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Posted on 29 June 2019

Operation Features of Power Semiconductor Devices

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The base of the structure of the semiconductor devices is the semiconductor element defining its electrical parameters and characteristics. The semiconductor element must be well protected from the influence of environment, that’s why it’s fitted into housing ensuring sealing and mechanical strength of the whole structure.

By S.Strigunov, Proton-Electrotex JSC

 

Structure of Power Semiconductor Devices (PSD)

Based on the exterior structure of the PSD housing, they can be divided into stud, with flat base (flanged), disk and module. Stud structure of PSD, the base of which is produced of copper and screw bolt to ensure electric and thermal contact with heat sink by means of definite rotational moment. Thyristors with flat base of the housing have copper flange for mounting the device with screw bolts to the heat sink. The housing covers in both types of thyristors are glass-to-metal or ceramic-metal. The upper power lead can be produced as metal (copper) braided cord (wire end).

Stud structure of PSD

Disk (press-pack) structure of PSD is designed to improve its resistibility to thermal-cycle impacts, because it doesn’t have solded and alloyed connections, which give the inner elements with different thermal expansion coefficient the possibility to move independently of one another. Though, if PSD is in unbound state, such structure cannot ensure secure electric connection of the inner elements with each other – there’s even a possibility of total absence of the contact. Testing and operation of PSD of disk type are forbidden without equipment producing external regulated clamping force. Any impact of electric voltage on uncompressed device leads to destruction of semiconductor element or damage leading to shortage of its life span. Value of gripping axial force is one of parameter of PSD. The most suitable device ensuring the necessary clamping force is a standard heat sink. Its structure ensures even distribution of force over the whole surface of PSD electrodes and doesn’t lead to warpage.

Disk structure of thyristor without heat sink

Module structure of PSD – hybrid integral devices consisted of two power semiconductor elements. Structure of the housing is developed in such a way to fully satisfy the customers’ demands. During production of the modules the most suitable elements are picked for every particular housing – from small À type to D as well as A, C, E and G. During production of modules the following schemes of two elements connection are used: antiparallel, parallel with common cathode and parallel with common anode.

Structure of module consists of:
• metal base, where copper is used to conduct heat to the heat sink;
• ceramic disk, which is heat-conducting electrical insulator between live parts and the base. Due to this, several modules can be installed into group heat sink without additional insulation;
• one or several semiconductor elements connected with each other by copper busbar according to one of the commutation schemes;
• plastic protective case with electrical leads

All module types have a standard structure what simplifies mounting.

General Recommendations on PSD Application

High importance during development of converter installation has the right choice of PSD type. During calculation processes the developer has to take into consideration several important things, which can influence the normal operation of converter. These are occurrence of inadmissible overvoltage during commutation, presence of inadmissible overloads of current with indirect and direct interlocking, overheat of device due to temperature increase inside of converter because of overheat of power element in the scheme, weak control signal, presence of disturbances in control circuit of thyristors and so on. Disregard of any of these things causes problems in normal operation of converter. Despite the importance of this question, nowadays there are no instructional guidelines for choosing PSD during development of converters. Moreover, the following common rules of operation should be considered:

• In all cases of usage it’s recommended to avoid operation of devices at their limits of all parameters. Safety factor should be determined depending on necessary degree of reliability of converters;
• during replacement of the failed device the device with similar characteristics should be picked;
• Parallel and series connection of same type devices is admissible only with observance of certain conditions;
• Mounting of devices with heat sinks should be done according to the certain conditions;
• Resistibility of devices to climate and mechanical impacts as well as operating temperature range for certain devices are described in datasheets. It’s admissible for devices to operate at higher temperatures of environment on condition of current load decrease according to the datasheets.

Module structure of PSD

Series and Parallel Connection of PSD

Series Connection

Connecting thyristors or diodes in series it’s necessary to achieve even distribution of blocking (direct and/or reverse) voltage in steadystate condition and dynamic modes, especially at thyristors’ switching-on and recovery of blocking characteristics during switching-off of thyristor or diode.

The reasons due to which there’s a possibility of uneven voltage division can be the following:

• Difference in off-state and/or reverse currents in series connected devices as a result of natural mechanical tolerance and/or different operating temperatures as a result of, for example, various cooling conditions (on the average changing the temperature by 8 ºC leads to two times change of leakage). Overvoltage occurs in thyristors with lower leakage current. To level-off the voltage in this mode switching-on of by-pass highohm resistors parallel to each semiconductor device (diode or thyristor) is being used. The higher are conditions to leveling-off of voltage in this mode, the lower should be values of by-pass highohm resistors.

