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Control of IGBTs

The IGBT is a voltage controlled power semiconductor that can be turned with a 15 V control voltage without drawing power from this control source. This statement can often be found in basic application descriptions for the use of IGBT and MOSFET components; and few statements are so misleading. The truth is that the control circuitry represents the greatest single influence for operational security in the entire inverter.

For example, in many cases the power requirements of control circuitry is underestimated. In this context of IGBT control, it is often left as an open question if the gate resistance value specified in respective data sheets is also to be implemented as gate resistance on the driver board. This question can neither be answered with "yes" nor with "no" because circuit-specific conditions play a significant role in the selection of gate resistance. Even the proper "time management" for the cut-off of short circuit currents is of great significance to the operational security of the whole inverter. This "time management" involves establishing thresholds and establishing the timing window when a potential short-circuit is to be detected.

Driver Power

Driver power requirements are dependent on several factors. One of these is the C ies input capacitance of the IGBT or MOSFET. Another factor is the switching frequency. The value for input capacitance C ies can be found in the data sheet. However, input capacitance is dependent on the component's collector-emitter voltage V ce , which, in this case, has been calculated at a potential of 25 V. However, this application turns on the IGBT or MOSFET when only a residual voltage (collector-emitter saturation voltage V cesat ) of a few volts is present. At this normal working point the value for C ies input

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capacitance is about 5 times higher than that which is specified in the data sheet.

Picture 1) Datasheet values for input capacity

An awareness of these conditions allow necessary driver power to be calculated with sufficient accuracy as follows:

Pdriver = C gate x d 2 Ugate x f switch

C gate = 5 x C ies

Another method, which is somewhat more accurate, involves measuring gate loading per charge reversal with the following formula:

P driver = Q gate x d 2 Ugate x f switch

where:

P driver is the required driver power C gate is the input capacitance at V cesat d Ugate is the overall voltage increase at the gate C ies is the input capacitance specified in the data sheet f switch is the switching frequency Q gate is gate loading per charge reversal

Generally a driver also consumes some power on its own and compensation must be made for this factor. Driver power requirements can quickly mount up to several Watts for large IGBT

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modules or circuitry which places IGBT modules in parallel (indeed tens of Watts for rapidly high frequency resonance applications).

The DC/DC converter needed to provide electrical isolation must be capable of providing this power under all operating conditions.

DC/DC Converter, Electrical Isolation Barrier

Most common circuit configurations used for converters place the IGBT at various different voltage levels with respect to ground and one another. It is therefore prudent to provide electrical isolation for the power source and control circuitry of every IGBT driver. The electrical isolation for IGBT driver power source is typically implemented with a DC/DC converter (capable of producing the predetermined power). The electrical isolation of control signals is usually accomplished with optical components or pulse transformers.

Picture 2: IGBT driver with potential barriers

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This sounds easier than it really is because there are other extremely demanding requirements that are placed on these points of isolation. For example, isolation points must be capable of handling the very high potentials involved with applications where IGBTs block as much as 1700 V, 2500 V, 3300 V, 4500 V or 6500 V. The aging of dielectric strength is even more important. The partial-discharge resistance data which is so vital in the evaluation of resistance to aging, especially for the partial-discharge extinction voltage, often cannot be found in the data sheets of these components. The user is well advised to let the manufacturer provide the value for partial- discharge extinction voltage in a written guarantee. This value should be about 20% over the repeatedly occurring potential differences in the given application. If no partial-discharge extinction voltage data is available, then the component should not be used due to the safety risk involved.

In inverters, IGBTs are turned on and off at rates in the range of several kilohertz. Fast turn-on/turn-off times are important to hold power losses that occur during transition to an absolute minimum. This also causes high rates of voltage change to take place on the "output side" of isolation points which can reach kV/ìs magnitudes. These isolation points must therefore exhibit minimal coupling capacitance to block disturbances from reaching the "input side" attached to control circuitry. Disturbance which succeeds in feeding back through isolation points can lead to severe converter malfunction and even the destruction of IGBTs due to lack of d v /d t noise immunity in the driver circuit.

The DC/DC converter's isolation point must be capable of transferring its power, amounting to several Watts as explained earlier. This naturally requires a certain physical size for the transformer. Increasing physical size generally also increases coupling capacitance along with its inherent problems related to d v /d t noise immunity.

