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Triac
FromOpenElectrical

Contents
1 Introduction
2 TurnOn
2.1 Alternativeturnonmethods
2.2 TurnondIT/dt
2.3 Turnoff
2.4 HiComtriac
2.5 Triacmountingmethods
2.6 Thermalresistance
3 Trivia

Introduction
Atriaccanberegardedasa"bidirectionalthyristor"
becauseitconductsinbothdirections.Forstandard
triacs,currentflowineitherdirectionbetweenthemain
terminalsMT1andMT2isinitiatedbyasmallsignal
currentappliedbetweenMT1andthegateterminal.

TurnOn Triac

Unlikethyristors,standardtriacscanbetriggeredby
positiveornegativecurrentflowbetweenthegateand
MT1.(TherulesforVGT,IGTandILarethesameas
forthyristors.SeeRule1.)Thispermitstriggeringin
four"quadrants".

WherethegateistobetriggeredbyDCorunipolar
pulsesatzerocrossingoftheloadcurrent,negative
gatecurrentistobepreferredforthefollowing
reasons.Theinternalconstructionofthetriacmeans
thatthegateismoreremotefromthemaincurrent
carryingregionwhenoperatinginthe3+quadrant.
Thisresultsin:
TriacUIcharacteristic
1.HigherIGT>higherpeakIGrequired,
2.LongerdelaybetweenIGandthe
commencementofloadcurrentflow>longerdurationofIGrequired,
3.MuchlowerdIT/dtcapability>progressivegatedegradationcanoccurwhencontrollingloadswithhigh
initialdI/dt(e.g.coldincandescentlampfilaments),

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4.HigherIL(alsotruefor1operation)>longer
IGdurationmightbeneededforverysmallloads
whenconductingfromthebeginningofamains
halfcycletoallowtheloadcurrenttoreachthe
higherIL.

InstandardACphasecontrolcircuitssuchaslamp
dimmersanddomesticmotorspeedcontrols,thegate
andMT2polaritiesarealwaysthesame.Thismeans
thatoperationisalwaysinthe1+and3quadrants
wherethetriacsswitchingparametersarethesame.
Thisresultsinsymmetricaltriacswitchingwherethe
gateisatitsmostsensitive.

Note:The1+,1,3and3+notationforthefour
triggeringquadrantsisusedforbrevityinsteadof
writing"MT2+,G+"for1+,etc.Itisderivedfromthe
Triactriggeringquadrants
graphofthetriacsUIcharacteristic.PositiveMT2
correspondswithpositivecurrentflowintoMT2,and
viceversa.Hence,operationisinquadrants1and3only.The+andsuperscriptsrefertoinwardandoutwardgate
currentrespectively.

Rule3.Whendesigningatriactriggeringcircuit,avoidtriggeringinthe3+quadrant(MT2,G+)wherepossible.

Alternativeturnonmethods

Thereareundesirablewaysatriaccan
beturnedon.Somearebenign,while
somearepotentiallydestructive.

(a)Noisygatesignal

Inelectricallynoisyenvironments,
spurioustriggeringcanoccurifthe
noisevoltageonthegateexceedsVGT
andenoughgatecurrentflowsto
initiateregenerativeactionwithinthe
triac.Thefirstlineofdefenceisto
minimisetheoccurrenceofthenoisein
thefirstplace.Thisisbestachievedby
keepingthegateconnectionsasshortas
possibleandensuringthatthecommon
returnfromthegatedrivecircuit TriacdICOM/dtanddVCOM/dt(b)
connectsdirectlytotheMT1pin(or
cathodeinthecaseofathyristor).In
situationswherethegateconnectionsarehardwired,twistedpairwiresorevenshieldedcablemightbenecessary
tominimisepickup.Additionalnoiseimmunitycanbeprovidedbyaddingaresistorof1korlessbetweenthe
gateandMT1toreducethegatesensitivity.Ifahighfrequencybypasscapacitorisalsoused,itisadvisableto
includeaseriesresistorbetweenitandthegatetominimisepeakcapacitorcurrentsthroughthegateandminimise

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thepossibilityofovercurrentdamageto
thetriacsgatearea.Alternatively,usea
seriesHtriac(e.g.BT139600H).
Theseareinsensitivetypeswith10mA
minIGTspecswhicharespecifically
designedtoprovideahighdegreeof
noiseimmunity.

Rule4.Tominimisenoisepickup,keep
gateconnectionlengthtoaminimum.
TakethereturndirectlytoMT1(or
cathode).Ifhardwired,usetwistedpair
orshieldedcable.Fitaresistorof1k
orlessbetweengateandMT1.Fita
bypasscapacitorinconjunctionwitha
seriesresistortothegate.Alternatively,
useaninsensitiveseriesHtriac.

