Provide protection against short circuit fault.
Detailed discussion on IGBT gate drive circuit is beyond the scope of this lesson. References [4]
& [5] provide good discussion on this subject. Fig 7.7(a) shows a simplified IGBT gate drive
circuit.
RC +Vcc
+Vgg

Ri
Q1
- RB R G IGBT
Vi
+ Q2
(Logic level)
E
Opto isolator
Level Totem pole
Shifting -Vgg -Vcc gate drive
Comparator amplifier
(a)
RB RB
R 1 +1 R 2 +1
G G
Vgg To IGBT To IGBT
Gate -Vgg Gate
E E
Turn on equivalent circuit Turn off equivalent circuit
(b)
Fig. 7.7: IGBT gate drive circuit
(a) Gate drive
(b) Equivalent circuit of the gate drive during turn on and turn off.
Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 13
The logic level gate drive signal is first opto-isolated and fed to a level shifting comparator. This
stage converts the unipolar (usually positive) out put voltage of the opto-isolator to a bipolar
(Vgg) signal compatible to the IGBT gate drive levels. The output of the comparator feeds a
totem pole output amplifier stage which drives the IGBT. The equivalent circuit of the gate drive
during turn on and off are shown in Fig 7.7(b). If VCC > Vgg then both Q1 and Q2 will operate
in the active region and reasonably constant value of 1 & 2 of these two transistors can be used
for analysis purpose. These equivalent circuits along with the model of the IGBT input MOSFET
can be used to analyze the switching performance of the device. Conversely, for a desired
switching performance a suitable gate drive circuit can be designed.

7.6 IGBT ratings and safe operating area


Maximum collector-emitter voltage (VCES): This rating should not be exceeded even on
instantaneous basis in order to prevent avalanche break down of the drain-body p-n junction.
This is specified at a given negative gate emitter voltage or a specified resistance connected
between the gate and the emitter.

Maximum continuous collector current (IC): This is the maximum current the IGBT can
handle on a continuous basis during ON condition. It is specified at a given case temperature
with derating curves provided for other case temperatures.

Maximum pulsed collector current (ICM): This is the maximum collector current that can flow
for a specified pulse duration. This current is limited by specifying a maximum gate-emitter
voltage.

Maximum gate-emitter voltage (VgES): This is the maximum allowable magnitude of the gate-
emitter voltage (of both positive and negative polarity) in order to
Prevent break down of the gate oxide insulation.
Restrict collector current to ICM.

Collector leakage current (ICES): This is the leakage collector current during off state of the
device at a given junction temperature. This is usually specified at VgE = 0V and vCE = VCES.

Gate-emitter leakage current (IGES): Usually specified at vCE = 0V & vgE = vgES.

Collector emitter saturation voltage (VCE(sat)): This is specified at a given junction


temperature, gate-emitter voltage and collector current. For more detailed data the output
characteristics of the device for different vgE and expanded near the saturation zone is also
provided.

Gate-emitter threshold voltage (vgE(th)): It is specified at a low collector emitter voltage and
collector current.

Forward Transconductance (gfs): This is again specified at a low value of vCE. For more
detailed data the transfer characteristics of the device (ic vs vgE) is also provided.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 14


Input, output and transfer capacitances (Cies, Coes & Cres): These are, gate-emitter, collector-
emitter and gate-drain capacitances of the device respectively, specified at a given collector-
emitter voltage. Variation of these parameters as functions of vCE are also supplied.

Switching times (td(ON) tri, tfv, trv, tfi): These times are specified for inductive load switching as
functions of gate charging resistance and collector current. In addition turn on and turn off
energy losses per switching operation are also specified.

Maximum total power dissipation (Ptmax): This is the maximum allowable power lass in the
device (both switching and conduction) on a continuous basis at a given case temperature.
Derating curve at other temperatures are also specified.

