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John O | August 2017

Industry developments in thermal management of IGBT modules


A recent article from Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (ATS) outlines the industry developments in the cooling of IGBT (insulated gate bipolar transistor) modules, which are solid-state switches that start or stop power from flowing.

 


Cold Plates are used to keep chip temperatures lower inside modular IGBT component packages.
(Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

 

As the article explained, “More specifically, an IGBT works by applying voltage to a semiconductor component, changing its properties to block or create an electrical path.”

 

Of course, IGBT generate significant heat and their performance and reliability can be affected by excess thermal energy, which requires innovative cooling solutions. Air cooling with heat sinks has proven to be difficult with increased power loads requiring larger surface area that might not fit into the limited space within a system.

 

Liquid cooling has become increasingly popular as power loads have increased, particularly the use of cold plates that fit directly onto IGBT devices and provide localized cooling.

 

“Compared to air cooling, liquid cold plates provide more efficient performance and enable major reductions in the volume and weight of power electronics systems,” the article noted.

 

It added, “High switching frequencies and voltages result in IGBT dissipating higher power at the die level. Thus, the goal for cooling IGBT with cold plates is typically to get the lowest semiconductor temperature possible, as well as a minimum temperature gradient from one module to the next. They provide efficient heat transfer between the cold plate contact area and the IGBT base plate.”

 

Other options that have been developed include turbulators that have channels for the liquid to flow through and gives IGBT tailored cooling to meet specific hotspots.

 

Direct liquid cooling is a recent development that has gained interest because of its heat transfer capacity. The article said, “By arranging the fins in a high-density configuration directly beneath the power chip, which is a heat-generating body, the capacity for heat dissipation between the fins and the cooling liquid is increased. The result is that the thermal resistance between the power chip and the cooling liquid is reduced by approximately 30% compared to that of the conventional structure.”

 

Vapor cooling and standard heat pipes are also in use across the industry to meet the thermal needs of IGBT modules in power electronics.

 

Click here for more about industry developments in cooling IGBT.

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