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Chapter 3

Turn On & Turn Off Methods of

By: Jyotiram Ganpat Kamble

Limitation of power semiconductor


Majority carrier devices, like Schottky diode, MOSFET

exhibit very fast switching responses, controlled
essentially by the charging of the device capacitances.
However, forward voltage drops of these devices
increases quickly with increasing breakdown voltage.
Minority carrier devices, like BJT, IGBT can exhibit high
breakdown voltages with relatively low forward voltage
But they can have longer switching times due to
stored minority charges.
Energy is lost during switching transitions, due to a
variety of mechanisms.
The resulting average power loss, or switching loss,
is equal to this energy loss multiplied by the
switching frequency.
So need of a mechanism to have a compensation
between these issues.

Thyristor, a three terminal, four layers solid state
semiconductor device, each layer consisting of
alternately N-type or P-type material, i.e; P-N-P-N,
that can handle high currents and high voltages, with
better switching speed and improved breakdown
voltage .
Name thyristor, is derived by a combination of the
capital letters from THYRatron and transISTOR.
Thyristor has characteristics similar to a thyratron
tube which is a type of gas filled tube used as a high
energy electrical switch and controlled rectifier.
But from the construction view point, a thyristor
(pnpn device) belongs to transistor (pnp or npn
device) family.
This means that thyristor is a solid state device like a
transistor and has characteristics similar to that of a
thyratron tube.

Thyristor (famous as Silicon Control Rectifier-SCR)
can handle high currents and high voltages.
Typical rating are 1.5kA & 10kV which responds to
15MW power handling capacity.
This power can be controlled by a gate current of
about 1A only.
Thyristor a three terminal (Anode, Cathode and
Gate), three junctions and four layers solid-state
semiconductor device, with silicon doped alternate
material with P-N-P-N structure.
Thyristor act as bistable switches.
It conducts when gate receives a current pulse,
and continue to conduct as long as forward
biased (till device voltage is not reversed).
They stay ON once they are triggered, and will go
OFF only if current is too low or when triggered

Thyristor Schematic

Two-Transistor Model of

Two-Transistor Model of Thyristors

Two-transistor model is obtained by bisecting the two middle
layers in two separate halves.
Junctions J1J2 & J2-J3 constitute pnp & npn transistors separately.
In transistors off-state, IC is related to IE as
where is the common-base current gain and ICB0 is collectorbase leakage current of transistor.
For transistor Q1,
IC1 = 1 Ia + ICBO1 ...
Similarly, for transistor Q2, the collector current IC2 is given by
IC2 = 2 Ik + ICBO2 .. ( 02)
Sum of two collector currents given by Eqs. (01) & (02) is equal to
the external circuit current I entering at anode terminal A. There
Ia = IC1 + IC2
Ia = 1 Ia + ICBO1+ 2 Ik + ICBO2 ... (03)
When gate current is applied, then Ik = Ia + Ig .
Substituting this value of Ik in Eq. (03) gives
Ia = 1 Ia + ICBO1+ 2 (Ia + Ig ) + ICBO2
Or Ia = 2 Ig + ICBO1 + ICBO2 /[1-( 1+ 2)]

Thyristor Internal
constructional view

Thyristor- Operation
Thyristor has three p-n
junctions (J1, J2, J3 from the anode).

When anode is at a positive potential (VAK) w.r.t cathode

with no voltage applied at the gate, junctions J1 & J3 are
forward biased, while junction J2 is reverse biased.
As J2 is reverse biased, no conduction takes place, so
thyristor is in forward blocking state (OFF state).
Now if VAK (forward voltage) is increased w.r.t cathode,
forward leakage current will flow through the device.
When this forward voltage reaches a value of
breakdown voltage (VBO) of the thyristor, forward
leakage current will reach saturation and reverse biased
junction (J2) will have avalanche breakdown and
thyristor starts conducting (ON state), known as forward
conducting state .
If Cathode is made more positive w.r.t anode, Junction J1 &
J3 will be reverse biased and junction J2 will be forward
A small reverse leakage current flows, this state is known
as reverse blocking state.
As cathode is made more and more positive, stage is
reached when both junctions A & C will be breakdown, this
voltage is referd as reverse breakdown voltage (OFF state),
and device is in reverse blocking state

