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Application NoteAPT0201 Rev. BJuly 1, 2002
IGBT Tutorial
Jonathan Dodge, P.E.Senior Applications EngineerJohn HessVice President, MarketingAdvanced Power Technology405 S.W. Columbia StreetBend, OR 97702
With the combination of an easily driven MOS gateand low conduction loss, IGBTs quickly displacedpower bipolar transistors as the device of choice forhigh current and high voltage applications. Thebalance in tradeoffs between switching speed,conduction loss, and ruggedness is now being everfinely tuned so that IGBTs are encroaching upon thehigh frequency, high efficiency domain of powerMOSFETs. In fact, the industry trend is for IGBTs toreplace power MOSFETs except in very low currentapplications. To help understand the tradeoffs and tohelp circuit designers with IGBT device selection andapplication, this application note provides a relativelypainless overview of IGBT technology and awalkthrough of Advanced Power Technology IGBTdatasheet information.
How to Select an IGBT
This section is intentionally placed before the technicaldiscourse. Answers to the following set of burningquestions will help determine which IGBT isappropriate for a particular application. Thedifferences between Non Punch-Through (NPT) andPunch-Through (PT) devices as well as terms andgraphs will be explained later.1. What is the operating voltage? The highestvoltage the IGBT has to block should be no morethan 80% of the V
rating.2. Is it hard or soft switched? A PT device is bettersuited for soft switching due to reduced tailcurrent, however a NPT device will also work.3. What is the current that will flow through thedevice? The first two numbers in the part numbergive a rough indication of the usable current. Forhard switching applications, the usable frequencyversus current graph is helpful in determiningwhether a device will fit the application.Differences between datasheet test conditions andthe application should be taken into account, andan example of how to do this will be given later.For soft switching applications, the I
rating couldbe used as a starting point.4. What is the desired switching speed? If theanswer is “the higher, the better”, then a PT deviceis the best choice. Again, the usable frequencyversus current graph can help answer this questionfor hard switching applications.5. Is short circuit withstand capability required? Forapplications such as motor drives, the answer isyes, and the switching frequency also tends to berelatively low. An NPT device would be required.Switch mode power supplies often don’t requireshort circuit capability.
IGBT Overview
n+n+pn-n+p+Substrate (injecting layer)Buffer layer (PT IGBT)Drift regionBody regionEmitterGateCollectorN-channelMOSFETstructure
Figure 1 N-Channel IGBT Cross Section
2An N-channel IGBT is basically an N-channel powerMOSFET constructed on a p-type substrate, asillustrated by the generic IGBT cross section in Figure1. (PT IGBTs have an additional n+ layer as well aswill be explained.) Consequently, operation of anIGBT is very similar to a power MOSFET. A positivevoltage applied from the emitter to gate terminalscauses electrons to be drawn toward the gate terminalin the body region. If the gate-emitter voltage is at orabove what is called the threshold voltage, enoughelectrons are drawn toward the gate to form aconductive channel across the body region, allowingcurrent to flow from the collector to the emitter. (Tobe precise, it allows electrons to flow from the emitterto the collector.) This flow of electrons draws positiveions, or holes, from the p-type substrate into the driftregion toward the emitter. This leads to a couple of simplified equivalent circuits for an IGBT as shown inFigure 2.
Figure 2 IGBT Simplified Equivalent Circuits
The first circuit shows an N-channel power MOSFETdriving a wide base PNP bipolar transistor in aDarlington configuration. The second circuit simplyshows a diode in series with the drain of an N-channelpower MOSFET. At first glance, it would seem thatthe on state voltage across the IGBT would be onediode drop higher than for the N-channel powerMOSFET by itself. It is true in fact that the on statevoltage across an IGBT is always at least one diodedrop. However, compared to a power MOSFET of thesame die size and operating at the same temperatureand current, an IGBT can have significantly lower onstate voltage. The reason for this is that a MOSFET isa majority carrier device only. In other words, in an N-channel MOSFET only electrons flow. As mentionedbefore, the p-type substrate in an N-channel IGBTinjects holes into the drift region. Therefore, currentflow in an IGBT is composed of both electrons andholes. This injection of holes (minority carriers)significantly reduces the effective resistance to currentflow in the drift region. Stated otherwise, holeinjection significantly increases the conductivity, or theconductivity is modulated. The resulting reduction inon state voltage is the main advantage of IGBTs overpower MOSFETs.Nothing comes for free of course, and the price forlower on state voltage is slower switching speed,especially at turn-off. The reason for this is that duringturn-off the electron flow can be stopped ratherabruptly, just as in a power MOSFET, by reducing thegate-emitter voltage below the threshold voltage.However, holes are left in the drift region, and there isno way to remove them except by voltage gradient andrecombination. The IGBT exhibits a tail current duringturn-off until all the holes are swept out or recombined.The rate of recombination can be controlled, which isthe purpose of the n+ buffer layer shown in Figure 1.This buffer layer quickly absorbs trapped holes duringturn-off. Not all IGBTs incorporate an n+ buffer layer;those that do are called punch-through (PT), those thatdo not are called non punch-through (NPT). PT IGBTsare sometimes referred to as asymmetrical, and NPT assymmetrical.The other price for lower on state voltage is thepossibility of latchup if the IGBT is operated welloutside the datasheet ratings. Latchup is a failure modewhere the IGBT can no longer be turned off by thegate. Latchup can be induced in any IGBT throughmisuse. Thus the latchup failure mechanism in IGBTswarrants some explanation.The basic structure of an IGBT resembles a thyristor,namely a series of PNPN junctions. This can beexplained by analyzing a more detailed equivalentcircuit model for an IGBT shown in Figure 3.