(b)Exceedingthemaxrateof
changeofcommutatingvoltage
dVCOM/dt
Effectsofrectifierfedinductiveloadonphasecontrolcircuit(c)
Thisismostlikelytooccurwhen
drivingahighlyreactiveloadwhere
thereissubstantialphaseshiftbetween
theloadvoltageandcurrent
waveforms.Whenthetriaccommutates
astheloadcurrentpassesthroughzero,
thevoltagewillnotbezerobecauseof
thephaseshift.Thetriacisthen
suddenlyrequiredtoblockthisvoltage.
Theresultingrateofchangeof
commutatingvoltagecanforcethetriac
backintoconductionifitexceedsthe
permitteddVCOM/dt.Thisisbecause
themobilechargecarriershavenot TriacturnonbyexceedingdVD /dt(d)
beengiventimetoclearthejunction.
ThedVCOM/dtcapabilityisaffectedby
twoconditions:

1.Therateoffallofloadcurrentatcommutation,dICOM/dt.HigherdICOM/dtlowersthedVCOM/dt
capability.
2.ThejunctiontemperatureTj.HigherTjlowersthedVCOM/dtcapability.

IfthetriacsdVCOM/dtislikelytobeexceeded,falsetriggeringcanbeavoidedbyuseofanRCsnubberacross
MT1MT2tolimittherateofchangeofvoltage.Commonvaluesare100carboncompositionresistor,chosenfor
itssurgecurrenthandling,and100nF.Alternatively,useaHiComtriac.Notethattheresistorshouldneverbe
omittedfromthesnubberbecausetherewouldthenbenothingtopreventthecapacitorfromdumpingitscharge
intothetriacandcreatingdamagingdIT/dtduringunfavourableturnonconditions.

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(c)Exceedingthemaxrateof
changeofcommutatingcurrent
dICOM/dt

HigherdICOM/dtiscausedbyhigher
loadcurrent,highermainsfrequency
(assumingsinewavecurrent)ornon
sinewaveloadcurrent.Awellknown
causeofnonsinewaveloadcurrentand
highdICOM/dtisrectifierfedinductive
loads.Thesecanoftenresultin
commutationfailureinstandard
triacsasthesupplyvoltagefallsbelow
thebackEMFoftheloadandthetriac
currentcollapsessuddenlytozero.
Duringthisconditionofzerotriac TriacturnonbyexceedingdVDRM/dt(e)
current,theloadcurrentwillbe
"freewheeling"aroundthebridgerectifiercircuit.LoadsofthisnaturecangeneratesuchhighdICOM/dtthatthe
triaccannotsupporteventhegentlereapplieddV/dtofa50Hzwaveformrisingfromzerovolts.Therewillthenbe
nobenefitinaddingasnubberacrossthetriacbecausedVCOM/dtisnottheproblem.ThedICOM/dtwillhavetobe
limitedbyaddinganinductorofafewmHinserieswiththeload.Alternatively,useaHiComtriac.

(d)ExceedingthemaxrateofchangeofoffstatevoltagedVD/dt

Ifaveryhighrateofchangeofvoltageisappliedacrossanonconductingtriac(orsensitivegatethyristorin
particular)withoutexceedingitsVDRM,internalcapacitivecurrentcangenerateenoughgatecurrenttotriggerthe
deviceintoconduction.Susceptibilityisincreasedathightemperature.Wherethisisaproblem,thedVD/dtmust
belimitedbyanRCsnubberacrossMT1andMT2(oranodeandcathode).Inthecaseoftriacs,usingHiCom
typescanyieldbenefits.

Rule5.WherehighdVD/dtordVCOM/dtarelikelytocauseaproblem,fitanRCsnubberacrossMT1andMT2.
WherehighdICOM/dtislikelytocauseaproblem,fitaninductorofafewmHinserieswiththeload.
Alternatively,useaHiComtriac.