Characteristics of

Thyristor Operating modes

Thyristors have three modes :
Forward blocking mode: Anode is positive w.r.t cathode, but
the anode voltage is less than the break over voltage (VBO) .
only leakage current flows, so thyristor is not conducting .
Forward conducting mode: When anode voltage becomes
greater than VBO, thyristor switches from forward blocking
to forward conduction state, a large forward current flows.
If the IG=IG1, thyristor can be turned ON even when anode
voltage is less than VBO.
The current must be more than the latching current (IL).
If the current reduced less than the holding current (IH),
thyristor switches back to forward blocking state.
Reverse blocking mode: When cathode is more positive
than anode , small reverse leakage current flows.
However if cathode voltage is increased to reverse
breakdown voltage , Avalanche breakdown occurs and large
current flows.

Thyristor turn-ON methods

Thyristor turning ON is also known as

With anode positive with respect to cathode, a
thyristor can be turned ON by any one of the
following techniques :
Forward voltage triggering
Gate triggering
dv/dt triggering
Temperature triggering
Light triggering

Forward Voltage Triggering

When breakover voltage (VBO) across a thyristor
is exceeded than the rated maximum voltage of
the device, thyristor turns ON.
At the breakover voltage the value of the
thyristor anode current is called the latching
current (IL) .
Breakover voltage triggering is not normally
used as a triggering method, and most circuit
designs attempt to avoid its occurrence.
When a thyristor is triggered by exceeding VBO,
the fall time of the forward voltage is quite low
(about 1/20th of the time taken when the
thyristor is gate-triggered).
However, a thyristor switches faster with VBO
turn-ON than with gate turn-ON, so permitted
di/dt for breakover voltage turn-on is lower.

Gate Triggering
Turning ON of thyristors by gate triggering is simple and efficient method
of firing the forward biased SCRs.
In Gate Triggering, thyristor with forward breakover voltage (VBO),
higher than the normal working voltage is chosen.
This means that thyristor will remain in forward blocking state with
normal working voltage across anode and cathode with gate open.
Whenever thyristors turn-ON is required, a positive gate voltage b/w
gate and cathode is applied.
With gate current established, charges are injected into the inner p layer
and voltage at which forward breakover occurs is reduced.
Forward voltage at which device switches to on-state depends upon the
magnitude of gate current.
Higher the gate current, lower is the forward breakover voltage .
When positive gate current is applied, gate P layer is flooded with
electrons from cathode, as cathode N layer is heavily doped as compared
to gate P layer.
As the thyristor is forward biased, some of these electrons reach junction
As a result, width of depletion layer around junction J2 is reduced.
This causes junction J2 to breakdown at an applied voltage lower than
forward breakover voltage VB0.
If magnitude of gate current is increased, more electrons will reach
junction J2, thus thyristor will get turned ON at a much lower forward
applied voltage.



vS= V

s in t

RC Triggering



v S= V

s in t

dv/dt triggering
With forward voltage across anode & cathode of a
thyristor, two outer junctions (A & C) are forward biased
but the inner junction (J2) is reverse biased.
The reversed biased junction J2 behaves like a capacitor
because of the space-charge present there.
As p-n junction has capacitance, so larger the junction
area the larger the capacitance.
If a voltage ramp is applied across the anode-tocathode, a current will flow in the device to charge the
device capacitance according to the relation:

If the charging current becomes large enough, density of

moving current carriers in the device induces switch-on.
This method of triggering is not desirable because high
charging current (Ic) may damage the thyristor.

Temperature Triggering
During forward blocking, most of the applied
voltage appears across reverse biased junction
This voltage across junction J2 associated with
leakage current may raise the temperature of
this junction.
With increase in temperature, leakage current
through junction J2 further increases.
This cumulative process may turn on the SCR at
some high temperature.
High temperature triggering may cause Thermal
runaway and is generally avoided.

Light Triggering
In this method light particles (photons) are
made to strike the reverse biased junction,
which causes an increase in the number of
electron hole pairs and triggering of the
For light-triggered SCRs, a slot (niche) is
made in the inner p-layer.
When it is irradiated, free charge carriers are
generated just like when gate signal is
applied b/w gate and cathode.
Pulse light of appropriate wavelength is
guided by optical fibers for irradiation.
If the intensity of this light thrown on the
recess exceeds a certain value, forwardbiased SCR is turned on. Such a thyristor is
known as light-activated SCR (LASCR).
Light-triggered thyristors is mostly used in
transmission systems.

