On Gate Drivers and Applications of Normally-ON SiC JFETs

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: In this thesis, various issues regarding normally-ON silicon carbide (SiC)Junction Field-Effect Transistors (JFETs) are treated. Silicon carbide powersemiconductor devices are able to operate at higher switching frequencies,higher efficiencies, and higher temperatures compared to silicon counterparts.From a system perspective, these three advantages of silicon carbide can determinethe three possible design directions: high efficiency, high switchingfrequency, and high temperature.The structure designs of the commercially-available SiC power transistorsalong with a variety of macroscopic characteristics are presented. Apart fromthe common design and performance problems, each of these devices suffersfrom different issues and challenges which must be dealt with in order to pavethe way for mass production. Moreover, the expected characteristics of thefuture silicon carbide devices are briefly discussed. The presented investigationreveals that, from the system point-of-view, the normally-ON JFET isone of the most challenging silicon carbide devices. There are basically twoJFET designs which were proposed during the last years and they are bothconsidered.The state-of-the-art gate driver for normally-ON SiC JFETs, which wasproposed a few years ago is briefly described. Using this gate driver, theswitching performance of both Junction Field-Effect Transistor designs wasexperimentally investigated.Considering the current development state of the available normally-ONSiC JFETs, the only way to reach higher current rating is to parallel-connecteither single-chip discrete devices or to build multichip modules. Four deviceparameters as well as the stray inductances of the circuit layout might affectthe feasibility of parallel connection. The static and dynamic performance ofvarious combinations of parallel-connected normally-ON JFETs were experimentallyinvestigated using two different gate-driver configurations.A self-powered gate driver for normally-ON SiC JFETs, which is basicallya circuit solution to the “normally-ON problem” is also shown. This gatedriver is both able to turn OFF the shoot-through current during the startupprocess, while it also supplies the steady-state power to the gate-drivecircuit. From experiments, it has been shown that in a half-bridge converterconsisting of normally-ON SiC JFETs, the shoot-through current is turnedOFF within approximately 20 ?s.Last but not least, the potential benefits of employing normally-ON SiCJFETs in future power electronics applications is also presented. In particular,it has been shown that using normally-ON JFETs efficiencies equal 99.8% and99.6% might be achieved for a 350 MW modular multilevel converter and a40 kVA three-phase two-level voltage source converter, respectively.Conclusions and suggestions for future work are given in the last chapterof this thesis.