(e)ExceedingtherepetitivepeakoffstatevoltageVDRM

IftheMT2voltageexceedsVDRMsuchasmightoccurduringsevereandabnormalmainstransientconditions,
MT2MT1leakagewillreachapointwherethetriacwillspontaneouslybreakoverintoconduction.Iftheload
permitshighinrushcurrentstoflow,extremelyhighlocalisedcurrentdensitycanoccurinthesmallareaofsilicon
thatisconducting.Thiscanleadtoburnoutanddestructionofthedie.Incandescentlamps,capacitiveloadsand
crowbarprotectioncircuitsarelikelycausesofhighinrushcurrents.TurnonbyexceedingthetriacsVDRMor
dVD/dtisnotnecessarilythemainthreattoitssurvival.ItsthedIT/dtthatfollowswhichismostlikelytocausethe
damage.Duetothetimerequiredforconductiontospreadoutoverthewholejunction,thepermitteddIT/dtis
lowerthanifthetriaciscorrectlyturnedonbyagatesignal.IfthedIT/dtcanbelimitedduringtheseconditionsto
thislowervalue,whichisgivenindata,thetriacismorelikelytosurvive.Thiscouldbeachievedbyfittinganon
saturable(aircored)inductorofafewHinserieswiththeload.Iftheabovesolutionisunacceptableor
impractical,analternativesolutionwouldbetoprovideadditionalfilteringandclampingtopreventthespikes
reachingthetriac.ThiswouldprobablyinvolvetheuseofaMetalOxideVaristorasa"soft"voltageclampacross
thesupply,withseriesinductancefollowedbyparallelcapacitanceupstreamoftheMOV.
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DoubtshavebeenexpressedbysomemanufacturersoverthereliabilityofcircuitswhichuseMOVsacrossthe
mains,sincetheyhavebeenknowntogointothermalrunawayinhighambienttemperaturesandfail
catastrophically.Thisisduetothefactthattheiroperatingvoltagepossessesamarkednegativetemperature
coefficient.However,iftherecommendedvoltagegradeof275VRMSisusedfor230Vmains,theriskofMOV
failureshouldbenegligible.Suchfailuresaremorelikelyif250VRMSMOVsareused,whichareunderspecified
for230VRMSuseathighambienttemperatures.

Rule6.IfthetriacsVDRMislikelytobeexceededduringseveremainstransients,employoneofthefollowing
measures:

1.LimithighdIT/dtwithanonsaturableinductorofafewHinserieswiththeload
2.UseaMOVacrossthemainsincombinationwithfilteringonthesupplyside.

TurnondIT/dt

Whenatriacorthyristoristriggeredintoconductionbythecorrectmethodviaitsgate,conductionbeginsinthe
dieareaimmediatelyadjacenttothegate,thenquicklyspreadstocoverthewholeactivearea.Thistimedelay
imposesalimitonthepermissiblerateofriseofloadcurrent.AdIT/dtwhichistoohighcancauselocalised
burnout.AnMT1MT2shortwillbetheresult.Iftriggeringinthe3+quadrant,anadditionalmechanismfurther
reducesthepermitteddIT/dt.Itispossibletomomentarilytakethegateintoreverseavalanchebreakdownduring
theinitialrapidcurrentrise.Thismightnotleadtoimmediatefailure.Instead,therewouldbeprogressiveburnout
ofthegateMT1shortingresistanceafterrepeatedexposure.Thiswouldshowitselfbyaprogressiveincreasein
IGTuntilthetriacwillnolongertrigger.Sensitivetriacsarelikelytobethemostsusceptible.HiComtriacsarenot
affectedastheydonotoperateinthe3+quadrant.ThedIT/dtcapabilityisaffectedbyhowfastthegatecurrent
rises(dIG/dt)andthepeakvalueofIG.HighervaluesofdIG/dtandpeakIG(withoutexceedingthegatepower
ratings)giveahigherdIT/dtcapability.

Rule7.Healthygatedriveandavoiding3+operationmaximisesthetriacsdIT/dtcapability.

Asmentionedpreviously,acommonloadwithahighinitialsurgecurrentistheincandescentlampwhichhasa
lowcoldresistance.Forresistiveloadssuchasthis,thedIT/dtwouldbeatitshighestifconductioncommencedat
apeakofthemainsvoltage.IfthisislikelytoexceedthetriacsdIT/dtrating,itshouldbelimitedbytheinclusion
ofaninductorofafewHorevenaNegativeTemperatureCoefficientthermistorinserieswiththeload.Again,
theinductormustnotsaturateduringthemaximumcurrentpeak.Ifitdoes,itsinductancewouldcollapseandit
wouldnolongerlimitthedIT/dt.Anaircoredinductormeetstherequirement.Amoreelegantsolutionwhich
couldavoidtherequirementforaseriescurrentlimitingdevicewouldbetousezerovoltageturnon.Thiswould
allowthecurrenttobuildupmoregraduallyfromthebeginningofthesinewave.Note:Itisimportantto
remememberthatzerovoltageturnonisonlyapplicabletoresistiveloads.Usingthesamemethodforreactive
loadswherethereisphaseshiftbetweenvoltageandcurrentcancause"halfwaving"orunipolarconduction,
leadingtopossiblesaturationofinductiveloads,damaginglyhighpeakcurrentsandoverheating.Moreadvanced
controlemployingzerocurrentswitchingand/orvariabletriggerangleisrequiredinthiscase.

