This article provides information on the determination of driver output performance for switching IGBTs. The information given in this application note contains tips only and does not constitute complete design rules; the information is not exhaustive. The responsibility for proper design remains with the user.
One key component of every power electronic system is – besides the power modules themselves – the IGBT driver, which forms the vital interface between the power transistor and the controller. For this reason, the choice of driver and thus the calculation of the right driver output
power are closely linked with the degree of reliability of a converter solution. Insufficient driver power or the wrong choice of driver may result in module and driver malfunction.
Gate Charge Curve
The switching behaviour (turn-on and turn-off) of an IGBT module is determined by its structural, internal capacitances (charges) and the internal and outer resistances. When calculating the output power requirements for an IGBT driver circuit, the key parameter is the gate charge. This gate charge is characterised by the equivalent input capacitances CGC and CGE.
The following table explains the designation of the capacitances. In IGBT data sheets these capacitances are specified as voltage-dependent low-signal capacitances of IGBTs in the “off” state. The capacitances are independent of temperature, but dependent on the collector-emitter voltage, as shown in the following curve. This dependency is substantially higher at a very low collector-emitter voltage.
Parasitic and Low-Signal Capacitances
|Reverse transfer capacitance|
Cies, Coes, Cres = f(VCE)
The figures below show simplified the gate charge waveforms VGE= f(t), IG=f(t), VCE=f(t), and IC=f(t) during turn-on of the IGBT. The turn-on process can be divided into three stages. These are charging of the gate-emitter capacitance, charging of the gate-collector capacitance and charging of the gate-emitter capacitance until full IGBT saturation.
To calculate the switching behaviour and the driver, the input capacitances may only be applied to a certain extent. A more practical way of determining the driver output power is to use the gate charge characteristic given in the IGBT data sheets. This characteristic shows the gate-emitter voltage VGE over the gate charge QG. The gate charge increases in line with the current rating of IGBT modules. The gate charge is also dependent on the DC-Link voltage, albeit to a lesser extent. At higher operation voltages the gate charge increases due to the larger influence of the Miller capacitance. In most applications this effect is negligible.
Simplified Gate Charge Waveforms
Gate Charge Characteristic
t0 switching interval: The gate current IG charges the input capacitance CGE and the gate-emitter voltage VGE rises to VGE(th). Depending on the gate resistor, several amperes may be running in this state. As VGE is still below VGE(th), no collector current flows during this period and VCE is maintained at VCC level.
t1 switching interval: As soon as VGE passes VGE(th), the IGBT turn-on process starts. IC begins to increase to reach the full load current I C(load) , which is valid for an ideal free-wheeling diode (shown in the simplified waveform). For a real free-wheeling diode, IC exceeds IC(load). This is because a reverse recovery curre nt, which flows in reverse direction, is added to IC(load). Since the free-wheeling diode is still conducting current at the beginning of section t2, the collector-emitter voltage VCE will not dro p. VGE reaches the plateau voltage VGE(pl).
t2 switching interval: VGE maintains VGE(pl). When the free-wheeling diode is turned-off, VCE starts to drop rapidly and dvCE/dt is high.
t3 switching interval: While VCE is decreasing to reach on-state value VCEsat, the Miller capacitance CGC increases as the voltage decreases and is charged by IG. VGE still remains on a plateau, which is VGE(pl) level.
t4 switching interval: At the beginning of section t4, the IGBT is fully turned-on. The charge conducted to CGE induces an exponential increase in VGE up to the gate control voltage VGE(on). IG ends with an exponential fade out and VCE reaches VCEsat level.
During turn-off the processes described are running in reverse direction. The charge has to be removed from the gate.
Measuring the Gate Charge
A simplified test circuit that can be used to measure the gate charge is shown in the following table. The gate is supplied by a constant gate current. Furthermore, a pulse constant collector current is applied. The constant gate current causes the measured waveform VGE = f(t) to be equivalent to VGE = f(QG) due to QG = IG x t. The document IEC 60747-9, Ed.2: Semiconductor Devices – Discrete Devices – Part 9: Insulated-Gate Bipolar Transistors (IGBTs) describes the gate charge test method.
Basis Test Circuit for Gate Charge Measurement
Waveform VGE = f(t) ⇔ VGE = f(QG)
Determining the Gate Charge
The gate charge per pulse needed to drive the IGBT can be determined using the gate charge characteristic diagram, which shows gate-emitter voltage over gate charge. The total gate charge can be read out by taking into account the amplitude of the applied gate voltage, i.e. from turn-on gate voltage VG(on) to turn-off gate voltage VG(off). If the gate charge curve is given in the positive quadrant only, the gate charge amplitude can be read out by extrapolation, as shown in the following table. The bright green represents the area of a diagram given in the IGBT data sheet. A parallel adjustment of the bright green area along the gate charge curve into the negative quadrant up to VG(off) allows for the amplitude of the gate charge to be determined.
