Users need to know if the technology is reliable and does it work as it’s supposed to?
By Jim Witham, CEO of GaN Systems
Featured recently at Electronics Product & Technology, Jim Witham writes on the differences in testing GaN versus Silicon and a new approach to assessing reliability. Below is a preview of the full article, which can be found here.
Within the last decade, gallium nitride (GaN) has become a rising star in the power electronics industry. GaN’s use has transitioned from university labs to OEMs and Tier 1 companies using it in designs to build their next generation motor drives, power supplies, electric vehicle traction inverters, consumer adapters, and more.
The combination of new power systems design requirements for higher power, efficiency, and reliability and increasing demand for smaller and lighter products have accelerated the move to GaN. But, as with any new technology, companies need to know: is the technology reliable and does the technology work as it’s supposed to?
Challenges in Reliability and Qualification Guidelines
For power transistors, JEDEC (Joint Electron Device Engineering Council) and AEC (Automotive Electronics Council)-Q101 are the two foremost qualification tests and current guidelines and standards for GaN transistors are applied with silicon transistors as the foundation. This is problematic because GaN differs from silicon in material structure and construction requiring a closer look at how and which testing guidelines apply. Developing market consensus on test protocol has additional challenges:
- Not all failure mechanisms are the same for each of the suppliers and some suppliers may not have the expertise to know the failure mechanisms of their new devices.
- Not all companies share information on their understanding of application mission profiles for their targeted segments and failure mechanisms. Often, that knowledge is used as a competitive advantage resulting in limited knowledge sharing.
- Some suppliers have different technology priorities resulting in biases. Some companies only focus on GaN like GaN Systems, some have silicon and GaN or all three – silicon, silicon carbide (SiC), and GaN – creating differing vested interests.
A New Approach
To bridge the gaps in qualification testing, as well as prove that GaN Systems transistors’ lifetimes exceed market requirements, GaN Systems developed an enhanced qualification testing process. This process is done with its most rigorous customers – from the global automotive, industrial, and HiRel industries. The process takes considerations from the JEDEC and AEC-Q standards and decades of engineering experiences to make certain that there are no blind spots and biased conclusions.