Thyristor Gate Control Methods

An easy method to switch ON a SCR into
conduction is to apply a proper positive signal
to the gate.
This signal should be applied when the thyristor
is forward biased and should be removed after
the device has been switched ON.
Thyristor turn ON time should be in range of 1-4
micro seconds, while turn-OFF time must be
between 8-50 micro seconds.
Thyristor gate signal can be of three varieties.
D.C Gate signal
A.c Gate Signal

Thyristor Gate Control

D.C Gate signal: Application of a d.c gate signal causes the flow

of gate current which triggers the SCR.

Disadvantage is that the gate signal has to be continuously
applied, resulting in power loss.
Gate control circuit is also not isolated from the main power
A.C Gate Signal: In this method a phase - shifted a.c voltage
derived from the mains supplies the gate signal.
Instant of firing can be controlled by phase angle control of
the gate signal.
Pulse: Here the SCR is triggered by the application of a positive
pulse of correct magnitude.
For Thyristors it is important to switched ON at proper instants
in a certain sequence.
This can be done by train of the high frequency pulses at
proper instants through a logic circuit.
A pulse transformer is used for circuit isolation.
Here, the gate looses are very low because the drive is

Thyristor Commutation
Commutation: Process of turning off a conducting
Current Commutation
Voltage Commutation
A thyristor can be turned ON by applying a positive
voltage of about a volt or a current of a few tens of
milliamps at the gate-cathode terminals.
But SCR cannot be turned OFF via the gate terminal.
It will turn-off only after the anode current is negated
either naturally or using forced commutation techniques.
These methods of turn-off do not refer to those cases
where the anode current is gradually reduced below
Holding Current level manually or through a slow
Once the SCR is turned ON, it remains ON even after
removal of the gate signal, as long as a minimum
current, the Holding Current (IH), is maintained in the
main or rectifier circuit.

Thyristor Turn-off Mechanism

In all practical cases, a negative current flows through the device.
This current returns to zero only after the reverse recovery time
(trr) , when the SCR is said to have regained its reverse blocking
The device can block a forward voltage only after a further tfr, the
forward recovery time has elapsed.
Consequently, the SCR must continue to be reverse-biased for a
minimum of tfr + trr = tq, the rated turn-off time of the device.
The external circuit must therefore reverse bias the SCR for a time
toff > tq.
Subsequently, the reapplied forward biasing voltage must rise at a
dv/dt < dv/dt (reapplied) rated. This dv/dt is less than the static

Thyristor Commutation

Commutation can be classified as

Natural commutation
Forced commutation

Line Commutation (Natural


Occurs only in AC circuits.

Natural Commutation of thyristor takes
place in
AC Voltage Regulators
Phase controlled rectifiers

Thyristor Turn-Off: Line-Commutated

Thyristor Circuit

Forced Commutation
Applied to d.c circuits.
If a thyristor is used in a DC circuit, when first turned on, it will stay
on until the current goes to zero. To turn off the thyristor it is
possible to use a Forced commutation circuit. The circuit creates a
reverse voltage over the thyristor (and a small reverse current) for a
short time, but long enough to turn off the thyristor.
A simple circuit consist of a precharged capacitor and a switch (e.g.
another thyristor) parallel to the thyristor. When the switch is closed,
the current is supplied by the capacitor for a short while. This cause
a reversed voltage over the thyristor, and the thyristor is turned off.
Commutation is achieved by reverse biasing thyristor or reducing
the thysristor current below the holding current value.
Commutating elements such as inductor, capacitors are used for
commutation purpose.
Force commutation is applied to choppers and inverters.
Force Commutation methods
Class A- Resonant Load
Class B- Self commutation
Class C- Auxiliary commutation
Class D- Complimentary commutation
Class E- External pulse commutation

