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Langpoklakpam, C. Silicon Carbide Power MOSFET. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/20731 (accessed on 21 June 2024).
Langpoklakpam C. Silicon Carbide Power MOSFET. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/20731. Accessed June 21, 2024.
Langpoklakpam, Catherine. "Silicon Carbide Power MOSFET" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/20731 (accessed June 21, 2024).
Langpoklakpam, C. (2022, March 18). Silicon Carbide Power MOSFET. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/20731
Langpoklakpam, Catherine. "Silicon Carbide Power MOSFET." Encyclopedia. Web. 18 March, 2022.
Silicon Carbide Power MOSFET
Edit

Owing to the superior properties of silicon carbide (SiC), such as higher breakdown voltage, higher thermal conductivity, higher operating frequency, higher operating temperature, and higher saturation drift velocity, SiC has attracted much attention from researchers and the industry for decades. With the advances in material science and processing technology, many power applications such as new smart energy vehicles, power converters, inverters, and power supplies are being realized using SiC power devices. In particular, SiC MOSFETs are generally chosen to be used as a power device due to their ability to achieve lower on-resistance, reduced switching losses, and high switching speeds than the silicon counterpart and have been commercialized extensively in recent years. 

silicon carbide (SiC) SiC MOSFETs SiC power

1. Introduction

The development of power electronics technology has always been towards achieving higher power density, higher efficiency, and integrating many systems where power semiconductor devices (power devices) play an important role in this development. Over the last 50 years, the advancements of power devices have been primarily due to Si-based power devices. However, due to limitations of the intrinsic physical properties of Si, devices based on Si cannot be used for future power devices. The introduction of wide-bandgap (WBG) semiconductor materials such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) materials have been a revolutionary development in the field of power devices. The superior material properties of WBG materials, such as higher dielectric strength, higher saturation drift velocity, and the ability to operate in harsh environments, make the materials favorable for power devices. GaN-based devices are mainly used for high-frequency applications, while SiC-based devices are used for high voltage power applications. The larger critical electric field, higher thermal conductivity, and higher breakdown voltage enable SiC-based devices to operate at higher current density, higher temperature, and higher blocking voltage. Hence, for more than a decade, SiC-based power components have been a topic for extensive research for high voltage/power applications. Moreover, SiC is more mature in terms of the quality of the crystal [1], the existence of large wafers [2], and is readily available in the market[3]. In addition, the material cost of SiC is much lesser than that of GaN [4], and the processing lines of SiC-based devices have great compatibility with that of Si-based devices.

2. SiC Applications

Figure 1. Applications based on WBG materials.
SiC power devices also provide significant help in the rising demand for photovoltaic energy. The photovoltaic energy source needs fast switching, low loss, high power, and a reliable device that improves efficiency, reliability, and power density. The desired performances have been achieved by implementing SiC power devices[14]. SiC power devices are also used for developing power modules. The SiC power modules were able to achieve a voltage/ampere rating range from 1.2 kV–3.3 kV/70 A–800 A, which is suitable for electric vehicle applications (EVs) such as onboard chargers, DC-DC power converters, and motor drives [15]. Smart EVs are an advanced class of vehicles that can reduce the emission of carbon dioxide up to 43% compared with diesel-based vehicles [16]. A 1.2 kV SiC MOSFETs developed by Wolfspeed’s was able to replace the IGBT transistors used in the circuit topologies of the EVs battery charging system; the new system was able to manage a wide range of voltage, ranging from 200 to 800 V. Moreover, the new system was able to reduce power losses by 40%, increase power density by 50%, and also manage the bidirectional charging or discharging process[17].

