Exclusive Interview: Ideal Power Brings Bidirectional Switching to Power Modules
The new module from Ideal Power hopes to make the design of high-performing power systems more attainable to all. EE Power spoke exclusively with Ideal Power’s CEO to bring you all the details.
As the world grapples with the urgent need for energy-efficient and reliable power systems, the power electronics industry is under great stress to get this done. Ideal Power recently launched its SymCool IQ power module to tackle this challenge.
SymCool IQ by Ideal Power. Image used courtesy of Ideal Power
This intelligent power module (IPM) features some notable technological advances that the company hopes can help redefine the industry's approach to designing and implementing power systems. EEPower spoke exclusively with Dan Brdar, President and CEO of Ideal Power, to learn about the SymCool IQ release and the technology that underlies it.
Bridging the Gap with B-TRAN Technology
At the core of SymCool IQ is Ideal Power's patented B-TRAN, a bidirectional semiconductor power switch that stands in stark contrast to traditional semiconductor switches like MOSFETs and IGBTs.
A B-TRAN device structure. Image used courtesy of Ideal Power
In traditional systems, achieving bidirectional power flow necessitates using additional components such as diodes, complicating the design and increasing costs. Unlike traditional power switches like MOSFETs and IGBTs, B-TRAN is a four-quadrant switch capable of blocking voltage and conducting current in both directions. This bidirectionality is a significant leap forward, especially for applications requiring bidirectional power flow, such as voltage source inverters or battery chargers.
The device structure of B-TRAN is similar to that of an IGBT but includes control switches on both sides. It operates in three primary modes: off-mode, on-mode, and pre-turn-off mode. In the off-mode, the device can block high voltage, while in the on-mode, a positive driving bias significantly reduces the resistance between the emitter terminals, allowing for high current flow with low loss. The pre-turn-off mode reduces turn-off loss by forcing the recombination process and reducing stored charge.
“B-TRAN is made from silicon just like IGBTs,” Brdar explained to EE Power. “However, its unique design and double-sided processing offers 5x lower conduction losses compared to IGBT and uses readily available and lower cost silicon processing infrastructure at higher power levels.”
The Integrated Driver: A Symphony of Features
Beyond B-TRAN, the SymCool IQ module takes things further by incorporating an integrated driver, a feature that amplifies its utility and versatility. This driver serves multiple functions. It provides power to the B-TRAN dies and incorporates several protection layers into the system. As part of this, the driver includes a dedicated fault (FLT) pin, providing an additional layer of security.
Diagram of the SymCool IQ system. Image used courtesy of Ideal Power
Speaking to this, Brdar told EE Power, “The integrated driver allows designers to integrate B-TRAN in existing hardware/firmware seamlessly in a footprint-compatible solution. Along with the ease, designers get inherent bidirectionality and much higher system efficiency.”
With a blocking voltage of 1200 V and a DC emitter current of up to 240 A at 25°C, SymCool IQ is designed for high-performance scenarios. Its dynamic characteristics, including a turn-on delay time of just 20 ns and a rise time of 60 ns, make it highly responsive, which is crucial for applications that require rapid switching. In the same vein, the module introduces an innovative packaging design that significantly reduces the thermal resistance of the module and improves the power efficiency of the module.
Finally, the versatility of SymCool IQ is one of its most compelling attributes, setting it apart in the crowded landscape of power modules.
Specifically, the module is designed to be a multi-application solution, capable of serving as the backbone for a wide range of systems—from solid-state circuit breakers and battery disconnect switches to more complex setups like Vienna rectifiers and T-Type inverters. This adaptability is crucial in a continuously evolving industry to meet diverse energy needs and regulatory standards. By offering a single, highly adaptable module, SymCool IQ allows designers and engineers to streamline their development processes, accelerating time-to-market and reducing overall system costs.
The Market Landscape and SymCool IQ
The introduction of SymCool IQ is a strategic move in a market projected to grow to $13 billion by 2028. Including features like bidirectional voltage blocking, integrated driver technology, and superior thermal management, SymCool IQ hopes to stand as a cornerstone for the next generation of power systems.