Although no one can know exactly what the next generation of power semiconductor devices will look like, it’s absolutely certain they will require instrumentation with a broad dynamic range and exceptional low-level leakage measurement capabilities to characterize and test them. As new devices evolve, their manufacturers will continue to explore their options, seeking the best combination of power, performance, and cost-effectiveness available.
Power semiconductors have become a hot market. Semiconductor manufacturers are developing a whole new generation of power devices that boost the efficiency of energy generation, transmission, and consumption. These new devices have created some interesting test challenges. Because they operate at higher voltages than silicon devices, the test equipment must source higher test voltages. At the same time, these devices have lower leakage currents, so the test equipment must be more sensitive to low currents. In response, test equipment manufacturers are introducing source measurement units (SMUs) with wider dynamic ranges.
The recent drive toward greater energy efficiency has created an increasing demand for better high power semiconductor devices such as diodes, FETs, IGBTs and others. New technologies hold the promise of higher performance, including lower ON-state losses, lower OFF-state leakage, faster switching, and reduced loss while switching. However, along with the improved performance of these devices, characterization and measurements are becoming more complex and difficult. This article addresses a typical workflow in the design and development of a power semiconductor device, and discusses some of the equipment and measurement challenges associated with them.