Gate charge characteristic
Another method for determining the gate charge uses the input capacitance Cies and a special factor instead of the gate charge curve. The value for Cies is given in the IGBT data sheet. The necessary gate charge or the charging energy per pulse must be available at the right time. This can only be achieved by using low-impedance, low-inductance output capacitors at the driver output stage. The size of the capacitors is indicated by the calculated value QG. The gate charge is the basic parameter used to determine driver output power and gate current.
Gate Charge Calculation with Cies Method
The gate charge can be expressed as
the gate capacitance factor kc can be roughly calculated as
where QG(ds) is the value specified in the IGBT data sheet, and VG(on) as well as VG(off) are the gate voltages applied to QG(ds).
Thus, the alternative gate charge calculation is as follows:
Please note: This method is not entirely accurate and should only be used if nogate charge curve is available.
Driver Output Power
The individual power of each internal supply needed to drive the IGBT can be found as a function of the intended switching frequency and the energy which has to be used to charge and discharge the IGBT.
Calculation of Driver Output Power per Channel
Power can be expressed as
the driver output power per channel is :
Rough calculation of driver power usinf the Cies method:
One of the key requirements for IGBT driver circuits is that enough current be supplied to charge and discharge the input capacitances of the IGBT and thus to switch the IGBT on and off. This gate current can be calculated using the equations for IGBT input capacitance charging. The gate current calculated is the minimum average output current IoutAVG of the driver output stage per channel.
Calculation of Gate Current Charge can be calculated as follows:
the total charge is:
the average gate current is:
Roughly the calculation of average gate current by using the Cies method:
Peak Gate Current
The IGBT switching time is controlled by charging and discharging the gate of the IGBT. If the gate peak current is increased, the turn-on and turn-off time will be shorter and the switching losses reduced. This obviously has an impact on other switching parameters such as overvoltage stress, which have to be watched. The gate charge currents can be controlled by the gate resistors RG(on) and RG(off). The theoretical peak current value IGPEAK can be calculated using the equation below. The IGBT module's internal gate resistor RG(int) must be taken into account when calculating the peak gate current. In practice, stray inductance reduces the peak value below the possible theoretical value.
Peak Gate Current
Peak gate current can be calculated as follows:
In the data sheet of an IGBT driver, a maximum peak current is given, as are the minimum values for the gate resistors. If both these maximum and minimum ratings are exceeded, the driver output may be destroyed as a result.
Selection Suitable IGBT Driver
When selecting the suitable IGBT driver for the individual application, the following details have to be considered:
- The driver must be able to provide the necessary gate current (output current / output power). The maximum average output current of the driver must be higher than the calculated value.
- The maximum peak gate current of the driver must be equal to or higher than maximum calculated peak gate current.
- The output capacitors of the driver must be able to deliver the gate charge needed to charge and discharge the gate of the IGBT. In the data sheet of SEMIKRON drivers the maximum charge per pulse is given. This value must be duly considered when selecting a suitable driver.
Other parameters worth mentioning in the context of IGBT driver selection are insulation voltage and dv/dt capability.
DriverSel – The Easy IGBT Driver Calculation Method
DriverSel facilitates IGBT driver calculation and the selection of a suitable driver, regardless of the application. This software tool takes into consideration the aforementioned characteristics and equations, and calculates suitable IGBT drivers on the basis of the IGBT module selected, the number of paralleled modules, gate resistor, switching frequency and collector-emitter voltage. This tool can be used for driver calculation and selection for any brand and IGBT package, as well as to calculate the necessary gate charge and average current.
Terms and Symbols used
|CG||Effective gate capacitance|
|Cies||Input capacitance IGBT|
|Coes||Output capacitance IGBT|
|Cres||Reverse transfer capacitance IGBT|
|dvCE/dt||Rate of rise and fall of collector-emitter voltage|
|ICpuls||Pulse constant collector current|
|IGM||Peak gate current|
|IoutAVG||Average output current of the driver|
|kC||Gate capacitance factor|
|PGD(out)||Driver output power|
|RG(int)||IGBT module internal gate resistor|
|RG(off)||Turn-off gate resistor|
|RG(on)||Turn-on gate resistor|
|VCC||Collector-emitter supply voltage|
|VCEsat||Collector-emitter saturation voltage|
|VG||Gate voltage (output driver)|
|VG(off)||Turn-off gate voltage (output driver)|
|VG(on)||Turn-on gate voltage (output driver)|
|VGE(pl)||Plateau gate-emitter during switching|
|VGE(th)||Gate-emitter threshold voltage|
 Application Manual Power Modules, SEMIKRON International
 M. Hermwille, "Plug and Play IGBT Driver Cores for Converters", Power Electronics Europe Issue 2, pp. 10-12, 2006
 M. Hermwille, "Gate Resistor – Principle and Application", Application Note AN-7003, SEMIKRON
 P. Bhosale, M. Hermwille, "Connection of Gate Drivers to IGBT and Controller", Application Note AN- 7002, SEMIKRON
 IEC 60747-9, Ed.2: Semiconductor Devices – Discrete Devices – Part 9: Insulated-Gate Bipolar Transistors (IGBTs)
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