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Electro-thermal and Radiation Reliability of Power Transistors: Silicon to Wide Bandgap Semiconductors
We are in the midst of a technological revolution (popularly known as Industrie 4.0 or 4th Industrial Revolution) where our cars are being equipped with hundreds of sensors that make them safer, homes are becoming smarter, industry yields are at an all-time high, and internet-of-things is a reality. This was largely possible due to the developments in communication, electronics, motor controls, robotics, cyber security, software, efficient power distribution, etc. One of the major propellants of the 4th Industrial revolution is the ever-expanding applications of power electronics devices. All electrical energy will be provided, handled, and consumed through power electronics devices in the near future. Therefore, the reliability of power electronics devices will be instrumental in driving future technological advances.
A myriad of devices is categorized as power electronics devices, and in the heart of those devices are the transistors. Although Silicon-based transistors still dominate the power electronics market, a paradigm shift towards wide bandgap semiconductors, such as silicon carbide (SiC), gallium nitride (GaN), beta-gallium oxide etc., is underway. However, realizing the full potential of these devices demands unconventional design, layout, and reliability.
In this thesis, we try to establish a generalized model of reliability for power and logic transistors. We start by defining a comprehensive, substrate-, self-heating-, and reliability-aware safe operating area (SOA) that analytically establishes the optimum and self-consistent trade-off among breakdown voltage, power consumption, operating frequency, heat dissipation, and reliability before actual device fabrication. Then we take a deeper look into the reliability of individual transistors (a beta-gallium oxide transistor and a Silicon-based LDMOS), to test the predictions by the safe operating area, using both experiments and simulations. In the beta-gallium oxide transistor, we studied its implementation in a DC-DC voltage converter and concluded that the self-heating is a performance bottleneck and suggested approaches to alleviate it. For the LDMOS transistor, we investigated the hot carrier degradation (HCD) using experiments and simulations. We established that the HCD degradation kinetics is universal, and physics is the same as a classical transistor, despite a complicated geometry. Finally, we studied the correlation between HCD and radiation in LDMOS used in space shuttles, airplanes, etc., to determine its lifetime.
We have holistically analyzed the reliability of power transistors by extending the theories of logic transistors in this thesis. Therefore, this thesis takes us a step closer to a generalized reliability model for power transistors by developing a comprehensive and predictive model for the safe operating area, encompassing all sources of stresses (e.g., electrical, thermal, and radiation) it experiences during operation.