Characterization and Failure Mode Analysis of Cascode GaN HEMT

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Virginia Tech

Recent emerging gallium nitride (GaN) high electron mobility transistor (HEMT) is expected to be a promising candidate for high frequency power conversion techniques. Due to the advantages of the material, the GaN HEMT has a better figure of merit (FOM) compared to the state-of-the-art silicon (Si) power metal oxide silicon field effect transistor (MOSFET), which allows the GaN HEMT to switch with faster transition and lower switching loss. By applying the GaN HEMT in a circuit design, it is possible to achieve high frequency, high efficiency, and high density power conversion at the same time.

To characterize the switching performance of the GaN HEMT, an accurate behavior-level simulation model is developed in this thesis. The packaging related parasitic inductance, including both self-inductance and mutual-inductance, are extracted based on finite element analysis (FEA) methods. Then the accuracy of the simulation model is verified by a double-pulse tester, and the simulation results match well with experiment in terms of both device switching waveform and switching energy.

Based on the simulation model, detailed loss breakdown and loss mechanism analysis are made. The cascode GaN HEMT has high turn-on loss due to the body diode reverse recovery of the low voltage Si MOSFET and the common source inductance (CSI) of the package; while the turn-off loss is extremely small attributing to the cascode structure.

With this unique feature, the critical conduction mode (CRM) soft switching technique are applied to reduce the dominant turn on loss and increase converter efficiency significantly. The switching frequency is successfully pushed to 5MHz while maintaining high efficiency and good thermal performance.

Traditional packaging method is becoming a bottle neck to fully utilize the advantages of GaN HEMT. So an investigation of the package influence on the cascode GaN HEMT is also conducted. Several critical parasitic inductors are identified, which cause high turn on loss and high parasitic ringing which may lead to device failure. To solve the issue, the stack-die package is proposed to eliminate all critical parasitic inductors, and as a result, reducing turn on loss by half and avoiding potential failure mode of the cascode GaN device effectively.

Utilizing the proposed stack-die package and ZVS soft switching, the GaN HEMT high frequency, high efficiency, and high density power conversion capability can be further extended to a higher level.

cascode GaN, simulation model, loss analysis, soft switching, stack-die package