• Variation of turn-on time of separate thyristors series connected in branches leads to redistribution of voltage between switched-on earlier and switched-on with delay thyristors. Overvoltage occurs in thyristors switched-on with delay. To level-off voltage in this mode high power control pulses with steep leading edge are used, which lead to decrease of delay time of thyristor switching-on and to minimizing influence of this effect on voltage distribution. Presence of snubber RC circuits parallel to each device positively influences because probably up to the moment of switching-on direct voltage was applied to the thyristors, before which as well were charged the snubber capacitors, voltage on which at first moment after switching-on of thyristor is applied and ensures evenness of voltage distribution.

• Difference of reverse recovery charge value in series connected devices leads to such a thing that in the moment of recovery such devices take reverse voltage in different time. Overvoltage occurs in thyristors that have lower reverse recovery charge. In such cases snubber RC circuits are being used as well switched on parallel to each semiconductor device. In this case ÄV=ÄQrr/C, where C – value of snubber capacity switched on parallel to device. Thus, to minimize the values of snubber capacitor it’s necessary to organize semiconductor devices in groups with defined percentage of maximum deviation of reverse recovery charge in group. As a rule the defined percentage equals 10% or 5%.

Parallel Connection

Connecting thyristors or diodes in parallel it’s necessary to achieve even distribution of load current on devices. To solve this task it’s necessary to ensure operating conditions identity and voltage-current characteristics of each semiconductor device from the parallel connection.

To achieve identity of operating conditions it’s necessary to follow these steps:
• Structural disposition of parallel branches has to provide balance of resistances of conductor lines including fuses.
• For all devices in parallel connection the conditions of cooling should be the same.

As a result of natural mechanical tolerance of voltage-current characteristics of semiconductor devices it’s necessary to take the following measures to level them off:
• In series with each semiconductor device it’s necessary to install reactive or ohmic current divider.
• Group semiconductor devices in accordance with static losses in spot (according to Vtm value on operating current).
• In schemes without current dividers it’s necessary to install semiconductor devices that have maximum close values of slope resistance of linearized voltage-current characteristics.
• During development of converters that have parallel connection of semiconductor devices it’s necessary to consider that operating currents should be above the point of inversion of voltage current characteristics. In this case leveling-off of currents in parallel branches will be done automatically.
• To minimize the influence of turn-on time of separate thyristors and as a result uneven distribution of current in branches in instant of time it’s necessary to use high power control pulses with steep leading edge, which leads to decrease of delay time of thyristor switching-on and minimization of influence of this effect on current distribution in parallel branches.
• In schemes where high voltage thyristors are used, that are produced on big diameter silicon elements (over 56 mm), and with presence of high inductance in power part, which limits speed of power current change, it’s additionally necessary to consider distribution time of switched-on condition of thyristor. This is connected with the fact that high power thyristors in instant of time switch on in the limited area close to control electrode, after that in short period of time longitudinal propagation of on-state occurs.

Parallel and Series Connection of PSD

Peak current and blocking voltage of PSD are limited and it is often necessary to connect PSD of one type in groups in order to enlarge the capacity of the equipment under development. The main connection types are the following:
• Parallel – used when it is needed to increase peak current;
• Series – used when it is necessary to increase maximum blocking voltage;
• Mixed - parallel + series.

When connecting thyristors and diodes in parallel it is necessary to achieve equal distribution of load current among the devices. It is needed to provide operating conditions identity of power semiconductor devices and equality of voltage-current characteristics taking into consideration the scatter of technological parameters.

To accomplish this task the following is required

• To install inductance or ohmic current dividers in parallel with each semiconductor device;
• To select semiconductor devices according to static losses in the operating point (according to V TM(FM) at operating current). It is worthy of note that a certain technological scatter of PSD parameters always exists.
• While designing converters with parallel-connected semiconductor devices it is recommended to choose operating currents that are above reversals points of voltage-current characteristic of power semiconductor devices. In this case current equalization in parallel paths is carried out automatically as in the voltage-current characteristic area lying above the reversals point negative feedback operates, in other words when junction temperature increases its resistance increases and direct current diminishes resulting in junction temperature decrease.
• In order to minimize the influence of separate thyristors turn-on time and as a consequence nonequilibrium current division in branches in the very beginning it is necessary to use a strong gate-pulses with high di/dt leading to decrease of thyristor turn-on delay time and to minimization of this effect influence on current division in parallel branches;
• In schemes where high voltage thyristors are used, that are produced on big diameter silicon elements (over 56 mm), and with presence of high inductance in power part, which limits speed of power current change, it’s additionally necessary to consider distribution time of switched-on condition of thyristor. This is connected with the fact that high power thyristors in instant of time switch on in the limited area close to control electrode, after that in short period of time longitudinal propagation of on-state occurs;
• packaging of parallel branches should provide the equality of conductor lines resistance Including fuses;
• refrigerating conditions for all the devices entering the connection should be equal.

