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Power modules: A four-dimensional design challenge calls for a holistic design and verification approach

Reading time: 7 minutes
A power module is a high-power switching circuit used in applications for electric vehicles, renewable energy, photovoltaics, wind power, and much more. Switching-element IGBTs and MOSFETs are used in these modules. This paper discusses different technologies and the associated design challenges to achieve complex power module requirements like high voltage resistivity up to 1700 V, high current ratings up to 1600 A, temperature stability, and low E- and H-field emissions. The paper also highlights today’s design methods and their advantages and disadvantages. Finally, the paper outlines a holistic design and verification flow proposal.

Understand typical design challenges experienced by a power modules designer

This paper provides a technology overview and guides you through the typical design challenges experienced by a power modules designer. It proposes a design and verification methodology, available today, to reduce the number of prototypes, reduce the time to market, and increase power module quality and reliability. All of this can help ensure differentiation from your competition. Download this paper to dive deeper into:

  • Device technology overview: The challenge for a power module designer is to pick the best technology based on the given product requirements, like electrical performance, thermal performance, cost, and form factor. For this reason, a design flow is required where devices and technologies can be exchanged easily.

  • Substrate technology overview: The substrate also plays an important role in achieving electrical and thermal performance. This paper concentrates on two materials: Al2O3 and Si3N4.

  • Stray inductance: Stray inductance in power modules has a huge impact on switching characteristics, such as switching speed, switching loss and voltage overshoot.

  • Current density: The current density is an important design criterion to reduce joule heating and avoid unwanted material transport mechanisms, like electromigration of conductors such as aluminum.

  • Cooling: Power modules are available in a wide power range, from small devices with a couple of watts to single kilowatts to large high-power devices up to the megawatt range. Even with a high efficiency of more than 99% cooling, heat transfer is significant.

  • State-of-the-art design process: Designing a power module is challenging and a designer needs to pick the best device technology, substrate materials, components placement, and copper and wire bond placement, etc., to achieve all requirements for the electrical, EMC, and thermal behavior.

Learn more about power electronics and power modules.