Thyristor Turn-Off: Forced- Commutated

Thyristor Circuit


Thyristor TurnON time for a resistive Load

Thyristor Turn OFF time for a resistive Load

THYRISTOR turn-ON & turn-OFF


Thyristor protection circuits

Reliable operation of a thyristor demands that its
specified ratings are not exceeded.
In practice, a thyristor may be subjected to overvoltages
or overcurrents. During SCR turn-on, di/dt may be
prohibitively large.
There may be false triggering of SCR by high value of
A spurious signal across gate-cathode terminals may lead
to unwanted turn-on.
A thyristor must be protected against all such abnormal
conditions for satisfactory and reliable operation of SCR
circuit and the equipment.
SCRs are very delicate devices, their protection against
abnormal operating conditions is, therefore, essential.
The object of this section is to discuss various techniques
adopted for the protection of SCRs.
di/dt protection.

di/dt protection
When a thyristor is forward biased and is turned on by a gate
pulse, conduction of anode current begins in the immediate
neighbourhood of the gate-cathode junction.
Thereafter, the current spreads across the whole area of junction.
The thyristor design permits the spread of conduction to the
whole junction area as rapidly as possible.
However, if the rate of rise of anode current, i.e. di/dt, is large as
compared to the spread velocity of carriers, local hot spots will be
formed near the gate connection on account of high current
This localized heating may destroy the thyristor. Therefore, the
rate of rise of anode current at the time of turn-on must be kept
below the specified limiting value.
The value of di/dt can be maintained below acceptable limit by
using a small inductor, called di/dt inductor, in series with the
anode circuit. Typical di/dt limit values of SCRs are 20-500 A/
Local spot heating can also be avoided by ensuring that the
conduction spreads to the whole area as rapidly as possible.
This can be achieved by applying a gate current nearer to (but
never greater than) the maximum specified gate current.

di/dt Protection

A thyristor requires a minimum time to spread the current

conduction uniformly throughout the junctions
Otherwise, a localized hot-spot heating may occur due to
high current density.

dv/dt protection

With forward voltage across the anode & cathode of a thyristor, the two outer
junctions (A & C) are forward biased but the inner junction (J2) is reverse
The reversed biased junction J2 behaves like a capacitor because of the spacecharge present there.
Let the capacitance of this junction be Cj. For any capacitor, i = C dv/dt.
In case it is assumed that entire forward voltage va appears across reverse
biased junction J2 then charging current across the junction is given by
i = dQ/dt =d(Cj Va )/dt
i=Cj (d Va /dt) + Va(d Cj /dt)
i = Cj dva /dt
This charging or displacement current across junction J2 is collector currents of
Q2 and Q1 Currents IC2, IC1 will induce emitter current in Q2, Q1.
In case rate of rise of anode voltage is large, the emitter currents will be large
and as a result, 1+ 2 will approach unity leading to eventual switching
action of the thyristor.
If the rate of rise of forward voltage dVa/dt is high, the charging current i will
be more. This charging current plays the role of gate current and turns on the
SCR even when gate signal is zero.
Such phenomena of turning-on a thyristor, called dv/dt turn-on must be
avoided as it leads to false operation of the thyristor circuit.
For controllable operation of the thyristor, the rate of rise of forward anode to
cathode voltage dVa/dt must be kept below the specified rated limit.
Typical values of dv/dt are 20 500 V/sec. False turn-on of a thyristor by large
dv/dt can be prevented by using a snubber circuit in parallel with the device.

Snubber circuit
A snubber circuit consists of a series combination of resistance Rs and
capacitance Cs in parallel with the thyristor as shown in Fig.
Strictly speaking, a capacitor Cs in parallel with the device is sufficient to
prevent unwanted dv/dt triggering of the SCR.
When switch S is closed, a sudden voltage appears across the circuit.
Capacitor Cs behaves like a short circuit, therefore voltage across SCR is
With the passage of time, voltage across Cs builds up at a slow rate such
that dv/dt across Cs and therefore across SCR is less than the specified
maximum dv/dt rating of the device.
Here the question arises that if Cs is enough to prevent accidental turn-on
of the device by dv/dt, what is the need of putting Rs in series with Cs ?
The answer to this is as under.

snubber circuit (continue)