The IGBT has robust SOA both during turn on and turn off. Fig 7.8 (a) shows the FBSOA. On
the left side it is restricted by the forward voltage drop characteristics. Up to maximum
continuous collector current this voltage remains reasonably constant at a low value. However, at
ICM this voltage starts increasing as the IGBT starts entering active region. On the top the
FBSOA is restricted by ICM.
iC iC
ICM ICM 1000V/S
IC 10-5sec
10-4sec
2000V/S
10-3sec
10-2sec 3000V/S
DC

VCES VCE VCES VCE


(a) (b)

Fig. 7.8: Safe operating area of an IGBT


(a) FBSOA; (b) RBSOA.
The other two limits are formed by the maximum power dissipation limit and the maximum
forward voltage limit. Like other devices the maximum power dissipation limit increases with
reduction in the on pulse width.

The RBSOA for low values of dvCE dt is rectangular. However, for increased dvCE dt the upper-right
hand corner is progressively cut out. The reason for this restriction on the RBSOA is to avoid
dynamic latch up. The device user can easily control dvCE dt by proper choice of Vgg and the gate
drive resistance.

Exercise 7.3
Fill in the blank(s) with the appropriate word(s).

i. In a modern IGBT most of the collector current flows through the _________________
and not the _________________.

Version 2 EE IIT, Kharagpur 15


ii. To avoid _________________ the gate emitter voltage of an IGBT is maintained at a
_________________ value when the device is off.

iii. During turn on of an IGBT the rate of fall of voltage slows down towords the end since
the output p-n-p transistor traverses its _________________ region more
_________________ compared to the drive MOSFET.

iv. During turn off of an IGBT a _________________ is formed due to excess stored charge
in the _________________ region of the output p-n-p transistor.

v. The gate drive circuit of an IGBT should control dic


dt to avoid excessive
_________________.

dvCE
vi. dt of an IGBT during turn off should be controlled to prevent _________________ of
the device.

vii. A specified maximum gate emitter voltage of an IGBT helps to limit the collector current
during _________________ fault.

viii. Collector emitter saturation voltage of an IGBT _________________ with increasing


gate-emitter voltage.

ix. The FBSOA of an IGBT is similar to that of a _________________ except that the on
state voltage drop is much _________________.

x. The upper right hand corner of the IGBT RBSOA is gradually cut out with increasing
_________________ to avoid _________________ of the device.

Answer: (i) MOSFET, BJT; (ii) latch up, negative; (iii) active, slowly; (iv) current tail, base; (v)
EMI; (vi) Latch up; (vii) short circuit; (viii) decreases; (ix) MOSFET, lower; (x) dvCE dt , latch up.

Reference
[1] B. Jayanta Baliga, Evolution of MOS Bipolar Power Semiconductor Technology,
Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 76, No. 4, April 1988, pp 409-418.
[2] Power electronics, Converters, Applications and Design, Mohan, Undeland, Robbins;
John Wiley & Sons, 2003
[3] B. Jayanta Baliga et. al, The Insulated Gate Transistor: A new Three-Terminal MOS-
Controlled Bipolar. Power Device, IEEE transaction on Electron Devices, vol. ED-31,
No. 6 June 1984 pp 421-828.
[4] Allen R. Hefner, An Investigation of the drive circuit requirements for the Power
Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor, IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics. Vol. 6 No.
2. April 1991.

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[5] Carmelo Licitra et. al, A New Driving circuit for IGBT Devices, IEEE Transaction on
Power Electronics, Vol. 10, No-3 may 1995.
[6] SEMIKRON Power Electronics News 2001, SEMIKRON International, Germany.

Lesson Summary
IGBT is a hybrid device which combines the advantages of MOSFET and BJT.
An IGBT is formed by adding a p+ collector layer on the drain drift layer of a Power
MOSFET.
Punch through IGBT has a thin n+ buffer layer between the p+ collector layer and n-
drain drift layer. They have significantly lower conduction loss.
The IGBT cell structure embeds a parasitic thyristor in it. Latching up of this thyristor is
prevented by special structuring of the body region and increasing the effectiveness of the
body shorting.
From the operational point of view an IGBT is a voltage controlled bipolar device.
The operational equivalent circuit of an IGBT has an n channel MOSFET driving a p-n-p
BJT.
Like other semiconductor devices on IGBT can also operate in the cut off active and
saturation regions.
When the gate-emitter voltage of an IGBT is below threshold it operates in the cut off
region.
For a given load resistance the operating point of an IGBT can be moved from cut off to
saturation through the active region by increasing the gate-emitter voltage.
In the active region, the collector current of an IGBT is determined by the gate-emitter
voltage which can be limited to a given maximum value to limit the fault current through
the device in the event of a load short circuit.
The IGBTs have a slightly positive temperature coefficient of the on-state voltage drop
which makes paralleling of these devices simpler.
An IGBT does not exhibit second break down phenomena as in the case of a BJT.
The switching characteristics of an IGBT is similar to that of a MOSFET.
To avoid dynamic latch up of the parasitic thryrstor in an IGBT, the gate emitter voltage
of the device is maintained at a negative value during its off period.
During turn off, the collector current of an IGBT can exhibit current tailing due to
stored base change in the base region of the output p-n-p transistor.
The forward bias SOA of an IGBT is similar to that of a MOSFET except the on state
voltage drop being much lower.
The maximum allowable collector current in an IGBT is restricted by the static latch up
consideration.

