SiC MOSFETs enable 240A Pulses at 60Hz Repetition

June 26, 2018 by Paul Shepard

A joint development group comprising Hitoshi Tanaka, Division Director of the XFEL Research and Development Division at RIKEN's SPring-8 Center; Chikara Kondo, Chief Researcher of the Accelerator Machine Group at the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute's Light Source Division; and Takeo Mori, Business Group Leader at Nichicon Corporation's NECST Business Headquarters Business Group for Capacitor-Applied Systems & Equipment have developed a compact pulsed power supply using an SiC MOSFET next-generation power semiconductor device that achieves both high output and high stability and allows the output current direction and size to be varied over a broad range.

These research results are expected to contribute substantially to the available time for experimental use and the efficiency of X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) facilities. Such facilities, which are being constructed around the world, use high-quality electron beams generated by linear accelerators.

To enclose in a compact cabinet a power supply that features both high output and high stability, the joint development group focused on an SiC MOSFET element that provided high withstand voltage and the ability to control large currents at fast switching speeds of more than 100kHz. The main circuit was composed of chopper units, made up of SiC MOSFET elements and arranged in two series of five parallel units to achieve high output and high stability.

In addition, the developed power supply employed a bypass current for routing surplus current to reduce the number of SiC MOSFET units in operation when the output current was small. This approach provided a sequence to ensure the control current was maintained at or above a certain level and achieve stability when output current was low.

Exterior of the developed pulsed power supply unit and the chopper unit, which is the central part of the circuit.

This research will be published in the U.S. scientific journal Review of Scientific Instruments.


Technological innovation in power semiconductors is proceeding at a remarkable speed. In a wide range of fields, expectations are mounting that incorporating power semiconductors will allow system performance to be improved substantially.

The RIKEN SPring-8 Center employs this state-of-the-art power semiconductor technology at its X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) facility, SACLA. The center uses the technology in its power supply for the magnet that apportions electron beams when switching between each of the pulses on its two XFEL beam lines.

For soft X-rays and hard X-rays in the short-wavelength region, it is difficult to achieve laser amplification through population inversion of energy states (levels) in typical gases and solids.

For this reason, high-quality (high-luminance) electron beams at near the speed of light are routed to achieve interaction between the spontaneously radiated light and electron beams that are generated to form electron beams with a density modulation (contrasting density) corresponding to the laser wavelength, thereby amplifying the laser. Typically, this XFEL supplies lasers on only one beam line, located down-current from the linear accelerator that accelerates electron beams.

Given the rapid growth in research using X-ray lasers, increasing the number of beam lines and their usage time has been an urgent issue.

For this reason, the joint development group aimed to construct a system that would provide multiple beam lines on the XFEL simultaneously, allocating them by using an electromagnet to rapidly change the magnetic field.

Development Method and Results

The main functions of the targeted pulse power supply were:

  1. the ability to operate at 60Hz repetitions,
  2. the ability to operate at any pattern for each of the 60Hz repetitions,
  3. rated output power: 0.24MW (voltage: 1kV, current: 240A),
  4. current stability with a variation of 0.002% or less at 240A, and
  5. a current setting range of -240A to +240A.

This wide range of functions could not all be satisfied simultaneously with conventional resonant circuits and pulsed power supplies using pulse forming networks (PFNs). In particular, these power supplies were unable to freely change current patterns for each pulse.

A four-quadrant power supply was appropriate for controlling the current pattern at will, including the current size and direction. However, with conventional four-quadrant power supplies achieving current stability over a wide range—from large currents to ultrasmall currents—was problematic, and satisfying the other target functions at the same time was not possible.

System diagram of the developed power supply.

With a four-quadrant power supply, it is possible to improve maximum output power and current stability by augmenting the functionality of the high-power elements used.

Following consideration, the joint development group realized that it would be possible to simultaneously achieve main target functions (1) through (4) by connecting chopper units arranged in two series of five parallel units that comprised SiC MOSFET elements, which could maintain high withstand voltage characteristics of 1kV or more and achieve high-speed switching in excess of 100kHz at high currents of 100A or more and controlling these with high-precision pulse width modulation.

Based on this fundamental circuit, the group then conducted detailed designs of the actual power supply, optimized feedback control and assessed detailed circuit characteristics. The final issue that remained was the instability of the power supply's operation at near-zero currents. To address this problem, the group introduced a bypass circuit for pass on surplus current. Using a circuit to bypass current to the load (in this instance, an electromagnet) allows control current to be maintained at a certain level.

With a set current value of 240A, the measured current value is divided when operating for a period of 17 seconds at a recurring 60 Hz. All data is held within the set value range of 240A ±0.003A, obtaining stability of 0.002% over the entire width.

Furthermore, by reducing the number of units in operation, the group employed a sequence that controlled the lower limit of the output current at one unit, achieving stable power supply operation at times of low output current. As a result, the group was able to achieve operations satisfying the target function of (5) for current ranges straddling zero.

This power supply receives 420V of three-phase electricity. Switching current is controlled by chopper units, connected two in series and five in parallel, generating a recurring 60Hz with any pulsed current waveform. Output current is monitored, and feedback is controlled so that these values match the reference waveform.

Future Expectations

Applying four-quadrant power supplies to the area of power semiconductor devices, which are progressing at a remarkable pace, led to success in the development of a power supply capable of achieving functions that had not been possible in the past: superior current stability at high power and the ability to change current patterns for each pulse of output.

Based on these research results, in February 2016 SACLA succeeded for the first time in substantially enhancing laser quality in XFEL pulse distribution operations. These distribution operations went into service operation as standard operating mode in September 2017, achieving an increase in experimental time available for use.

It is anticipated that other XFEL facilities facing the need for expanded usage going forward will introduce the same type of distribution system and power supply to enhance operating efficiency. Furthermore, the developed power supply can be applied to the variety of instruments driven by the output. It is expected that applying these results to the operation of instruments using any current and voltage pattern can contribute to advances in a variety of production systems.