When connecting thyristors or diodes in series it is necessary to strive to the equal sharing of blocking voltage (forward and/or reverse) both in steady-state condition and in dynamic modes that is at thyristors startup and blocking conditions recovery at the time of a thyristor or a diode turning off. The reasons for nonequilibrium distribution of blocking voltages can be the following:

• The differences of leakage in the series-connected devices in consequence of natural parametric scatter and/or different operating temperatures due to, for example, different refrigerating conditions (for information, at the average, 8 °C temperature change leads to the change of leakage twofold). Excess voltage emerges in the devices with lower leakage current value;
• The spread of turn-on time of separate thyristors connected in series in branches leads to redistribution of voltage among thyristors having been turned on prior and those that are turned on with delay. Excess voltage emerges in the thyristors that are turned on with delay.

The scatter of reverse recovered charge values in the series-connected devices leads to the situation that in the moment of recovery such devices accept reverse voltage in different time. Excess voltage emerges in the thyristors with lower reverse recovered charge value.

The ways of blocking voltage distribution equalization are the following:
• To minimize the influence of leakage current irregularity of seriesconnected power semiconductor devices, bypass high-value resistors are turned on in parallel to each semiconductor device (diode or thyristor).The higher the requirements to voltage equalization in this mode are, the lower bypass resistors value should be;
• Imbalances of blocking voltages-sharing that arises from the spread of reverse recovered charge values of power semiconductor devices are minimized by using RC snubber-circuits turned on in parallel to each semiconductor device. The higher snubber capacity value turned on in parallel to the device is the lower imbalances of blocking voltage distribution are. However the capacity increase is not always rational, that is why the selection of devices for the series connection according to reverse recovery charge is required. As a rule the spread of charges is equal to 5% and 10%.

The spread of power semiconductor devices turn-on time is minimized by application of strong gate-pulse with high di/dt leading to decrease of thyristor turn-on delay time and minimization of this effect influence on voltage division. The presence of snubber circuits in parallel to each device makes positive influence as before turning on certain direct voltage has been applied to thyristors, the same voltage is applied to snubber capacitors. At the first moment after the thyristor turning on the voltage of snubber capacitors is applied to the thyristor and provides voltage distribution steadiness. Parallel-connected or series-connected power semiconductor devices contain a wide range of power converters. While designing, maintaining and repairing it is important to consider above mentioned requirements and peculiarities of device group turning on. It will allow using power semiconductor device resource to the maximum extent possible, developing and designing reliable and long-wearing equipment.

Control Features of Power Thyristors

Thyristor is a bipolar semiconductor, which is controlled by current, that’s why driver block should provide current pulse of the desired form flowing into the circuit control electrode – thyristor cathode.

Below are the conditions for the most frequent cases of thyristors usage. In case of special application it’s recommended to turn to the specialists of Proton-Electrotex JSC for advice.

Standard forms of circuit current and voltage are shown in figure 4.
IGon – rate of inflow current;
IGon = (3 ÷ 5).IGT;
IGT – trigger gate direct current (parameter is taken for minimum operating temperature at which the thyristor will be in operation).
IGM – peak of accelerated impulse;
IGM = (10 ÷ 12).IGT.
diG/dt – gate current rate of rise;
diG/dt≥ 1 A/μs;
For values diG/dt there are no upper limits.
tpf – length of accelerated control pulse;
tpf = (2 ÷ 3).tgd ≈ 10 μs ÷ 20 μs;
tgd – time delay;
For low operating temperature it’s recommended to choose higher control pulse duration.
tpon – inflow current impulse time;
tpon = (3 ÷ 5) .tgt ≈ 50 μs ÷∞;
tgt – turn-off time, depends on device connection circuit;
durability tpon is defined by character of load and conditions of performance circuit, where thyristor is located. Current in time tpon function as thyristor insurance if there is a possibility to lower anode current to the value of hold-on current.

Diagrams of current and voltage

It is not recommended to simultaneously have direct control current and reverse voltage anode-cathode.

To minimize the influence of conductor inductance on rate of rise of control current it’s necessary that off-load voltage of control driver has to be around 15 ÷ 30 V.

Peak reverse control voltage to increase noise immunity level of thyristor (control electrode is negative to cathode) should be lower than 5 V. Operating point of control electrode load should be located in the zone of optimum control, exactly it shouldn’t come outside the curve corresponding maximum admissible power of losses on the control electrode with defined durability and control pulse relative duration, and shouldn’t get into the zone of unwarranted switching-on of thyristor. Voltage-current characteristic of control electrode is shown in the corresponding materials of thyristor.

Driver block is mounted closer to thyristor, braid the control wires. It’s also necessary to take measures to exclude control wires’ contacts with surfaces that have high potential, or influence of rapidly changing electromagnetic field to avoid the influence of electromagnetic noise on drive circuit.

To ensure reliable performance of thyristor, minimum anode current, on which thyristor is switched on, should be higher that the defined value, depending on device type and can vary from several amps up to several tens of amps.

 

 

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