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If the driver board design achieves a d v /d t noise immunity of >50 000 V/ìs for the voltage level corresponding to the IGBT's blocking voltage, then one can assume that the driver board has sufficient d v /d t noise immunity.

Gate Resistance

IGBT data sheets include specifications for dynamic properties. Among these, applicable data for gate resistance is provided. In turn, gate resistance is used to derive values for: turn-on power loss E on , turn-off power loss E off , reverse bias safe operating area (RBSOA), and short-circuit safe operating area (SCSOA). All of these are of great significance to further electrical and thermal design. In this sense, gate resistance values specified in the data sheets should be regarded as minimum value or optimal value. The driver must therefore be capable handling this gate resistance and the peak transition current resulting from the voltage excursions on the gate. With a gate resistance of 1 Ù and a voltage excursion of +/- 15 V this would be 15 A. In practice, transition current would be somewhat smaller since there are small damping resistors built into the gates inside of the IGBT modules.

Basically the calculated and itemised dynamic values produced with optimal gate resistances and optimal low stray inductance test circuits cannot often be achieved in practice. This is because the mechanical layout of inverters is significantly different from test circuitry.

High power inverters often use large single-switch IGBT modules mounted on heat sinks with large surface areas. The six IGBT switches in an inverter should be reasonably spread out across the heat sink in order to distribute heat as evenly as possible. This arrangement will assure the best possible cooling effect – but it also means long commutation paths between individual IGBT switches and the stray

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inductance which accompanies such an arrangement. IGBT components permit very high rates of current change that may reach

several kA/ìs, particularly when shutting off over currents or short- circuit current. Such large switching surge voltages can conceivably be sufficient to interfere with operational DC bus voltage.

Picture 3: IGBT “power loss sources” distributed on a large area heatsink

Under unfavourable operating conditions, e.g. a short-circuit turn-off in regenerative operation, it can happen that voltages will develop on the IGBT that exceed its blocking capability; thus causing IGBT failure. Therefore a compromise must be found between the thermal and electrical demands of inverter efficiency and the switching speed of the IGBT.

Reduction of Switching Voltage Spikes Through Gate Resistance Adaptation

The IGBT's rate of current change can be reduced somewhat by a moderate increase in gate resistance. However, care must be taken not to make gate resistance so high that it acts together with the IGBT's

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parasitic components (Miller capacity, input capacity, stray inductance of the gate lead) to produce gate voltage oscillations.

One must consider that increased gate resistance will also result in a substantial increase of turn-on/turn-off power losses in comparison to those presented in the data sheets.

Picture 4: Driver board with gate resistor

This must be accommodated by appropriate dimensioning of the heat sink and requires a measured evaluation of switching power losses with the gate resistance value to be used when the IGBT junction temperature is at 125°C.

Reduction of Switching Voltage Sikes Through Gate Resistance Adaptation, Asymmetric Control

It is often advantageous to deal with turn-on and turn-off functions individually. For example, turn-on can be affected with the gate resistance specified in the data sheet, whereas turn-off can be slowed somewhat with an increased gate resistance value to reduce switching over voltage spikes. This is done by placing a second resistor and a

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series diode in parallel to the actual gate resistor. The turn-on path therefore has lower resistance than the turn-off path.

Picture 5: Asymmetrical gate drive

This improves the IGBT's power loss ratio (over the achieved by the first solution) because turn-on energy losses are held down to those specified in the data sheet. The amount of turn-off energy losses still requires a measured evaluation (as was the case with the first solution) and an appropriate thermal dimensioning of cooling components.

Reduction of Switching Voltage Spikes Through Two-level Turn-off

Often it is determined that it is possible to safely affect turn-off with the gate resistance specified in the data sheet as long as the IGBT is operating within its nominal current range, which results in optimal efficiency. However, the turn-off excessive currents, or indeed short- circuit current, would lead to failure because the resulting over voltage then becomes too high.

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An active, two-level, turn-off circuit for the IGBT is an attractive solution for this situation. The IGBT has minimal resistance in the nominal current range, e.g. turn-on/turn-off occur with only the gate resistance value specified in the data sheet, yet in large over current or short-circuit current conditions the module will turn off via a second turn-off channel which exhibits higher resistance. Provision must be

made to ensure that, if the module executes a turn-off through this second channel, the driver will not accept any further turn-on signals. This guarantees that operation does not continue under these unacceptable operating conditions.

Picture 6: Gate drive with “two level” turn off

Choosing the right shut-down threshold then becomes very important. Similar to short-circuit monitoring, it is detected by a so-called V cesat monitor. The circuitry necessary for this is implemented on the driver board, which of course increases its complexity.