Before SCR is fired by gate pulse, Cs charges to full
voltage Vs. When the SCR is turned on, capacitor
discharges through the SCR and sends a current equal to
Vs / (resistance of local path formed by Cs and SCR).
As this resistance is quite low, the turn-on di/dt will tend to
be excessive and as a result, SCR may be destroyed. In
order to limit the magnitude of discharge current, a
resistance Rs is inserted in series with Cs as shown in Fig.
Now when SCR is turned on, initial discharge current Vs/Rs
is relatively small and turn-on di/dt is reduced.
In actual practice ; Rs, Cs and the load circuit parameters
should be such that dv/dt across Cs during its charging is
less than the specified dv/dt rating of the SCR and
discharge current at the turn-on of SCR is within
reasonable limits.
Normally, Rs Cs and load circuit parameters form an
underdamped circuit so that dv/dt is limited to acceptable

Thyristor Family Members

SCR: Silicon Controlled Rectifier

DIAC: Diode on Alternating Current
TRIAC : Triode for Alternating Current
SCS: Silicon Control Switch
SUS: Silicon Unilateral Switch
SBS: Silicon Bidirectional Switch
SIS: Silicon Induction Switch
LASCS: Light Activated Silicon Control Switch
LASCR: Light Activated Silicon Control Rectifier
SITh : Static Induction Thyristor
RCT: Reverse Conducting Thyristor
GTO : Gate Turn-Off thyristor
MCT: MOSFET Controlled Thyristor
ETOs: Emitter Turn ON thyristor

Silicon-Controlled Rectifier (SCR)

SCR is a synonym of thyristor

SCR is a four-layer pnpn device.
Has 3 terminals: anode, cathode, and gate.
In off state, it has a very high resistance.
In on state, there is a small on (forward) resistance.
Applications: motor controls, time-delay circuits,
controls, phase controls, etc.


Turning the SCR ON Method and its


The positive pulse of current at the

gate turns on Q2 providing a path for
Q1 then turns on providing more base
current for Q2 even after the trigger is
Thus, the device stays on (latches).

The SCR can be turned on by

exceeding the forward breakover
voltage or by gate current.
Notice that the gate current
controls the amount of forward
breakover voltage required for
turning it on.
VBR(F) decreases as IG is

Turning SCR Off

The SCR will conduct as long as forward current exceeds IH.

There are two ways to drop the SCR out of conduction:
Anode Current Interruption
Forced Commutation.

Turning SCR Off : Anode Current


Anode current can be interrupted by breaking the anode

current path , providing a path around the SCR, or dropping
the anode voltage to the point that IA < IH.

Turning The SCR Off: Force


Force commutation uses an external circuit to momentarily

force current in the opposite direction to forward conduction.
SCRs are commonly used in ac circuits, which forces the SCR
out of conduction when the ac reverses.

SCR Characteristics & Ratings

Forward- breakover voltage, VBR(F): voltage at which SCR enters

forward-conduction (ON) region.
Holding current, IH: value of anode current for SCR to remain in on
Gate trigger current, IGT: value of gate current to switch SCR on.
Average forward current, IF (avg): maximum continuous anode current
(dc) that the SCR can withstand.
Reverse-breakdown voltage, VBR(R): maximum reverse voltage before
SCR breaks into avalanche.

SCR Applications - dc motor

SCRs are used in a variety of power

control applications.
One of the most common applications
is to use it in ac circuits to control a dc
motor or appliance because the SCR
can both rectify and control.
The SCR is triggered on the positive
cycle and turns off on the negative
A circuit like this is useful for speed
control for fans or power tools and
other related applications.

SCR Applications- crowbar circuits

Another application for SCRs is in
crowbar circuits (which get their
name from the idea of putting a
crowbar across a voltage source
and shorting it out!)
The purpose of a crowbar circuit
is to shut down a power supply in
case of over-voltage.
Once triggered, the SCR latches
The SCR can handle a large
current, which causes the fuse
(or circuit breaker) to open.