Drift regionresistanceBody regionspreadingresistanceCollectorEmitterGateParasiticNPNParasiticthyristor
Figure 3 IGBT Model Showing Parasitic Thyristor
A parasitic NPN bipolar transistor exists within all N-channel power MOSFETS and consequently all N-
3channel IGBTs. The base of this transistor is the bodyregion, which is shorted to the emitter to prevent itfrom turning on. Note however that the body regionhas some resistance, called body region spreadingresistance, as shown in Figure 3. The P-type substrateand drift and body regions form the PNP portion of theIGBT. The PNPN structure forms a parasitic thyristor.If the parasitic NPN transistor ever turns on and thesum of the gains of the NPN and PNP transistors aregreater than one, latchup occurs. Latchup is avoidedthrough design of the IGBT by optimizing the dopinglevels and geometries of the various regions shown inFigure 1.The gains of the PNP and NPN transistors are set sothat their sum is less than one. As temperatureincreases, the PNP and NPN gains increase, as well asthe body region spreading resistance. Very highcollector current can cause sufficient voltage dropacross the body region to turn on the parasitic NPNtransistor, and excessive localized heating of the dieincreases the parasitic transistor gains so their sumexceeds one. If this happens, the parasitic thyristorlatches on, and the IGBT cannot be turned off by thegate and may be destroyed due to over-current heating.This is static latchup. High dv/dt during turn-off combined with excessive collector current can alsoeffectively increase gains and turn on the parasiticNPN transistor. This is dynamic latchup, which isactually what limits the safe operating area since it canhappen at a much lower collector current than staticlatchup, and it depends on the turn-off dv/dt. Bystaying within the maximum current and safe operatingarea ratings, static and dynamic latchup are avoidedregardless of turn-off dv/dt. Note that turn-on andturn-off dv/dt, overshoot, and ringing can be set by anexternal gate resistor (as well as by stray inductance inthe circuit layout).
PT versus NPT Technology
Conduction Loss
For a given switching speed, NPT technology generallyhas a higher V
than PT technology. Thisdifference is magnified further by fact that V
 increases with temperature for NPT (positivetemperature coefficient), whereas V
decreaseswith temperature for PT (negative temperaturecoefficient). However, for any IGBT, whether PT orNPT, switching loss is traded off against V
.Higher speed IGBTs have a higher V
; lower speedIGBTs have a lower V
. In fact, it is possible that avery fast PT device can have a higher V
than aNPT device of slower switching speed.
Switching Loss
For a given V
, PT IGBTs have a higher speedswitching capability with lower total switching energy.This is due to higher gain and minority carrier lifetimereduction, which quenches the tail current.
NPT IGBTs are typically short circuit rated while PTdevices often are not, and NPT IGBTs can absorb moreavalanche energy than PT IGBTs. NPT technology ismore rugged due to the wider base and lower gain of the PNP bipolar transistor. This is the main advantagegained by trading off switching speed with NPTtechnology. It is difficult to make a PT IGBT withgreater than 600 Volt V
whereas it is easily donewith NPT technology. Advanced Power Technologydoes offer a series of very fast 1200 Volt PT IGBTs,the Power MOS 7
IGBT series.
Temperature Effects
For both PT and NPT IGBTs, turn-on switching speedand loss are practically unaffected by temperature.Reverse recovery current in a diode however increaseswith temperature, so temperature effects of an externaldiode in the power circuit affect IGBT turn-on loss.For NPT IGBTs, turn-off speed and switching lossremain relatively constant over the operatingtemperature range. For PT IGBTs, turn-off speeddegrades and switching loss consequently increaseswith temperature. However, switching loss is low tobegin with due to tail current quenching.As mentioned previously, NPT IGBTs typically have apositive temperature coefficient, which makes themwell suited for paralleling. A positive temperaturecoefficient is desirable for paralleling devices becausea hot device will conduct less current than a coolerdevice, so all the parallel devices tend to naturallyshare current. It is a misconception however that PTIGBTs cannot be paralleled because of their negativetemperature coefficient. PT IGBTs can be paralleledbecause of the following:
Their temperature coefficients tend to be almostzero and are sometimes positive at higher current.
Heat sharing through the heat sink tends to forcedevices to share current because a hot device willheat its neighbors, thus lowering their on voltage.
Parameters that affect the temperature coefficienttend to be well matched between devices.
IGBTs from Advanced Power Technology
Advanced Power Technology offers three series of IGBTs to cover a broad range of applications:

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