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Reduction of Switching Voltage Spikes Through Active Clamping

Active clamping corrective action to reduce switching surge is not performed by the IGBT driver itself. A suppressor diode is placed between the collector and gate of the IGBT to be protected. The threshold of this diode must lie beneath the permissible blocking voltage of the IGBT. The gate-emitter path will be protected with a zener diode whose voltage is placed strategically at about 18 V.

Picture 7: Gate drive with active clamping

Now if a switching surge exceeds the threshold of the suppressor diode, the gate will charge up and the IGBT will drop back into linear operation. This limits an over voltage on the IGBT to the level of the suppressor diode's threshold plus the voltage of the protective zener diode. The energy of the switching surge will be dissipated by the IGBT chip. One should note that, depending on its size, the IGBT chip may have to dissipate as much as several 100 kW within a period of as little as several 100 ns. This is an extreme load for the IGBT chip which will cause it to age accordingly. Therefore this type of

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protection against switching surges is suitable only for absolutely rare events.

Reduction of Switching Voltage Spikes Through di/dt Driver Board Regulation

This solution calls for the driver board to regulate current rises. The driver board itself has a current source characteristic. The values used for gate resistance are those listed by the IGBT data sheet.

The driver board itself will detect d i /d t with a voltage measurement directly on the IGBT. This requires a fourth connecting point on the IGBT driver board where the IGBT module's main emitter can be connected.

The connections for the IGBT module are:

 Collector: connection for collector sense to short-circuit monitor. Gate: low inductance connection for IGBT control. Aux.-emitter: low inductance connection for IGBT at emitter potential. Main emitter: inductively encumbered connection (in comparison to auxiliary emitter connection) of emitter potential.

Now if a current with a sufficient d i /d t rate of current change should flow "out of the IGBT module", an inductive voltage drop will develop between the auxiliary emitter connection and the main emitter connection. This inductive voltage drop will be proportional to the

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d i /d t rate of current change. This inductive voltage drop is used to regulate the d i /d t rate of current change. The IGBT module has a hard turn-on with minimum gate resistance as a function of the IGBT driver board's current source characteristic. If an excessive d i /d t rate of current change is detected in the load circuit, then the IGBT's gate will be discharged until the desired d i /d t is reached.

Picture 8: Gate drive with di/dt control

The advantages to this type of control are that the d i /d t turn-on/turn off remains essentially constant at all working points, that ensuing switching losses are very precisely defined, and that these can be accommodated. The disadvantages are that the IGBT driver board becomes quite complex, and that dynamic behaviour must be adapted to the IGBT type as well as the inverter's design. Every change to IGBT or converter design requires a new adjustment of the IGBT driver board.

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Power-side Connections for the IGBT Driver Board

Basically IGBT driver boards must be located as closely to their IGBT modules as possible. This holds down stray inductance between IGBT driver board and its module as low as possible. Direct contact mounting of the driver board onto IGBT module contacts has proven to be advantageous for high power IGBT single-switches.

Picture 9: Driver board directly mounted on top

If IGBT control contacts have wire connections then the wiring for gate and emitter conductors must be made with twisted pair and kept as short as possible. In any case, tests should be performed to ensure that no oscillations occur in IGBT control paths.

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Power-side Connections for the IGBT Driver Board to IGBT Modules in Parallel

Often phase leg IGBT modules, e.g. 200 A/1200 V, are connected in parallel. Configurations can be found where up to six such modules are connected in parallel to form a single switch. Such configurations are to be viewed critically and require precise measured evaluation.

The need to keep connections between IGBT driver board and IGBT module cannot really be maintained in such a configuration. Indeed this inevitably results in uneven line lengths which produce hard-to- define stray inductances and differing signal propagation delays in the control path. This effect can combine with IGBT module gate capacitance to produce oscillations in the control path. Substantial disturbance and even IGBT failure may result.

Picture 10: Gate drive configuration for paralleled IGBT

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Another aspect is the thermal behaviour of such a configuration.