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dv
The RBSOA of an IGBT is rectangular for low values of dtCE . For higher dvCE dt the upper
right half corner of the RBSOA is progressively cut-out to prevent dynamic latch up of
the device.
The IGBT can switch at moderately high frequency (<20 kHZ) and in this range is likely
to replace the BJTs in all medium to high power applications.

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Practice Problems and Answers

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Q1. What effects do the width and doping level of the drain drift region of an IGBT have on
its performance.

Q2. (a) In an IGBT a major portion of the collector current flow through the driver MOSFET
section which has a voltage rating almost same as the device. Then how does the on state
voltage drop of an IGBT remain low compared to an equivalent MOSFET?

(b) An IGBT is used to switch a resistive load of 5 from a DC supply of 350 volts as
shown in the inset of Fig 7.4 (a). The ON state gate voltage is vgE = 15v. For the IGBT,
vgE (th) = 4 volts and gts = 25. Find out the maximum current flowing through the IGBT
in the event of a short circuit fault across the load. Also find out the power dissipation
inside the device.

Q3. What do you under stand by dynamic latch up of an IGBT. How can it be prevented?

Q4. What steps are taken in the cell structure design of an IGBT to minimize the tail current
during turn off operation.

Q5. In the basic gate drive circuit of an IGBT shown in Fig 7.7 (a) following data are given
Vgg = 15 V, Vcc = 20 V, 1 for Q1 = 50, 2 for Q2 = 50.
RB = 2.2 K, R = 30, VgE (th) of IGBT = 4V, gfs = 40
CgE = 4nF, CgD = 500pF,

The IGBT is used to switch a clamed inductive load of 50 Amps from a 400 volts supply.

dvCE
Find out maximum values of dic
dt and dt during Turn on and Turn off of the IGBT.

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Answers to Practice Problems
1. The width and doping level of the drain drift layer of an IGBT affects the performance of
the IGBT in several ways.

They determine the forward break down voltage of the IGBT.


Referring to Fig 7.2 (b), the drain drift region constitutes the base of the upper p-n-p
transistor. The width and the doping level of this layer determines the current gain of
this transistor. This is intentionally kept low so that most of the device current flows
through the MOSFET and not the output p-n-p transistor collector. This helps to reduce
the voltage drop across the body spreading resistance between the base and emitter of the
lower p-n-p transistor. Thus the possibility of turning on this transistor and consequent
latch up of the device is minimized.
Since the major part of the device current flows through the MOSFET which has a
positive temperature coefficient of drain source voltage drop, the collector-emitter
voltage drop across the device exhibits a slightly positive temperature coefficient. This
eliminates the possibility of second break down failure in IGBTs and simplifies
paralleling of these devices.

2. (a) The total voltage drop across a conducting IGBT has three components. The voltage
drop across the emitter-base junction of the output p-n-p transistor follows the usual
exponential low of a p-n junction. The next component of the voltage drop is due to the
drain drift region resistance. In a normal high voltage MOSFET this component of the
voltage drop is large due to lower doping level (necessary for blocking high voltage) of
this region. However, in a conducting IGBT electrons arriving at the drain drift region
through the MOSFET channel causes large minority carrier injection from the p+
collector. The consequent conductivity modulation reduces the resistance (and hence the
voltage drop) in this region. The third component of the IGBT voltage drop occurs across
the channel of the driving MOSFET and is same as that of an equivalent high voltage
MOSFET. Therefore, the reduced voltage drop across a conducting IGBT is due to
reduction of the drain drift region resistance by conductivity modulation.

