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S. Gunturi, J. Assal, D. Schneider, S. Eicher ISPSD, April 2003, Cambridge, England
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Reprinted from the International Symposium on Power Semiconductor Devices and ICs.
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These modules are currently used successfully in HVDC transmission systems with a power ranging up to 300 MW. Fabrikstrasse 3. J. power cycling is crucial for the reliable operation of the modules. This translates into operating junction temperatures of up to 125°C and temperature cycles of up to 100°C. To reduce the resistance of the failure path through pin platelet silicone gel Si chip base plate solder material (b) 1000 N gate pad IGBT’s emitter surface platelet thermal expansion Si chip thermal expansion current flow Figure 2. Switzerland the chip. Metals like silver and aluminium are preferred as they form low melting eutectic alloys with silicon. HVDC transmission and power quality management. Innovative Metal System for IGBT Press Pack Modules Innovative Metal System for IGBT Press Pack Modules * S.g. S. To prevent shut down of the system due to a defect arising in a module. (a) IGBT press pack modules with high blocking voltages up to 10 kV are offering new possibilities in power systems applications. Two important design aspects encountered in IGBT press pack modules used for HVDC applications are short circuit failure mode (SCFM) and intermittent operating life (IOL) capabilities. INTRODUCTION Figure 1. e. Schneider #. respectively) compared to Si (3 ppm/K) causing a trade-off between IOL and SCFM performance. due to power cycling. cause relative lateral ISPSD Page 1 of 4 Cambridge. take up the whole module current of up to 1500 A (phase-rms). Semiconductors. see also figure 1. When the chip fails it dissipates. D. The beneficial effects of dry interface plating materials to avoid thermomechanical fatigue under IOL conditions are described. Assal #. A single failed chip and its contact system. 5600 Lenzburg. This so-called short circuit failure mode (SCFM) has an important consequence on the press pack design. An innovative materials design to optimise this trade-off is described.gunturi@ch. The failure mechanism that leads to an open circuit after the PPI has operated extensively in SCFM was found to be liquid metal corrosion of the baseplate followed by the formation of intermetallics with poor conductivity and silicone gel degradation. High flexibility and easy handling are obtained by a non-hermetic. Accordingly. modular design. 5405 Dättwil. As illustrated in figure 2b the changes in temperature. The requirement that press-pack IGBT (PPI) fail safely into a short causes a design conflict with the module’s desired capability to survive a high number of power cycles in normal operation. for a very short duration. (b) Emitter interface of the Si-chip. Unfortunately Ag and Al have high coefficients of thermal expansion (CTE = 19 and 23 ppm/K. in which each silicon (Si) chip is pressed by an individual contact spring . the capability in intermittent operating life (IOL) i. 2003 . a sufficiently high energy to melt the platelet and forms a stable alloy with silicon. Eicher # ABB Switzerland Ltd.ABB Switzerland Ltd. In HVDC applications. IGBT press pack module composed of four submodules.abb. which is illustrated in figure 2a. a metal platelet is used in contact with the silicon chip . dozens of modules are connected in series to block dc-link voltages of up to 100 kV. as well as in drive and traction applications. satish. Corporate Research. Gunturi *.e. (a) Design of the contacted Si-chip. such that the surviving modules share the voltage and the failed module is still able to carry the load current. a stable short circuit condition through the failed module must be formed and guaranteed until the system is serviced. Therefore. redundant modules are included in the system. Abstract.com # ABB Switzerland Ltd.
Intermittent Operating Lifetime.chip Al-plate Pb-solder Mo-baseplate Figure 3. platelets of primary Si. scanning acoustic microscopy. It revealed predominantly. and gate-emitter threshold voltage). as Pb is insoluble in Al. These cyclic motions combined with high current densities and high operating temperatures can damage the chip surface. firstly a failure in the alloying zone and secondly a degradation of the dry interfaces due to the the silicone gel creeping into them. The interfaces at the emitter surface of the chips and the platelets. Small volume fractions of Ni-Al intermetallic needles and platelets were also observed in the Al-Si alloy. scanning electron microscopy aided by EDX for chemical composition analysis and micro hardness testing techniques to determine the mechanisms leading to the failure by opening up of the short circuit. power cycling was tested on the modules as shown in figure 1. In order to simulate the operating conditions. Spherical chunks of Pb from the solder alloy (joining the chip to the base plate) were found embedded in this alloy. Statistical modelling activities  and the available results from the field confirm that the IGBT modules meet the required number of operating hours. in case of a failure. Thereafter they were subjected to high currents in the range of 1000-1500 A and load cycling to accelerate the degradation of the contact system. % Si (either side of the eutectic composition of 12. During the test the collector-emitter voltage of each module was measured regularly and. RESULTS & DISCUSSION Short circuit failure mode. The IGBT modules for testing in SCFM were initially destroyed by applying an over-voltage to form the short circuit in one of the Si chips. Tests were interrupted at various stages of the degradation process. Si . EXPERIMENTAL Short circuit failure mode. The contact resistances of the complete module and of the interface between the metallization of the emitter side of the chip and the contact platelet were previously measured. The microstructure of a typical cross section through the alloying zone during the early stages of operation in SCFM is shown in figure 3. experiments under accelerated conditions were performed to study the possible failure mechanisms after long term operation. but were not formed in significant volume fractions to