When several IGBT modules are placed in parallel on one heat sink then the heat sink is generally rather long and narrow. From a cooling standpoint, these IGBT modules are connected in series. The result is

a temperature gradient along the heat sink of up to several tens of

degrees, with corresponding differences in IGBT module chip temperatures. This magnitude of temperature difference cannot simply be ignored. The IGBT itself is not particularly disturbed by this since

its inherent positive temperature coefficient (presuming NPT technology) will force an even distribution of load. However, this does not apply to the freewheeling diodes integrated into the IGBT modules

– which have negative temperature coefficients. This may cause more

load current to be shifted to those modules within the parallel circuit whose freewheeling diodes are unfavourably cooled as opposed to those modules whose freewheeling diodes are favourably cooled. Load current increases, as does peak reverse recovery current that the IGBT must also conduct as load current when it is turned on again. In the best case this will lead to a fault shutdown of the IGBT module caused by the IGBT driver's recognition of an over current condition. In the worst case this will lead to component failure.

Controller-side Connections for the IGBT Driver Board

IGBTs are hard switching components. Rates of current change in the range of several kA/ìs and rates of voltage change as high as several kV/ìs may be reached. If an IGBT driver board is controlled by electrical signals then it is imperative that disturbances from the load- side do not feed back into the control cable. Conductor routing from the controller to the IGBT driver board should be kept as short as possible, loops should be avoided, and the use of shielded cable is recommended.

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Electrical Isolation, Isolation Voltage, Partial-discharge

Since individual IGBTs in an inverter bridge have differing potentials to ground and to one another, the IGBT driver must offer safe galvanic isolation. This applies to the control input, the fault feedback channel and the DC/DC converter that provides line supply to the IGBT driver.

If the control and failure feedback signals employ optical isolation then there are no problems to be anticipated with regard to dielectric strength. Nonetheless one should ensure that the selected sender and receiver components exhibit sufficient d v /d t noise immunity and that good signal transmission is guaranteed even at negative temperatures.

If electrical control and alarm signals are used instead of optical then transformer type electrical isolation points must be implemented, like that for the DC/DC converter. Aside from the aforementioned high d v /d t noise immunity, these transformers must also meet demanding requirements for dielectric strength. The tested value for dielectric strength alone is not sufficient since the aging stability of the electrical isolation point is inadequately described. The specification for partial discharge, in this case the value for partial-discharge extinction voltage, is a much more meaningful value. The partial-discharge extinction voltage is the value at which a partial discharge extinguishes. The partial-discharge inception voltage takes on higher voltage levels than does the partial-discharge extinction value. Drivers are recommended whose partial-discharge extinction voltage is about 20% higher than the given voltage level which will be handled by the electrical isolation point. Since discharge starts at higher voltages, this ensures sufficient dielectric strength and stability.

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Unipolar or Bipolar IGBT Control

The IGBT can theoretically be turned on by simply applying a +15 V control voltage to the gate. When this voltage is removed, the IGBT will turn off again. This type of control, commonly referred to as unipolar, is not reliable when IGBTs are operated in an inverter bridge. In such configurations an IGBT that is turned off by unipolar control can exhibit undesirable turn-on activity without an input signal. This happens when its anti-parallel freewheeling diode is turning off by activating the opposite IGBT of a phase leg. This effect is caused by parasitic Miller capacitance that recharges the gate of a turned-off IGBT with a capacitive transfer current generated by the turn-off d v /d t of the freewheeling diode. Since the IGBT of the opposing phase leg is then deliberately turned on, there are short periods of short-circuit current in the affected IGBT phase leg. These short-circuit conditions will have a frequency equivalent to the PWM pulse frequency.

Picture 11: Unipolar gate drive and it`s feedback to the “low side” IGBT

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The driver board is not capable of detecting this short-circuit situation because short-circuit detection is deactivated at precisely the time window in which parasitic turn-on takes place. This will be dealt with

in more detail in the next section. This failure mode is also difficult to detect with test equipment. If one measures output current (this area

can easily be reached with a current probe), everything looks quite

normal because the short-circuit current flows in the phase leg. This fault can only be detected by measuring the current in the phase leg. However, this often presents physical problems as, particularly in parallel arrays of IGBT modules, it is impossible to place a current probe in the compact, low-inductance, circuitry or the probe itself will induce additional parasitic effects.

