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What is IGBT?

Posted on February 12, 2020 Michael Rodriguez Electronics

MOSFET (metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistors) and BJT (bipolar junction transistors) are two very effective power switching applications in electronics with unique qualities. Despite this, no electrical component is perfect, and both MOSFET and BJT have significant limitations. For instance, MOSFET is inefficient in blocking high reverse voltages and has very high on-state power dissipation and voltage drop. BJT needs large base currents to operate, is inefficient for fast-switching applications, and is at risk due to secondary breakdown. This is where the IGBT comes into play.

The insulated gate bipolar transistor, or IGBT, is thought of as a hybrid between the MOSFET and BJT, featuring key characteristics of both and compensating for the limitations of each. It is a semiconductor device featuring three terminals and is used primarily as an electronic switch. Its main characteristics include fast switching capability and high energy efficiency, making it an important component in appliances such as lamps, electric cars, and variable frequency drives. IGBTs ability to turn on and off quickly makes them helpful in amplifiers to process intricate wave-patterns with pulse width modulation.
 
When an IGBT is used as a controlled switch in a static state, its current and voltage ratings are equal to those of a BJT. Contrarily, the isolated gate in IGBT makes it easier to power BJT charges, meaning less power is necessary. IGBTs are switched on or off as the gate terminal activates or deactivates. A constant positive potential difference maintains the IGBT in the ‘on’ position. Removal of the input signal switches the IGBT to the ‘off’ position.
 
IGBTs are used in medium to high-power applications like a traction motor. Larger IGBTs can handle high currents in the range of 100 amperes and block voltages ranging up to 6kv. IGBTs are also found in electronic devices including converters, inverters, and any appliance where solid state switching takes place.
 
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