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Technical Paper

Spontaneous Transistor Failures in Automotive Power Electronics

The amount of electronics in vehicles is increasing, so is the amount of power electronics circuits, like inverters for electric motor drives or dc/dc converters. The muscles of these circuits are power transistors like MOSFETs and IGBTs - in each circuit are several of them. While MOSFETs and IGBTs have advanced over the years in terms of their performance, their wide product spectrum and feature spectrum as well as cost, they are still not unbreakable, but semiconductors which are more sensitive to electrical or thermal overstress than, a relay for instance. Especially electrical overstress, like overvoltage or over current, may damage a power transistor within a short time frame. Hence, electrical overstress must be avoided when designing the power electronics circuit. However, even a power transistor in a carefully designed power electronics circuit, may still be exposed to over current, short circuit, over voltage, over temperature and so forth.