(b) In the event of a short circuit across the load the voltage across the device will be 350
volts and the IGBT will operate in the active region. In this region

iC = gfs ( vgE - vgE (th) )

Substituting the given values

iC Max = 25 (15 - 4 ) = 275 Amps

Power dissipation inside the device will be

PD = vCE iC Max = 350 275 = 96.25 kW

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3. Static latch up in an IGBT occurs when the continuous ON state current exceeds a critical
value. However, under dynamic conditions, when the IGBT is switching from on to off
state if may latch up at drain current less than this value. During turn off, the voltage
across the driver MOSFET increases rapidly. This voltage is blocked by the drain-body
p-n junction. To block the rapid build up of the voltage the width of the depletion region
in the drain drift layer also increases rapidly. This rapid increase in the depletion layer
width temporally increases the current gain of the output p-n-p transistor and causes
latch up of the device at a lower collector current than would have been necessary for
static latch up.

4. Punch Through and Non-punch through IGBTs solve the problem of tail current by two
different approaches. Punch through IGBT s attempt to minimize the current tailing
problem by shortening the duration of the tailing time. This is done by reducing the
excess carrier life time in the n+ buffer layer compared to the n- drain drift layer. This n+
buffer layer acts as a sink for excess holes and greatly enhances the removal rate of holes
from the drain drift layer. Thus the tail time is reduced.

Non punch through IGBTs attack the current tailing problem by minimizing the
magnitude of the current during the failing interval. This is done by designing the IGBT
so that the MOSFET section carries as much of the total current as possible. Newer NPT
IGBT designs have more than 90% of the total current carried by the MOSFET section of
the device.

5. During turn on and turn off the IGBT passes through the active region.

When vgE is greater than vgE(th) the collector current is given by

iC = gfs ( vgE - vgE (th) )

dic d
= gfs vgE
dt dt

But from the equivalent circuit of the IGBT gate drive circuit during turn on

d Vgg - vgE
vgE =
dt (
( CgE + CgD ) R + R1 +1B )
dic d gfs ( Vgg - vgE )
= gfs vgE =
dt dt (
( CgE + CgD ) R + R1 +1B )
In the active region Vgg >> vgE

Also since Vcc > Vgg, Q1 & Q2 operates in the active region.

Substituting the given values

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dic 40 15
= = 1.82 109 A/Sec
dt 4500 10 ( 30 + 51 )
-12 2200

dic
Since 1 = 2 , during turn off will also have the same value
dt
dic
So = 1.82 A/ns
dt
Since load current is 50 Amps and gfs = 40

IL
vge IL = vgE (th) + = 5.25 volts
gfs

dvCE V - v IL
Daring turn on CgD = ig IL = gg gERB
dt R + +1

dvCE
during turn ON is
dt
dvCE Vgg - vgE IL 15 - 5.25
= =
dt ( RB
CgD R + +1
1
)500 10-12 ( 30 + 2200
51 )

= 2.67 108 V/Sec

Since Vgg+ =Vgg- and 1 = 2

dvCE
during turn off will be same
dt

dvCE
So = 2.67 108 V/Sec or 267 V/s.
dt

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This lesson provides the reader the following
(i) To highlight the issues related to device stresses under Hard switching;
(ii) To suggest means of reducing such stresses with external circuitry;
(iii) To propose alternative switching methods for stress reduction;
(iv) Enable the choice of the appropriate switching strategy

Soft and Hard Switching


Semiconductors utilised in Static Power Converters operate in the switching mode to
maximise efficiency. Switching frequencies vary from 50 Hz in a SCR based AC-DC Phase
Angle Controller to over 1.0 MHz in a MOSFET based power supply. The switching or dynamic
behaviour of Power Semiconductor devices thus attracts attention specially for the faster ones for
a number of reasons: optimum drive, power dissipation, EMI/RFI issues and switching-aid-
networks.

