Recently, the development of energy efficient electrical power management systems has received considerable interest due to its potential to realize significant energy savings for the world. With current Si-based power electronics system being matured, GaN Field-Effect-Transistors have emerged as a disruptive technology with great potential that arises from the outstanding material properties of GaN. However, in spite of great progress in GaN device fabrication, electrical reliability and a number of unique anomalies of GaN remain key challenges that prevent the wide deployment of this technology. In particular, the dynamic ON-resistance (RON), in which the RON of the transistor remains high for a certain period of time after a high-voltage OFF-ON switching event, is a critical concern. This phenomenon greatly affects the efficiency of electrical power management circuits based on GaN power transistors. This thesis investigates in depth this important issue.
Firstly, we have developed a new dynamic RON measurement methodology which can observe dynamic RON transients after OFF-to-ON switching events over many decades in time. We have experimentally demonstrated this technique on GaN-on-SiC high-voltage HEMTs (High-Electron-Mobility-Transistors). The possible origin of the mechanisms responsible for dynamic RON in these devices has been postulated. Through our new technique, the impact of high-power stress on dynamic RON has been investigated as well. The results emphasize the importance of studying dynamic RON characteristics over very short time scale when conducting reliability studies of GaN transistors.
Secondly, high-voltage GaN-on-Si MIS (Metal-Insulator-Semiconductor) HEMTs designed for > 600 V switching operation have been investigated. Excessive electron trapping leading to total current collapse has been observed. We have carried out an extensive characterization of this phenomenon and we have proposed “Zener trapping” as the responsible mechanism. In this view, electron trapping takes place inside the AlGaN/GaN heterostructure through a tunneling process under high-electric-field. The understanding derived here suggests that this effect can be mitigated through attention to defect control during epitaxial growth and appropriate design of the field plate structure of the device.
Our findings in this thesis provide a path to achieve high performance GaN power transistors with minimum dynamic RON effects.
Prof. Jesús del Alamo (supervisor)
Prof. David Perreault
Prof. Tomas Palacios