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FETs in ZVS bridge

Had run into a very serious field failure issue a decade ago due to IXYS FETs used in a phase-shifted ZVS bridge topology. Eventually, the problem was tracked to failure of the FETs' body diode when the unit operated at higher ambient temperature.

When FETs were first introduced for use in hard switching applications, it was quickly discovered that under high di/dt commutating conditions, the parasitic bipolar transistor that forms the body diode can turn on resulting in catastrophic failure (shorting) of the FET. I had run into this issue in the mid '80s and if memory serves me correctly, IR was a leader in making their FET body diodes much more robust and capable of hard commutation. Having had this experience with FET commutation failures and after exhausting other lines of investigation which showed no problem with the operation of the ZVS bridge, I built a tester which could establish an adjustable current through the body diode of the FET under test followed by hard commutation of the body diode.

Room temperature testing of the suspect FET showed the body diode recovery characteristic similar to that of what turned out to be a more robust IR FET. Some difference was seen in the diode recovery as the IXYS FET was a bit slower and did show higher recovered charge. However, was unable to induce a failure in either the IXYS or IR FET even when commutating high values of forward diode current up to 20A when testing at room temperature.

The testing was then repeated in a heated condition. This proved to be very informative. The IXYS FETs were found to fail repeatedly with a case temperature around 80C and forward diode current prior to commutation as low as 5A. In contrast, the IR devices were operated to 125C case temp with forward diode currents of 10A without failure.

This confirmed a high temperature operating problem of the IXYS FETs associated with the body diode. Changing to the more robust IR devices solved the field failure issue.
Beware when a FET datasheet does not provide body diode di/dt limits at elevated ambient.

A more complete explanation of the FET body diode failure mechanism in ZVS applications can be found in application note APT9804 published by Advanced Power Technology.

I believe FETs can be reliably used in ZVS applications if the devices are carefully selected and shown to have robust body diode commutation characteristics.

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