The aforementioned operational mode is not tolerable. It will produce extremely high power losses in the IGBT chip. Component failure due

to thermal overload is very likely. A bipolar control voltage eliminates

this type of failure mode altogether. Symmetrical bipolar control with

+/-15 V is in widespread use. Asymmetrical control voltages, e.g. +15 V/-8 V, are also possible but the negative voltage should not be

less than -8 V to ensure that the turned off IGBT remains securely

turned off. Short-circuit Current Detection, Short-circuit Current Shut Down

Detecting and cutting off over current and short-circuit current can be quite elegantly accomplished with the aid of the IGBT's desaturation behaviour. Desaturation occurs when a turned on IGBT builds up a

voltage between collector and emitter which is markedly beyond that specified by the data sheet as saturation voltage V cesat . For currents

 that are a factor 3 5 over nominal, the IGBT will conduct the entire DC bus voltage across its collector-emitter path. This leads to high

power losses that will destroy the IGBT if it is not cut off within 10 ìs.

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Picture 12: Output diagram of a IGBT

To assure that this gets done, driver boards are equipped with so- called V cesat detection.

Picture 13: Collector sense for short circuit current detection

A voltage source integrated into the driver board ensures that, for a

conducting IGBT, current flows over the IGBT's collector-emitter path. The driver board has an additional collector sense input that is connected to the collector or auxiliary collector of the IGBT to be protected. The voltage measured in this manner corresponds to the V cesat of the IGBT plus the voltage drop over the collector blocking

diodes, D1

developed over the collector-emitter path is dependent on collector current, then this can be used as a measure of the momentary collector current.

D3

or D14

D15.

Since, as explained earlier, the voltage

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Picture 14: Current and voltage wave forms on IGBT under short circuit situation

If V cesat now exceeds a predetermined threshold, i.e. if collector current becomes excessive, then the driver board will

immediately cut off the affected IGBT. This condition will cause the driver board to locked-up so that regular incoming turn-on control signals are blocked. The condition will be reported to the controller via a failure feedback signal so that it can be further processed.

The threshold for cut-off is set with reference zener diodes D5 and D9. Normally this will be a value somewhere between 5 V and 12 V. Reference voltages over 12 V is not possible with the standard design of the driver board because it operates with a 15 V supply and there is a combined voltage drop of about 3 V across the blocking diodes and the IGBT itself.

For IGBT blocking voltages > 1700 V this can lead to adjustment problems. Even IGBT turn-on is not instantaneous. IGBTs with high blocking voltages may require several ìs before it is fully turned on to reach the value for V cesat specified in the data sheet.

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Picture 15: Current and voltage wave forms on IGBT at turn on

To avoid confusing a normal turn-on with an improper over current or short-circuit condition, detection of a potential over current or short- circuit current must be masked out for a brief period of time. This is done by capacitor C5 or C14. which determine a delay time for beginning the measurement of IGBT collector-emitter voltage V ce . Even so, for IGBT modules with high blocking capabilities it is possible that the collector-emitter voltage on the IGBT still exceeds the reference voltage set on the driver board after a period of about 10 ìs. Longer periods cannot be set since the IGBT would then be operated outside the SCSOA (Short Circuit Safe Operating Area). Higher threshold values may also not be set due to the aforementioned reasons.

Such circumstances can only be overcome by installing a separate V ce monitor on the driver board. This monitor circuitry will need a voltage source higher than the 15 V commonly available. The IGBT itself can still only be controlled with voltage levels of +/!15 V. This means that a second voltage supply on the driver board will be required with a second DC/DC converter that exhibits the aforementioned properties.

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Another critical aspect in the turn-off of over current or short-circuit current conditions is presented by over voltage spikes that are produced by unavoidable stray inductances. These can cause problems

during turn-off even far below the IGBT's nominal current range if the bus for the power stage is poorly designed. Since turn on/off times for an IGBT remain essentially constant despite differing current loads, substantially higher rates of current change occur when an over current or short-circuit condition is cut off than would be the case at lower nominal current load conditions. This leads directly to correspondingly high switching surge voltages.

The overall design of the inverter must be viewed as a whole. Factors of stray inductance, driver adjustment and the treatment of switching surge voltages must be reciprocally balanced and optimised against inherent power losses and thermal layout. This is why the superficially simple question, whether or not the specified gate resistance as stated in the data sheet can be taken verbatim, cannot be answered with an equally simple "yes" or "no". There is no simple answer – the reciprocal effects in the inverter must be evaluated, accommodated and optimised. Werner Bresch GvA Leitungselektronik GmbH Boehringerstrasse 10-12 D-68307 Mannheim Germany

Tel: ++49 621 789 92 12 Fax: ++49 621 789 92 99 e-mail: info@gva-leistungselektronik.de www.gva-leistungselektronik.de www.gva-leistungselektronik.com

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