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Leveraging the Power of Silicon Carbide in Switched Power Converters

Infineon
Author: René Mente, Senior Staff Engineer, Infineon Technologies

Introduction

Much has been undertaken by the semiconductor industry over the past decades to improve on the parasitic components of silicon MOSFETs to meet the needs of switching converter designers. Through a combination of regulation and market demand for green technologies, these have resulted in a demand for products that can be used to build ever more efficient and compact power solutions. In the meantime, wide bandgap (WBG) technologies such as silicon carbide (SiC) have emerged that provide the improved parasitics switch-mode power supply (SMPS) designers are requesting. With the introduction of 650 V SiC MOSFETs to complement existing 1200 V discrete power devices, SiC becomes more attractive for applications for which they had not been previously considered.

As a result, SiC MOSFETs are increasingly being turned to in applications reaching into the kilowatt range, covering everything from power supplies for telecom and servers, to battery charging for the growing electric vehicle market. Their allure is linked to their superior robustness compared to their silicon counterparts, coupled with the ability to utilize them in hard-switched topologies of Continuous Conduction Mode (CCM) Power Factor Correction (PFC) designs which continuously uses the internal body diode. Furthermore, their support for high switching frequencies supports the industry’s drive towards smaller, more compact power converters.

No such thing as a free lunch

Of course, as is often the way, the benefits that SiC provides over Si devices are not provided ‘for free’, and there are some areas where SiC performs less well. This requires designers to take the time to fully understand the characteristics and capabilities of these novel new devices, as well as considering a move to new topologies. One thing should be clear: these devices are not drop-in replacements and using them as such may result in a loss in efficiency rather than a gain.

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