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What Are The Limitations Of Power Semiconductors?

Power semiconductors are increasingly being used in new devices, but they can pose a number of limitations for researchers and developers.
Power semiconductors – devices that are used as switches or rectifiers in electronic circuits – are becoming increasingly important for new developments, such as electric cars.

The company Infineon is currently coordinating a project – entitled E3Car – because of its expertise in the automotive and power semiconductor market.

Part of the aim of the initiative – which is the second international project dedicated to power semiconductor research led by the company recently – is to examine electronic components that play a vital role in the energy consumption of electronic vehicles.

The project, which is being funded with $44 million (£26.69 million) from the European Nanoelectronics Initiative Advisory Council and several other research and development organisations, will also look at battery control systems and ancillary subsystems - such as converters and inverters.

In order to get the switching and energy control demands of power semiconductors up to scratch, investigators face a number of challenges.

Power MOSFETS, which first became available in the late 1970s, can achieve a very high operating frequency. However, due to its physical limit, it cannot be used with high voltages.

It can be an excellent choice for applications below 200 V, which limits its use. By paralleling a number of devices, the rate of switch can be increased.

Alternatively, the IGBT has replaced the bipolar transistor in power applications and the availability of power modules. As technology evolves, researchers are finding they are able to find ways to improve its performance.

Compared to the MOSFET, the operating frequency of this option is relatively low because of a current-tail problem during turn-off. This problem is caused by a slow decay of the current, which results in flooding when the device is conducting power. However, it can be a good option for power levels up to several megawatts.

Some people in the industry consider that thyristor-based devices are the clear choice for devices that require high power. Yet people in the industry have to be able to deal with more complex operations, as they can only be turned on.

In order for the devices to switch off, the current has to be cancelled regularly – for example by using alternating current.ADNFCR-2855-ID-19436417-ADNFCR
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