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Novel solution prevents GaN power components from overheating

​CEA-Liten, a CEA Tech institute, has invented the first-ever thermal sensors to utilize thermoelectricity to keep power electronics like HEMT transistors from overheating. The innovation does not impact fabrication processes or costs.

Published on 24 November 2020

​Electricity consumption is on the rise in industries from automotive and manufacturing to solar energy. GaN technology is revolutionizing the power components that are vital to ensuring energy efficiency in these and many other applications. Power electronics researchers are now turning their attention to protecting these new GaN power components from overheating.

CEA-Liten recently brought its more than fifteen years of experience researching thermoelectricity to the development of the first-ever thermal sensors designed specifically for GaN HEMT (high electron mobility transistor) components developed with CEA-Leti.

The researchers carefully selected the right GaN materials and came up with a fabrication process for the sensors that could be integrated into the GaN HEMT fabrication process itself, without the need to modify or add process steps. This allows functions to be added to the transistors without changing or adding costs to the fabrication process.

The sensors fabricated using this process convert the heat dissipated by the GaN transistors into an electrical signal, which can then be used in the read systems and retroaction loops that protect component operation by predicting and preventing transistor and circuit overheating. The sensors came through testing on actual power transistors with flying colors.

This twice-patented power circuit protection solution is compact and does not require its own power supply—overcoming two of the main disadvantages of current solutions.

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