DIAC (diode for alternating


The DIAC is a five-layer device trigger diode that conducts current

only after its breakdown voltage has been exceeded momentarily.
When this occurs, the resistance of the diode abruptly decreases,
leading to a sharp decrease in the voltage drop across the diode
and, usually, a sharp increase in current flow through the diode.
The diode remains "in conduction" until the current flow through it
drops below a value characteristic for the device, called the holding
Below this value, the diode switches back to its high-resistance (nonconducting) state.
This behavior is bidirectional, meaning typically the same for both
directions of current flow .
their terminals are not labeled as anode and cathode but as A1
and A2 or MT1 ("Main Terminal") and MT2.
Most DIACs have a breakdown voltage around 30 V.
DIACs have no gate electrode, unlike some other thyristors they are
commonly used to trigger, such as TRIACs.
diac is normally used in ac circuits
The drawback of the diac is that it cannot be triggered at just any
point in the ac power cycle; it triggers at its preset breakover voltage
only. If we could add a gate to the diac, we could have variable
control of the trigger point, and therefore a greater degree of control
over just how much power will be applied to the line-powered device.

DIAC (diode for alternating


TRIAC (Triode for Alternating

Triac is five layer device that is able to pass current
bidirectionally and is therefore behaves as an a.c.
power control device.

In triac , the main connections are simply named main

terminal 1 (MT1) and main terminal 2 (MT2).
The gate designation still applies, and is still used as it
was with the SCR.
The useful feature of the triac is that it not only carries
current in either direction, but the gate trigger pulse
can be either polarity regardless of the polarity of the
main applied voltage.
The gate can inject either free electrons or holes into
the body of the triac to trigger conduction either way.

So triac is referred to as a "four-quadrant" device.

Triac is used in an ac environment, so it will always turn

off when the applied voltage reaches zero at the end of
the current half-cycle.
If we apply a turn-on pulse at some controllable point
after the start of each half cycle, we can directly control
what percentage of that half-cycle gets applied to the
load, which is typically connected in series with MT2.
This makes the triac an ideal candidate for light dimmer
controls and motor speed controls. This is a common
application for triacs.

Triac operation

The triac can be considered as two thyristors connected in

antiparallel as shown in Fig .
The single gate terminal is common to both thyristors.
The main terminals MT1 and MT2 are connected to both p
and n regions of the device and the current path through
the layers of the device depends upon the polarity of the
applied voltage between the main terminals.
The device polarity is usually described with reference to
MT1, where the term MT2+ denotes that terminal MT2 is
positive with respect to terminal MT1.

The Gate Turn-Off Thyristor


GTOs Schematic

GTO Turn-on and Turn-off


Thyristor Summary

A thyristor is a latching device and it can be turned on with a

small gate pulse, typically 100s .
Thyristors are generally off by line commutation due to the
natural behavior of the input ac line supply.
During the turn-off process, thyristors must be subjected to a
reverse voltage for a certain minimum time known the turnoff.

Summary: Thyristors
The thyristor family:
double injection yields lowest forward voltage drop in high
voltage devices.
More difficult to parallel than MOSFETs and IGBTs
The SCR:
highest voltage and current ratings, low cost, passive turnoff transition
The GTO:
intermediate ratings (less than SCR, somewhat more than
IGBT). Slower than IGBT.
Slower than MCT.
Difficult to drive.
The MCT:
So far, ratings lower than IGBT.
Slower than IGBT.
Easy to drive.
Still emerging devices?

Thyristor (SCR)

A (Anode)

G (Gate)

K (Cathode)

Thyristor: Symbol






v-i characteristics

If the forward breakover voltage (Vbo) is exceeded, the

SCR self-triggers into the conducting state.
The presence of gate current will reduce Vbo.
Normal conditions for thyristors to turn on:
the device is in forward blocking state (i.e Vak is positive)
a positive gate current (Ig) is applied at the gate

Once conducting, the anode current is latched. Vak

collapses to normal forward volt-drop, typically 1.5-3V.
In reverse -biased mode, the SCR behaves like a diode.


Thyristor Conduction




Thyristor cannot be turned off by applying negative gate

current. It can only be turned off if Ia goes negative (reverse)

This happens when negative portion of the of sine-wave

occurs (natural commutation).
Another method of turning off is known as forced
The anode current is diverted to another circuitry.

Types of thyristors

Phase controlled
rectifying line frequency voltage and current for ac and dc
motor drives
large voltage (up to 7kV) and current (up to 4kA) capability
low on-state voltage drop (1.5 to 3V)

Inverter grade
used in inverter and chopper
Quite fast. Can be turned-on using force-commutation

Light activated
Similar to phase controlled, but triggered by pulse of light.
Normally very high power ratings

Dual polarity thyristors