With SCRs 'forced commutation' and 'natural (line) commutation' usually described the type of
switching. Both refer to the turn-off mechanism of the SCR, the turn-on dynamics being
inconsequential for most purposes. A protective inductive snubber to limit the turn-on di/dt is
usually utilised. For the SCRs the turn-off data helps to dimension the 'commutation
components' or to set the 'margin angle'. Conduction losses account for the most significant part
of total losses.

Present day fast converters operate at much higher switching frequencies chiefly to reduce
weight and size of the filter components. As a consequence, switching losses now tend to
predominate, causing the junction temperatures to rise. Special techniques are employed to
obtain clean turn-on and turn-off of the devices. This, along with optimal control strategies and
improved evacuation of the heat generated, permit utilisation of the devices with a minimum of
deration.

This chapter first examines the switching process, estimates the device dissipation and indicates
design procedures for the cooling system.

Losses in Power Semiconductors


A converter consists of a few controlled and a few uncontrolled devices (diodes). While the first
device is driven to turn-on or off, the uncontrolled device operates mainly as a slave to the
former. Power loss in the converter is the aggregate of these losses. Occasionally the diode and
the controlled device are housed in the same module. The losses corresponding to each
contribute to the temperature rise of the integrated module.

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The losses can be segregated as follows:

Total module dissipation

Controlled device losses Diode losses

conduction switching conduction switching

Turn-off Turn-on
Turn-off Turn-off

Conduction Losses
Conduction losses are caused by the forward voltage drop when the power semiconductor is on
and can be described by (with reference to an IGBT)

Fig. 3.1 Approximate forward voltage of IGBT and diode

WC = Vce (sat)(Ic).Ic

where Ic is the current carried by the device and Vce(sat)(Ic) is the current dependant forward
voltage drop. This drop may be expressed as

Vce (sat) (Ic) = V0 + R . Ic

This relation defines the forward drop of an IGBT in a similar manner to a diode. A part of the
drop is constant while another part is collector current dependent.
The given data should be used as follows: Using the numerical value is the most simple way to
determine conduction losses. The numerical value can be applied if the current in the device is
equal or close to the specified current - data sheet numerical values are specified for typical
application currents.

The graph most accurately determines conduction losses. The conditions in which the data are
used should correspond to the application. To estimate if a power semiconductor rating is
appropriate, usually the values valid for elevated temperature, close to the maximum junction
temperature TJmax , should be used to calculate power losses because this is commonly the
operating point at nominal load.

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Blocking Losses
Blocking losses are generated by a low leakage current through the device with a high blocking
voltage.

WB = Vb(I).IL

Where IL is the leakage current and Vb(I) is the current dependemt blocking voltage. Data sheets
indicates leakage current at certain blocking voltage and temperature. The dependence between
leakage current and applied voltage typically is exponential; this means that using a data sheet
value given for a blocking voltage higher than applied overestimates blocking losses. However in
general, blocking losses are small and can often, but not always, be neglected.

Switching Losses
IGBTs are designed for use in switching converters and not for linear operation. This means
switching time intervals are short compared to the pulse duration at typical switching
frequencies, as can be seen from their switching times, such as rise time tr and fall time tf in the
data sheets. Switching losses occur during these switching intervals.

Fig. 3.2 Switching losses (appx)

For IGBTs they are specified as an amount of energy, Eon/off for a certain switching operation.
Eon/off are the energy dissipated at turn-on/turn-off respectively. Using the numerical value is
again the most simple way to determine switching losses. The numerical value can be applied if
the switching operations are carried out at the same or similar conditions as indicated in the data
sheet. Graphs for Eon(IC)/(RG ), Eoff (IC)/(RG) with collector current IC and gate resistance RG are
provided.

The graphs permit the most accurate determination of switching losses, given the parameters of
the converter: RG and converter current IC.

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Diode
A surge voltage occurs when the free-wheel diode recovers. Consider a converter leg. The lower
device is off and that the load current is circulating through the free-wheeling diode of the upper
device. Now if the lower device turns on, the current in the free-wheel diode of the upper device
decreases during the overlap period and the load current begins to commutate to the lower
device. It becomes negative during reverse recovery of the upper free-wheel diode. When the
free-wheel diode recovers, the current in the circuit associated to the diode jumps to zero. The
parasitic line inductance Lp develops a surge voltage equal to Lp di/dt in opposition to the
decreasing current. This di/dt is dictated by the recovery characteristic of the free-wheel diode.
Fast recovery snappy diodes can develop very high recovery di/dt when they are hard
recovered by the rapid turn-on of a device in series with it in the same converter leg. These
diodes take a smaller time to quench the reverse recovery current compared to a soft recovery
diode.

