Why GaN for DC-DC Space Designs

Power electronics engineers are constantly working towards designs with higher efficiency and higher power density while maintaining high reliability and minimizing cost. Advances in design techniques and improved component technologies enable engineers to consistently achieve these goals. Power semiconductors are at the heart of these designs and their improvements are vital to better performance. In this EPC space blog, we will demonstrate how GaN power semiconductors allow for innovation in the harsh radiation environments of space applications.

GaN power semiconductors offer designers in the high reliability market a sudden and significant improvement in electrical performance over their silicon power MOSFET predecessors. Table 1 compares radiation hardened GaN and Si power semiconductor device characteristics important for circuit designers to increase efficiency and power density in their converter.

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GaN versatility in space

We do not like to boast here at EPC Space, but we do think our discrete and modular product
offerings are both the widest and the most versatile available in the RadHard space/power arena. A good brag is just empty words without the proof to stand behind them. So, in order to offer up some proof of the versatility of our lineup, we have put together an application note as a demonstration. Application Note AN002 shows how an actively-clamped forward converter (ACFC) can be designed and configured using four products from the EPC Space discrete and modular product offering. The resulting circuit demonstrates how a high-performance, low parts count and small physical size solution can be achieved.

The EPC Space products, because of their application-friendly configurations, packaging and high level of integration allow designers to think beyond the component level; to use these devices as true building blocks to create higher-level systems for applications in space. Now that is true versatility!

Please download a copy of AN002  and see for yourself. Even if you do not have an immediate application for the ACFC solution, hopefully this design approach will open your eyes to the many possibilities that these Rad Hard GaN products can offer to you in other converter topologies and circuits.

Source Sense Pin

A quick look at any discrete eGaN® high electron mobility transistor (HEMT) in the FBG or CDA product families shows that each package contains a SS (Source Sense) pin. This post is an explanation as to why that vitally important pin is necessary and provided to help extract the maximum switching and efficiency performance from the EPC Space HEMTs. As an example, the position of the SS pin on the FSMD-B and CDA1 packages is shown in Figure 1.

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power electronics in space

These are indeed exciting times for power electronics and power electronics designers. EPC Space’s enhancement-mode gallium nitride (eGaN®) HEMT devices provide the end-user significant performance benefits and enhancements over conventional silicon MOSFET devices. In fact, the performance benefits harken back to those obtained at the time when silicon MOSFETs replaced bipolar-junction transistors (BJTs) as the predominant power switching element in terrestrial and space applications. The key difference between eGaN HEMTs and silicon MOSFETs is their figure of merit (FOM), which is defined as the product of their on-resistance (Rds(ON)) and their input gate charge (Qg). For similarly-rated Rad Hard devices – 100 V and 30 A, a typical Rad Hard MOSFET’s figure of merit is 2.9 while an equivalent eGaN HEMT in EPC Space’s product portfolio is 0.17 (both in the same units). The lower the FOM, the easier it is to drive a device for a given on-state resistance. Generally-speaking, eGaN devices will typically have FOMs that are five times or less than the equivalent MOSFET.

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Why GaN in Space

A few weeks ago, Efficient Power Conversion hosted a webinar titled GaN in Space. Following the presentations there were very lively Q&A sessions with EPC’s CEO and co-founder, Alex Lidow.  Below are the most frequently asked questions from the two sessions and the corresponding responses. 

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Why GaN in Space

Packaged SEE Immune and Radiation Hardened enhancement mode gallium nitride (eGaN) devices offer dramatically improved performance over the aging Rad Hard silicon MOSFET, enabling a new generation of power converters in space operating at higher frequencies, higher efficiencies, and greater power densities than ever achievable before.

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