3. SiC MOSFETs

Since the beginning, MOSFETs have been the most successful devices and are mainly employed for switching operations in power converters [18]. The structure of SiC power MOSFETs is similar to that of Si MOSFETs with an insulated gate structure. SiC power MOSFETs can operate over a wide range of blocking voltage, with lower conduction and switching loss, as the device has less on-resistance than the Si counterpart and is much smaller[19]. The main advantage of SiC power MOSFETs is that the SiC power MOSFET combines the excellent material properties of SiC, which enhances the performance of the device. However, the SiC power MOSFET suffers from the carbon cluster introduction at the gate oxygen interface, which increases Dit at the gate–oxide interface, and thus, the channel resistance increases.

SiC Power MOSFETs are classified into different types depending on the structural modification of the gate and the drift region. The classification of the device is illustrated in Figure 2. The two basic types of SiC MOSFET structures based on the gate modification are planar MOSFETs (DMOSFETs) and trench MOSFETs (UMOSFETs) [20], as shown in figure 2(a) and (b), respectively. The planar types are further classified into conventional and super junction MOSFETs (SJ MOSFETs), as shown in Figure2 (a) the conventional  and Figure 2(c) super junction MOSFET. A detailed discussion on the types of SiC MOSFETs can be found in the following sections.

Figure 2. Different types of MOSFET structures a) Planar MOSFET b) Trench MOSFET and c) Superjunction MOSFET.

3.1. Planar and Trench MOSFETs

The planar MOSFETs (or DMOSFETs), as shown in Figure 2(a), are a double diffusion MOS structure where the channel is formed by a double diffusion process and has the ability to withstand high voltage. However, the performance of the device is affected by the poor channel mobility due to the scattering process at the interface of the 4H-SiC/insulator. This scattering causes a significant reduction in mobility at the interface when compared with that of the bulk. Moreover, the presence of parasitic junction FET resistance increases the conduction loss during the forward condition[21]. A 4H-SiC Planar MOSFET with a blocking voltage of 2.3 kV was proposed in [22]. The device has an acceptable gate oxide electric field with a gate oxide thickness of 27 nm. The device was fabricated using a commercial foundry. The device exhibits an improvement in Ron, sp, and a high-frequency figure of merit (FOM) by 1.3 times when a 15 V is applied at the gate. However, the device suffers from gate voltage overshoot failure due to the thin gate oxide. A 4H-SiC Planar MOSFET with multiple floating guard-rings for edges termination was developed; the device can achieve a blocking voltage of 2.4 kV and a specific on-resistance of about 42 mΩ cm2 [23]. The fabricated device exhibits a mobility of 22 cm2/V.s in the channel and has a threshold voltage of about 8.5 V.

To minimize the conduction and switching loss in the planar MOSFET, the trench MOSFET or UMOSFET was developed for power application. The structure of trench MOSFET is shown in Figure 2 (b); it has a vertical gate channel in U groove shape and a channel form at the sidewalls of the trench. This structure improved the channel migration rate and was able to eliminate the parasitic JFET resistance. In addition, the on-resistance of the trench SiC MOSFET is half the planar SiC MOSFET. Hence, the trench SiC MOSFET design is preferred for power devices [24][25]. The first trench MOSFET was first introduced in 1992 by Palmour et al.[26]. However, the device suffers from low mobility in the inversion layer due to the presence of a high electric field at the trench corner in the oxide, which restricts the breakdown voltage of the device. A 1.2 kV trench gate SiC MOSFET with a low switching loss was developed by Fiji Electric [27]. The proposed device exhibits a 48% reduction in on-resistance, with a higher threshold voltage than the conventional SiC planar MOSFET. A 4H-SiC Planar MOSFET with a blocking voltage of 2.3 kV was proposed[22]. The device has an acceptable gate oxide electric field, with a gate oxide thickness of 27 nm. The device was fabricated using a commercial foundry. The device exhibits an improvement in the specific on-resistance and high-frequency figure of merit by 1.3 times when the applied gate bias is 15 V. However, the device suffers from gate voltage overshoot failure due to the thinner gate oxide. A 4H-SiC Planar MOSFET with multiple floating guard-rings for terminating the edges was developed; the device can achieve a blocking voltage of 2.4 kV and a specific on-resistance of about 42 mΩ cm2 [23]. The fabricated device exhibits a mobility of 22 cm2/V.s in the channel and has an 8.5 V threshold voltage. Purdue University introduced a trench MOSFET with a blocking voltage of 5 kV, with protection in the trench oxide and an extension in the junction termination[23][28].