affect the conductivity of the alloy. Two modes which result in the undesired opening up of the short circuit were identified. away from the Al-Si interface. the stacks were dismantled and every device was electrically tested (gate-emitter and collector-emitter leakage currents. stacks were remounted and the test was started again. that did not melt were embedded in a matrix of Al. Failed modules were replaced by new ones. Innovative Metal System for IGBT Press Pack Modules movements of more than 10 µm at the chip to platelet interface. Every 10’000 cycles. Samples were analysed using optical. but only contribute to the higher voltages observed during the early stages of the test and dissolve during subsequent melting and spreading of the alloy with time. by-passed. thereby generating early electrical failures. These results are discussed below. the samples were sectioned and prepared for metallurgical analysis by grinding and polishing to reveal the alloying zone as shown in figure 3. the formation of a hemispherical AlSi alloy above the Mo baseplate and in the Al-Si interface. as well as the nature of the failures were analyzed using optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with chemical composition analysis capability (EDX). Ni-Al intermetallics in general possess poor conductivities. to ensure a controlled ∆T (typically of 40°C and 80°C) between the switching on and off cycle periods. The voltage drop across the module was recorded as a function of time. Alloying zone. An applied DC current between 1500 A and 1700 A was switched on and off every 30” through the stacks composed alternatively of modules and coolers. They are formed from the interaction of the Ni plating on the Al platelet and Mo baseplate used to facilitate adequate solderability of the Si chip. % Si in Al) in various regions of the alloying zone. Compositional analysis by EDX in the SEM confirmed that this alloy had the composition ranging from 8 to 25 wt. Further. Specially built modules were also tested to monitor the voltage drop across the various materials interfaces. However at that early stage. there was still a good contact between the baseplate and the Al-Si alloy. However. Although platelets of Si were present they do not lead to the immediate destruction of the current conducting path. the test was stopped.7 wt. 2003 . During the early stages of operation the top surface of the Mo baseplate displayed regions in which the Al-Si alloy penetrated into the Mo baseplate. ISPSD Page 2 of 4 Cambridge.ABB Switzerland Ltd. A low Si content in the alloy would be preferable as otherwise the resistivity and hence power dissipated in the alloy increase with the Si content resulting in rapid degradation of the materials. In order to identify the aging mechanisms.
In addition. Palladium coatings (Pd) fulfil all these requirements reasonably well for most applications. Figure 4. Molten Al penetrates along Mo grain boundaries. The presence of silicone gel in the interface Figure 7. the coating process must be compatible with Al bulk material and cost effective. during SCFM (when high temperatures are generated in the dry contacts) (figure 6) resulted in the embrittlement of the gel and the formation of hard silica (SiO2) due to oxidation of the methyl groups in polydimethylsiloxane. Figure 5. examination of the SiMo interface in samples that were interrupted after longer operation but prior to failure. The location of the failure is marked. Al4Mo etc). in the SEM revealed a number of long cracks branching in all directions in the Mo plate (figure 4). Mo(Si. This generates mechanical fatigue and can cause early failures under IOL. pin foot Ag-plating gel Ag-plating Figure 6. The inherently high resistivity of intermetallics (MoSi2 has a resistivity that is one order higher than pure metals) along with the cracking in the baseplate increase the resistance to current flow and increase the ohmic heat that is dissipated in the Si-Mo interface. Liquid metal corrosion of Mo  and formation of various intermetallics  were reported earlier. including HVDC. Failed IGBT (left) and platelet (right) after 6000 cycles in IOL ∆T = 80°C. aluminium is needed to ensure long lifetime in SCFM. The corroded grains were then drawn into the Al-Si alloy.ABB Switzerland Ltd. Intermittent Operating Lifetime. which starts in air at temperatures >180°C. IOL experiments reveal lifetimes (expressed as 10% failure probabilities) of more than ISPSD Page 3 of 4 Cambridge. diffusion of Si and Al occurs into the Mo particles forming various intermetallics (eg. Over long periods of operation. (3) no oxide formation. Silicone gel (dark) in a dry interface between two plated parts (bright). Unfortunately aluminium has a high CTE (23 ppm/K) compared to that of silicon (3 ppm/K). (2) low coefficient of friction. the coating material of the platelet must be chosen carefully to meet the following requirements: (1) high electrical conductivity. Formation of hard layers of silica from the soft silicone gel that creeps into the interfaces prevents further electrical contact points from being established after the initial contact points have deteriorated by aging/oxidation leading to higher power dissipation and failure of the contact by creep in the press-pin and oxidation. Their volume fraction increased with time and a majority of the alloy was observed to be composed of the intermetallics (supported by the microhardness measurement profiles) close to failure. Intermetallics in the alloying zone. 2003 . and (4) chemically inert below 150°C with the IGBT top metal or the silicone gel under the influence of humidity. Therefore. As mentioned above. These cracks were formed due to the liquid Al (from the Al-Si alloy) corroding the Mo grain boundaries. Al)2. figure 5. Innovative Metal System for IGBT Press Pack Modules At a later stage in testing. Such increase in heat causes further deterioration of the baseplate and finally failure by oxidation of the alloy. A second mechanism which results in an open circuit is due to the silicone gel creeping in to a majority of the dry interfacial contact area after the gel potting operation during the production of modules. some of which are predicted by the phase diagrams. Aging experiments on the gel in the temperature range of 200-275°C confirmed the formation of SiO2.
