A novel test method for minimising energy costs in IGBT power cycling studies

Beutel, Andreas Alan
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Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors (IGBTs) are popular power electronic switching devices with several advantages. However, they have been known to fail in the field when subjected to significant variations in power dissipation – known as power cycling. In the work presented here, a novel alternating-current (AC) power cycling test method for IGBTs together with their free-wheeling diodes is proposed and verified. A review of previous work revealed that the parameter that most affects IGBT lifetime under power cycling conditions is the variation in its junction-case temperature difference. Through simulation, the behaviour of a conventional single phase inverter (H-bridge) using simple pulse width modulation (PWM) control was quantified, and the effect of switching frequency and load power factor was studied. Results of the simulations and literature review were used to develop design criteria for a new AC test circuit. The new AC test circuit (a modified version of the conventional H-bridge) was then designed and its performance compared to the criteria and to the simulation results of the conventional circuit. The circuit was then built and its performance was validated. The circuit complied with the performance criteria, in particular the desired variation in 7jc, to an adequate degree of accuracy. The proposed test circuit is novel for several reasons. The stresses on devices used in a conventional H-bridge using a high power factor inductive load are reproduced using a low power factor inductive load, considerably reducing the energy cost of running such a test. IGBT switching losses are not actively reduced, as is normal practice, but instead are actively increased to generate the required losses. Free-wheeling diodes are also tested, but do not have significant switching losses, as the nature of the test circuit dictates that these be transferred to the IGBTs. The main drawback of the proposed test circuit is that a larger number of devices are needed; however, this tradeoff is necessary to obtain the energy cost savings provided by this circuit.
insulated gate bipolar transistor, IGBT, diode, power cycling, energy loss, test method