New Industry Products

Double-Sided “B-TRAN” Devices to Compete with IGBTs

October 23, 2016 by Jeff Shepard

Ideal Power Inc. announced that its semiconductor foundry partner has successfully completed the fabrication of prototype Bi-Directional Bi-Polar Junction TRANsistors (B-TRAN™). Ideal Power holds over 20 patents on the B-TRAN including patents on the unique double handle wafer process that was used to produce the initial devices. Ideal Power expects the performance advantages of B-TRAN™ to enable it to address a significant portion of the power semiconductor market that currently relies on power semiconductor devices such as IGBTs.

Due to its anticipated low conduction and switching losses, Ideal Power believes that the B-TRAN has the capability to improve the efficiency of a range of power control and conversion equipment, such as variable frequency drives, solar PV inverters, bi-directional energy storage and microgrid power conversion systems, electric vehicle drivetrains, solid-state ac and dc contactors, and other power conversion products.

“The fabrication of the first B-TRAN devices is a critical step in our efforts to commercialize this unique technology. The B-TRAN, due to its unique double-sided structure, is expected to deliver substantial performance improvements over today’s power semiconductor devices in bi-directional power control applications,” said Bill Alexander, CTO of Ideal Power and co-inventor of the B-TRAN. “Currently, four conventional switches (two IGBTs and two diodes) are required to control power bi-directionally. We believe that the B-TRAN will be able to perform the same function with efficiency losses predicted to be 1/10th that of conventional switches. Additionally, the faster switching performance predicted for the B-TRAN should result in more efficient, smaller and lower cost power converters.”

Earlier this year, Ideal Power announced that first silicon test results by its semiconductor foundry validated key characteristics of its B-TRAN technology. The test results can be found in the company’s updated B-TRAN white paper. The results confirmed central B-TRAN elements and operational modes and were consistent with third party device simulations that predicted significant performance and efficiency improvements over conventional power switches such as SCRs, IGBTs and MOSFETs.

The B-TRAN devices produced by Ideal Power’s fabricator are not production-ready devices and will be used to test and characterize the capabilities of the B-TRAN. Ideal Power will package these initial devices with supporting drive circuitry for testing and characterization which is expected to begin later this year. The results of this testing will be used to optimize the device design and manufacturing process. The first commercial use of the devices is expected to be in Ideal Power’s PPSA-based converters.