The off-state losses of the main device and the turn-on dissipation may be neglected for most
cases. With an IGBT driven DC-DC chopper as an example, the dissipation can be estimated as:

IGBT dissipation = Conduction losses + Switching losses


= [ .Vce(sat)Ic] +[fc(Eon + Eoff)] Watts

Diode dissipation = Conduction losses + Reverse recovery losses


= [ (1 - FVF]+ [fc Err]
where, is the conduction duty ratio, fc the switching frequency and Eon , Eoff , Err are the
respective energy losses, Fig 3.2, data for which is provided by the device manufacturer.

The values of Eon , Eoff , Err are at the rated values only and have to be adjusted to the working
values of voltage (DC bus), VCE (working) and load current, Ic.

Eon / Eoff / Err ( working ) = Eon / Eoff / Err ( working ) VCE ( working ) / VCE ( rated )

a/b/c
Eon / Eoff / Err ( working ) = Eon / Eoff / Err I C / I C ( rated )
Where, a, b and c are constants.

The power device in a converter mostly sees an inductive load. A simple circuit illustrating such
a situation is shown in Fig. 3.3. Corresponding ideal waveforms are also indicated. The free-
wheeling diode FWD, across the load is essential for clamping the induced voltages across the
inductance when the device switches off. However, its presence causes the supply voltage, Vs to
appear across the transistor whenever it carries part of the inductor current in overlap mode with
the FWD during both turn-on and turn-off modes. This causes the transistor switching dissipation
to increase.

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Fig. 3.3 Typical current and voltage transients during turn-on and turn-
off of a clamped-inductive load and transitions in the V-I plane.

An RCD Switching-aid-network connected across the device reduces turn-off dissipation, Fig.
3.2. The controlled rise of the collector voltage of the transistor aids this process. However, turn-
off energy is accumulated in the SAN, which is ultimately dissipated in the resistor. The RCD
does not also help reduce turn-on dissipation when the reverse recovery current of the diode and
the SAN current add up with the load current with Vs again appearing across the device.

Example 3.1

Derive the expression for the power dissipation during turn-on and turn-off of a transistor
unassisted by a SAN. The supply voltage is Vm, peak load current Im, and tr, toff being the turn on
and turn-off times. Assume idealised waveforms.

Solution

The transition of the swichings in the VC - IC plane is rectangular. The energy dissipated in each
turn-off switching cycle is

t off 1
W = VT . I T dt = .V .I .t
T 0 2 M M f

If actual waveforms are considered the dissipation is close to about double the above figure.

The dissipation at turn-on is, similarly 1/2. VM.I M.ton.

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Fig. 3.4 Current and voltage waveforms at the Main Terminals of the switch with an
R-C-D SAN, and in the associated FWD and SAN diode

Example 3.2

For a transistor carrying a collector current IM and having a turn--off time tf, find the details of a
RCD SAN to restrict the voltage rise at the end of tf to half the supply voltage. Calculate the
corresponding losses in the transistor and in the SAN.

Solution

The action of the SAN in restricting the rise of transistor voltage till the current in it is
extinguished is illustrated in Fig. 3.4.

Since the current is assumed to fall linearly during the period tf, the collector voltage rises as:

2 2
t I .t t
V = V0 = M f
t
f 2C t f
Where V0 is the voltage at the capacitor at the end of turn-off time tf.
Thus,

IM t f
V0 =
2C
t
i = I M 1
t
f
The Transistor current can be written as:
The dissipation in the transistor is

2
tf tf I M2 .t f t t I M2 .t 2f 1
WT = v.idt = 1 dt = . Watts
0 0 2C t f tf 2C 12

When the transistor switches off, the nearly constant load current linearly charges up the
capacitor till it reaches the supply voltage. Subsequently, The FWD is positively biased and there

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is a short period of over-lap between the FWD and the SAN diode. During this period, the
capacitor over-charges to some extent.