Rule8.IfthetriacsdIT/dtislikelytobeexceeded,anaircoredinductorofafewHoranNTCthermistorshould
befittedinserieswiththeload.Alternatively,employzerovoltageturnonforresistiveloads.

Turnoff

SincetriacsareusedinACcircuits,theynaturallycommutateattheendofeachhalfcycleofloadcurrentunlessa
gatesignalisappliedtomaintainconductionfromthebeginningofthenexthalfcycle.TherulesforIHarethe
sameasforthethyristor.SeeRule2.
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HiComtriac

HiComtriacshaveadifferentinternalconstructiontoconventionaltriacs.Oneofthedifferencesisthatthetwo
"thyristorhalves"arebetterseparatedtoreducetheinfluencethattheyhaveoneachother.Thishasyieldedtwo
benefits:

1.HigherdVCOM/dt.Thisenablesthemtocontrolreactiveloadswithouttheneedforasnubberin
mostcaseswhilestillavoidingcommutationfailure.Thisreducesthecomponentcount,boardsizeand
cost,andeliminatessnubberpowerdissipation.
2.HigherdICOM/dt.Thisdrasticallyimprovesthechancesofsuccessfullycommutatinghigher
frequencyornonsinewavecurrentswithouttheneedforadICOM/dtlimitinginductorinserieswiththe
load.
3.HigherdVD/dt.Triacsbecomemoresensitiveathighoperatingtemperatures.ThehigherdVD/dtof
HiComtriacsreducestheirtendencytospuriousdV/dtturnonwhenintheblockingstateathigh
temperature.Thisenablesthemtobeusedinhightemperatureapplicationscontrollingresistiveloads,
suchascookingorheatingapplications,whereconventionaltriacscouldnotbeused.

Thedifferentinternalconstructionalsomeansthat3+triggeringisnotpossible.Thisshouldnotbeaproblemin
thevastmajorityofcasesbecausethisistheleastdesirableandleastusedtriggeringquadrant,sodirect
substitutionofaHiComforanequivalentconventionaltriacwillalmostalwaysbepossible.

Triacmountingmethods

Forsmallloadsorveryshortdurationloadcurrent(i.e.lessthan1second),itmightbepossibletooperatethetriac
infreeair.Inmostcases,however,itwouldbefixedtoaheatsinkorheatdissipatingbracket.Thethreemain
methodsofclampingthetriactoaheatsinkareclipmounting,screwmountingandriveting.Mountingkitsare
availablefrommanysourcesforthefirsttwomethods.Rivetingisnotarecommendedmethodinmostcases.

Rule9.Avoidmechanicalstresstothetriacwhenfittingittotheheatsink.Fix,thensolder.Neverpoprivetwith
therivetmandrelonthetabside.

Thermalresistance

ThermalresistanceRthistheresistancetotheflowofheatawayfromthejunction.Itisanalogoustoelectrical
resistancei.e.justaselectricalresistanceR=V/I,thermalresistanceRth=T/P,whereTisthetemperaturerisein
KelvinandPisthepowerdissipationinWatts.ThereforeRthisexpressedinK/W.Foradevicemountedvertically
infreeair,thethermalresistanceisdictatedbythejunctiontoambientthermalresistanceRthja.Thisistypically
100K/WfortheSOT82package,60K/WfortheSOT78packageand55K/WfortheisolatedFpackandXpack.
Foranonisolateddevicemountedtoaheatsink,thejunctiontoambientthermalresistanceisthesumofthe
junctiontomountingbase,mountingbasetoheatsinkandheatsinktoambientthermalresistances.

Rthja=Rthjmb+Rthmbh+Rthha(nonisolatedpackage).

Theuseofheattransfercompoundorsheetbetweenthedeviceandheatsinkisalwaysrecommended.Inthecase
ofisolatedpackages,thereisnoreferencemadeto"mountingbase",sincetheRthmbhisassumedtobeconstant
andoptimisedwithheattransfercompound.Therefore,thejunctiontoambientthermalresistanceisthesumofthe
junctiontoheatsinkandheatsinktoambientthermalresistances.

Rthja=Rthjh+Rthha(isolatedpackage).
RthjmborRthjharefixedandcanbefoundindataforeachdevice.
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Rthmbhisalsogiveninthemountinginstructionsforseveraloptionsofinsulatedandnoninsulated
mounting,withorwithoutheatsinkcompound.
Rthhaisgovernedbytheheatsinksizeandthedegreeofunrestrictedairmovementpastit.

Rule10.Forlongtermreliability,ensurethattheRthjaislowenoughtokeepthejunctiontemperaturewithinTj
maxforthehighestexpectedambienttemperature.

Trivia

TRIAC.avi

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