thus forming cracks and various intermetallics with poor conductivity over long-term operation. When the volume fraction of the intermetallics increases to a critical level. In our first tests we have seen a shift in the collector-emitter leakage current from the nA to the µA range after approximately 100 k cycles. It has been shown that high IOL capability and good SCFM life are conflicting requirements. is a traditional contact material for semiconductor devices. is adopted. but no catastrophic IGBT failure occurred (chips maintained their switching capability). Such sticking damages the emitter surface of the IGBTs. however.g. Al coated with Pd is used for the contact platelet and. Mo. the power dissipation and hence heat dissipated increases in the alloy leading to failure (open circuit) by oxidation. thus. 1689.  T. However. Ag particles are situated at the border of the circular marking. H.ABB Switzerland Ltd. exhibit an improved lifetime close to 100’000 cycles.  N. no electrical failure). Trans. Tunca. with its CTE of 5 ppm/K. such a short will not remain stable over extremely long periods as with Al or Ag platelets. 13th ISPSD 2001. Using contact platelets with this combination. 2003 .W. pp. Mo clearly improves the IOL capability but experiments show that SCFM lifetime  S.  Metals Handbook Properties and Selection: Non Ferrous Alloys and Special Purpose Materials. e. “Reliability of non-Hermetic Pressure Contact IGBT Modules” Microelectronics Reliability. pp. The emitter surface is not damaged and the markings left by the Mo platelet are barely visible. IGBT after 5000 cycles in IOL ∆T = 80°C. Smith “Intermetallic Compound Layer Growth at the Interface of Solid Refractory Metals Molybdenum and Niobium with Molten Aluminium. ASM Intl. Patent number: US 6426561 B1  R. It should. Schlegel et al. Figure 9. SCFM capability is not required as in HVDC.2. “Short-circuit resistant IGBT module”. and the interdiffusion process between the Ag top metal of the electronic device and the Pd coating.. Lang. Vol. respectively. This construction exhibits superior IOL lifetime of about 1 mio cycles for ∆T = 40°C. In that case. “Innovative Press Pack Modules for High Power IGBTs. 825. The typical failures exhibit transfer and “sticking” of Ag from the chip metallization on to the Pd coating of the platelet by interdiffusion of Ag and Pd. Therefore. IOL can be dramatically improved by using Mo as bulk material for the platelet. SEM of a Pd-coated Al-platelet (2000 cycles. and finally causes failure of the electronic devices (figures 7 and 8). R. Silicone gel creeping into the dry interfaces also leads to failure by forming hard SiO2 in the contact interfaces. In those cases. In several applications like traction.” Proc. rhodium (Rh) is used as plating. 59. To protect it against oxidation. Osaka. REFERENCES Figure 8. The root cause of this observation remains to be investigated. a Mo platelet in direct contact with the chip enables excellent IOL performance for modules which are not intended for use in applications where extended SCFM life is required. pp. For HVDC stations where SCFM is necessary. A relatively stable Al-Si alloy formed under SCFM conditions is able to carry the load current of the module stack. Innovative Metal System for IGBT Press Pack Modules 100’000 cycles and 10’000 cycles for ∆T = 40°C and 80°C.g. whose lifetime is limited by liquid Al from the Al-Si alloy corroding the Mo baseplate. Figure 9 shows the excellent IOL results of using a Mo platelet on an IGBT after 5000 cycles in IOL at ∆T = 80°C (the test was interrupted before failure). Kaufmann et al. power cycling lifetime above 100 k cycles are reached for ∆T = 40°C. traction). ISPSD Page 4 of 4 Cambridge. 41 (2001). IOL tests with ∆T of 80°C. The structure of the IGBT emitter surface is visible. failures are due to the high mismatch of the CTE’s between Al and Si.” Met. For applications where high IOL capability is critical and long SCFM life is not required (e. 10th Edn. 20A (1989). CONCLUSIONS We present here a press pack IGBT module construction that fails safe into a short and is able to maintain this short for a long time. ∆T = 80°C. traction or industrial applications. a Mo platelet coated with Rh. is reduced by a factor of 10 in comparison to Al platelets. be noted that even the construction with the Mo platelet fails safely into a short. Japan (2001). Zeller.
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