If V0 is the capacitor voltage when the transistor current is extinguished,

t2 1
CV0 = i.dt = IMt f
t1 2

If this V0 is about 1/2 Vs,

IM t f
C
Vs

The energy dissipated in the SAN resistor which is also the energy shifted to the SAN from the
transistor during turn-off is

1
PR =
CVM2 F
2
Where F is the switching frequency. The resistance should be able to limit the transistor current
to its peak rating. Thus,

Vs
R
I CM I M I rr

Irr is the reverse recovery current of the FWD.


If the capacitor has to discharge completely during the ON time,

I M .t f
C
Vs R.I M

In a Sine-PWM controlled converter with a peak value of the fundamental current equal to Icp,
the conduction losses in the IGBT would be

2 2
Wc = .T I cVce ( sat ) d = 12 .T I cpVo + I cp2 .R

0

Where Vo and R are as shown in Fig 3.1. For the diode the dissipation is

WF =
1
[1 ]. 2 2 I cpVod + I cp2 Rd
2

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Soft switching

Fig. 3.5 Basic topologies for a) Hard switch, b) Zero-voltage switch


and c) for a Zero current switch

Hard switching and its consequences have been discussed above. Reduction of size and weight
of converter systems require higher operating frequencies, which would reduce sizes of inductors
and capacitors. However, stresses on devices are heavily influenced by the switching frequencies
accompanied by their switching losses. It is obvious that switching-aid-networks do not mitigate
the dissipation issues to a great extent. Turn-on snubbers though not discussed, are rarely used.
Even if used, it would not be able to prevent the energy stored in the junction capacitance to
discharge into the transistor at each turn-on. Soft switching techniques use resonant techniques to
switch ON at zero voltage and to switch OFF at zero current. There are negligible switching
losses in the devices, though there is a significant rise in conduction losses. There is no transfer
of dissipation to the resonant network which is non-dissipative. The two basic configurations are
as shown in Fig. 3.5.

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Fig. 3.6 Switching loci for a Hard-Switched converter without Switching-Aid-Networks,
with the SAN and for a Soft-Switched converter operation
The switching trajectory in the voltage-current plane of a device is illustrated in Fig. 3.6
comparing the paths for that of a Hard-switched operation without any SAN, a Hard-switched
with a R-C-D Switching-Aid-Network and a resonant converter. It is indicatve of the stresses and
losses. A designer would prefer the path to be as close as possible to the origin.

A Zero Current Switch based converter is provided as illustration to the soft switching
mechanism. It is equivalent to the topology shown above. The input capacitor and the one across
the diode may be combined to arrive at this topology.

Fig. 3.7 A ZCS resonant buck converter

The ZCS converter is considered to be in stable operation with Load current Itrans flowing through
the diode and the inductor Lf. The Capacitor Cr is charged to Vs. On switching the transistor ON
the current in it ramps up from zero but the diode continues conduction till this current reaches
the load current Iout level. Subsequently, the load current and the resonating current flows
through the transistor. This current reaches a natural zero when the negative magnitude of the
resonating current equals the load current. The transistor thus switches in the Zero Current mode
for both turn on and turn off. The diode, on the other hand switches in the Zero Voltage mode
under both situations. It must be noted that the peak current stress on the transistor is high . The
peak voltage stress on the diode is also about twice the supply voltage. Both these stresses are
significantly higher than that in a comparable Hard switched buck converter. Consequently,

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while switching losses are practically eliminated in this resonant converter, conduction losses
increase along with the device stresses. There is no scope of a SANs in resonant switching.

Objective type questions


Qs#1 Which component of power dissipation in a Power Semiconductor device is reduced by
an RCD Switching Aid Network?
a) Off state losses
b) Turn-on losses
c) Turn-off losses
d) On-state losses

Ans: c) turn-off losses

Qs#2 Does an RCD SAN reduce total switching losses?

Ans: No. It transfers the losses from the device to itself.

Qs#3 Are resonant converters superior to the hard switched converter on all counts?

Ans: No. The resonant converter reduces switching losses at the cost of higher voltage/current
stresses on the devices.

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