In this interview Nitesh Satheesh, Technical Staff Engineer, Business Development, Discrete and Power Management, Microchip Technology Inc, shares insights about Microchip’s AgileSwitch® digital programmable gate driver and SP6LI SiC power module kit and discusses how it can enable developers to proceed quickly from benchtop to production and how such innovative technology solutions within semiconductor space will help revolutionize/fast-track the shift towards electrifying vehicles within the automobile industry.
Please discuss the advantages of SiC technology and Microchip leadership in SiC innovations.
SiC technology is now widely recognized as a reliable alternative to silicon. Many manufacturers of power modules and power inverters have laid the foundations for SiC use in their product roadmaps.
SiC drastically improves power electronic devices in transportation systems, featuring higher operating temperatures, higher voltages, lower parasitic resistance, and smaller size than its silicon counterparts.
System designers are adopting SiC solutions to overcome the efficiency limitations of traditional, silicon-based devices. Silicon carbide allows their systems to be smaller and lighter-weight, and the overall system cost is actually lower.
The global silicon carbide market size is estimated to grow from USD 749 million in 2020 to USD 1,812 million by 2025 at a CAGR of 19.3%. The key factors fuelling the growth of this market are the growing demand for SiC devices in the power electronics industry and smaller devices that are facilitated due to the utilization of SiC-based devices.
The silicon carbide-based semiconductor devices can be implemented in industrial and commercial motor drives, EV charging infrastructure, propulsion in heavy duty vehicles, auxiliary power units for transportation, induction heating among other applications. Thus, the increasing demand for silicon carbide-based semiconductor devices is expected to fuel the growth of the EV motor drives application at the highest CAGR.
All Microchip SiC solutions are developed, produced and supported with our commitment to quality, supply and support – what we call QSS.
- Quality: proven reliability and ruggedness
- Supply: risk averse approach throughout the supply chain
- Support: standard discrete, die, module, and gate drive solutions with design and application support for customers.
What are the challenges with traditional Gate Drivers system?
Traditional gate drivers fail to provide precise control of gate turn-on and turn-off, and, for SiC, rapid and robust short circuit protection. High di/dt and dv/dt in SiC devices lead to false faults, ringing, high EMI and voltage overshoot. Driving, protecting and optimizing the efficiency of the SiC MOSFET requires the type of control only possible by software-based digital solutions. So we have introduced a new technique for driving SiC devices and capturing the full potential of SiC.
How is Microchip Digital gate drivers overcome these challenges?
Microchip’s AgileSwitch digital gate drivers effectively reduce EMI problems and switching losses by up to 50%. Digital solutions are designed to address the critical challenges that arise in operating SiC power devices at high switching frequencies, in non-ideal system conditions. They can switch at up to 200 kHz and provide up to seven different failure conditions and monitoring conditions.
Tell us about your recently introduced AgileSwitch® digital programmable gate driver and SP6LI SiC power module.
The company recently announced a new unified system that puts SiC power devices into designers’ hands for widespread adoption in heavy-duty vehicles, auxiliary power units, charging, storage, inverters, and induction heating.
Microchip’s AgileSwitch digital programmable gate driver and SP6LI SiC power module kit speeds development from evaluation through production, eliminating the need to procure power modules and gate drivers separately – including gate drivers that are qualified for end-product production. With Microchip’s AgileSwitch gate drivers and proven, high-performance SiC power modules, developers can avoid qualifying power modules and spending time to develop their own gate drivers, which can save months in development schedules.
Microchip’s flexible portfolio of 700, 1200 and 1700V SiC Schottky Barrier Diode (SBD)-based power modules utilizes its newest generation of SiC die. In addition, its dsPIC® Digital Signal Controllers deliver performance, low power consumption and flexible peripherals. Microchip’s AgileSwitch family of digital programmable gate drivers further accelerates the process of moving from the design stage to production.
What are the advantages of combining gate driver and power module?
One major advantage of bundling the gate driver and power module kit together is that designers won’t need to procure and qualify each device separately. Microchip’s gate drivers and the SP6LI SiC power module are already qualified for end-product production.Engineers can work in parallel instead of sequentially qualifying each product first and then qualify the “system”/ combined unit a second time. This alone can slash development schedules, sometimes by months.
Now as SiC power modules increasingly enable the technologies transforming transportation and other industries, this complete product kit allows developers to focus on system innovation and significantly reduce time to market.
How can Augmented Switching Technology Improve Design?
EMI is primarily caused by sharp edges on a digital signal. Smoothing out these edges improves EMI. Augmented Switching technology provides for a “stepped” turn-on and turn-off that soften the edges of a gate’s transition. The precise settings & digital nature of Augmented Switching technology also reduces voltage overshoot and ringing while optimizing a system’s efficiency, which ot always achievable with a pure analog approach.
Another tool in the kit called the Intelligent Configuration, which Microchip provides a “configure-at-a-click” capability is included in the ASDAK+. This means that designers can use a Windows-based computer interface to review issues like voltage overshoot, electromagnetic interference (EMI), and switching losses. Designers can return to this interface throughout the design process, whether they’re evaluating dynamic issues early on or optimizing a close-to-final product—all without picking up a soldering iron.