The major issue of the common single trench is the concentration of the electric field at the bottom of the gate trench, which imposes a reliability issue to the device under long-term use. Additionally, it also suffers from the degradation of the switching performance and also the degradation of breakdown voltage due to the high value of gate-drain capacitance. To overcome the immature breakdown and reliability problem of the oxide, a double trench SiC MOSFET (DT MOS) was developed; it distributes the electric field concentration on the gate oxide into the source region[20][29][30]. The structure has a p+ shielding region to distribute the high gate oxide electric field to the source and drain p+ regions, which help in improving the breakdown voltage of the device [31]. The p+ shielding also improves the switching performance of the device by reducing the gate and drain charge coupling effect[32].

For high power switching applications, to increase the switching speed with lesser switching losses, a smaller value of reverse transfer capacitance (CGD) and lower gate-drain charge (QGD) is necessary. A split-gate double trench MOSFET (SG-MOSFET) was proposed, with a better high-frequency FOM (Ron, sp × QGD) than the DT MOS[33][34]. The structure has a separate upper and lower gate terminal; the upper gate terminal is connected to the gate voltage and is lower than the source voltage. The area under the active channel is reduced, which enhances the switching performance by reducing the gate-drain capacitance. Central implant MOSFET (CI MOSFET) is another type of structure demonstrated by Wolfspeed; it exhibits lower CGD and QGD [35]. In power inverter applications, to reduce the SiC Chip area, SiC MOSFETs are used with free-wheeling diodes (FWD), namely, parasitic body PiN diodes. However, these diodes result in bipolar degradation and increase on-state power dissipation[36]. To overcome these issues, a different variety of embedded parallel Schottky barrier diodes (SBDs) with SiC MOSFETs has been proposed[37][38][39][40][41][42][43].

3.2. Superjunction MOSFETs

Superjunction (SJ) is a technique utilized widely to overcome the Ron, spxA limitation in Si devices [44]. A superjunction MOSFET (SJ MOSFET) structure shown in Figure 2 (c), has alternating p and n layers in the drift region. The structure is formed by penetrating p+ columns into the n-epitaxial layer and follows the charge compensation principle, which helps in distributing the electric field uniformly inside the drift region[45]. As a result, the performance of the SJ MOSFET surpasses the conventional MOSFET performance. The main benefit of SJ MOSFETs is the linear relationship between Ron, sp and the breakdown voltage (BV), whereas for conventional MOSFETs (planar), the relationship is Rsp, on ∝ BV2.4–2.6 [46]. Moreover, SJ can reduce the Ron, sp of the device without compromising the BV voltage of the device[44]. The structure of SJ MOSFETs can be grown by trench filling or by multi epitaxial growth. The epitaxial growth of SJ by trench filling is shown in Figure 3 (a) and by multi epitaxial growth in Figure 3 (b). The trench filling epitaxial growth process is done by dry etching at the beginning to form a deep trench, and then, on the trench surface, an epitaxial layer is grown in the trench [47][48]. The multi-epitaxial growth method is a fabrication method that is used to achieve a certain thickness of drift-layer by combining epitaxial growth and the ion implantation method of fabrication[49]. The fabrication process of the SJ structure was first introduced by R. Kosugi et al. [50]. The measured breakdown voltage and Ron, sp of the fabricated pn-pillar structure were 1545 V and 1.06 mΩ cm2, respectively; the structure has a 5.5-μm-thick pn-pillar structure, grown using multiple epitaxial growth method. The breakdown voltage and specific on-resistance achieved are almost the same as that of the theoretical limit of SiC. In addition, SiC-based SJ structures have been exhibited to show a reduction in on-resistance by 140 times and have a smaller pillar charge imbalance effect than the Si SJ structures [51].

