Typical Voltage and Current Ratings of the IGBT Agent
The IGBT (insulating gate bipolar transistor) is a power semiconductor with an isolation voltage of up to 6500 V and current handling capabilities in the order of hundreds of amperes. IGBTs are used in medium to high-power applications like switched-mode power supplies, traction motor control and induction heating. Large IGBT modules consist of many individual devices in parallel and are capable of controlling loads in the order of kilowatts.
IGBTs combine the easy gate-drive characteristics of power MOSFETs with the high-current and low-saturation-voltage capability of bipolar transistors. They are widely used in power electronics applications such as switched-mode power supplies and traction motor control as well as for industrial applications like induction heaters.
A typical IGBT agent is a two-terminal device with an N-channel MOSFET as its drain, and a P-channel MOSFET as its source. The N-channel MOSFET is configured with an on-resistance variable between zero and several hundred m, while the P-channel is designed to operate in a zero-voltage state. During normal operation, the drain current Ic flows through the N-channel MOSFET and the gate to the base (G), where it is blocked by the PN junction (Np) between the collector and emitter of the bipolar transistor.
What Are the Typical Voltage and Current Ratings of the IGBT Agent?
When the transistor is in an off-state, the reverse transfer capacitance Cc reflects the electric field between the p-base and the n-FS regions of the IGBT. It is also responsible for the negative space charge that builds up in front of the IGBT during short circuits. Depending on the value of Cc, it can lead to dynamic avalanche and thermal runaway, or prevent the appearance of current filaments at the anode side of the IGBT.
During the switching cycle, the voltage at the junction between the IGBT’s drain and source is increased to the power-on voltage. This voltage then drops to zero when the power-on condition is removed. The characteristic of IGBTs describes the relationship between this voltage and the collector current Ic, or its peak-to-peak value at different gate voltages VGE. The typical voltage and current ratings of the IGBT agent are given in the datasheet.
In the off-state, IGBTs experience a phenomenon known as latch-up. If the IGBT’s saturation current exceeds the latch-up current, it will turn on as a parasitic thyristor and start conducting current in reverse direction. In order to suppress this behavior, the IGBT’s design sets its saturation current below the latch-up threshold.
IGBTs with a lower mesa width and higher buried layer doping improve the carrier confinement, which significantly reduces the energy losses in the channel. However, the energy loss is still significantly larger than that of conventional IGBTs with a similar mesa width. To minimize this power loss, a direct cooling structure has been introduced. This approach discards the need for a base plate and adhering thermal grease, and it is capable of lowering the power loss by up to 30% compared with the indirect liquid cooling method.
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