Figure 3. (a) Trench-filling epitaxial growth and (b) multi-epitaxial growth.

SiC SJ MOSFETs have also exhibited an excellent Baliga’s figure of merit (FOM) (BV 2/Ron, sp) when compared with other SiC devices [52]. Simple analytical models for predicting the on-resistance and breakdown voltage of SiC SJ MOSFETs were proposed in [53][54]. Furthermore, SiC SJ MOSFETs exhibited a lower charge imbalance effect when compared with Si SJ MOSFETs in the drift region [51]. To achieve a better trade-off between the BV and Ron, sp, many researchers aimed to obtain the desired result by modifying the doping profile or the structure of the device. A SiC SJ MOSFET with a variation in the vertical doping profile (VVD) was proposed[45]; the device exhibits a better trade-off between the on-resistance and BV. The proposed device also shows the best results in both Baliga’s and conventional FOM. A SiC SJ V-groove trench MOSFET with a breakdown voltage of 820 V and an on-resistance of 0.97 mΩ cm2 was reported by Masuda et al. [55]. A SiC SJ V-groove trench MOSFET with a smaller on-resistance of 0.63 mΩ cm2 and a breakdown voltage of 1170 V was demonstrated in [56]. The proposed device has a lower on-resistance than the SiC MOSFETs with a breakdown voltage of over 600 V. A class of 1.2 kV SiC SJ MOSFETs, with an extremely low value of Ron, spxA, a higher value of withstanding the short-circuit capability, and a significantly lower value of reverse recovery loss, was demonstrated in [57][58][59]. A DC-FSJ MOSFET (different concentration floating super junction MOSFET) was proposed [60], and the device was able to achieve a breakdown voltage of more than 3.3 kV, along with reduced Ron, sp. The Ron, sp of the proposed structure was 25% less than conventional vertical MOSFET under the same conditions. The structure was fabricated by implementing multiple epitaxial growths with floating p-type structures and different concentrations of epitaxial layers. The BFOM of the device increased by 18% from FSJ MOSFETs and by 27% from vertical MOSFETs. A SiC SJ MOSFET with a very high breakdown voltage of 3.3 kV and a low Ron, sp of 3.3 mΩ cm2 at 27 °C and 6.2 mΩ cm2 at 175 °C was developed in [61]. The proposed devices were able to exceed the theoretical limit of the unipolar SiC device.

Although SiC power devices have come a long way in improving their performances and satisfying the increasing demands, it is noteworthy to mention one of the key technical challenges faced, i.e., the reduction of electric field on the surface or at the edges of the device. The reduction of the electric field becomes more challenging with device miniaturization. Some in-plane edge termination techniques have been demonstrated for SiC power devices, which have a similar concept to that of Si power devices. The techniques include field plates [62][63], mesa structures [64], junction termination expansion (JTE) [65][66][67], floating field rings (FFR)[68][69], ramp structures [70][71], ion implantation, and hybrid solutions[72][73][74][75][76]. Edge terminations are generally used at the device periphery so that it supports the maximum amount of the bulk breakdown value[77] . Hence, robust and reliable edge terminations are one of the most important requirements that help in achieving the full SiC technology potential.

4. Conclusion

SiC power devices are widely used in power applications and have been researched extensively in various industries and academics. Along with the inherited superior material properties of SiC, SiC-based devices are able to be used in high speed, high voltage, and high-temperature operations. Hence, SiC power devices are employed in power converters, high-efficiency power inverters, and also in smart electric vehicles. SiC power devices and its applications were discussed. In addition, the extensive discussion of the advancement of the most popular SiC devices (SiC MOSFETs) have also included. SiC power devices show great potential in achieving highly effective high-performance power applications.

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