Insulated-gate bipolar transistor

An insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) is a three-terminal power semiconductor device primarily used as an electronic switch which, as it was developed, came to combine high efficiency and fast switching. It consists of four alternating layers (P-N-P-N) that are controlled by a metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) gate structure without regenerative action. Although the structure of the IGBT is topologically the same as a thyristor with a MOS gate (MOS gate thyristor), the thyristor action is completely suppressed and only the transistor action is permitted in the entire device operation range. It switches electric power in many applications: variable-frequency drives (VFDs), electric cars, trains, variable speed refrigerators, lamp ballasts, air-conditioners and even stereo systems with switching amplifiers.

Since it is designed to turn on and off rapidly, amplifiers that use it often synthesize complex waveforms with pulse-width modulation and low-pass filters. In switching applications modern devices feature pulse repetition rates well into the ultrasonic range—frequencies which are at least ten times the highest audio frequency handled by the device when used as an analog audio amplifier.

IGBT Comparison Table [1]
Device CharacteristicPower BipolarPower MOSFETIGBT
Voltage RatingHigh <1kVHigh <1kVVery High >1kV
Current RatingHigh <500AHigh > 500AHigh >500A
Input DriveCurrent ratio hFE
Voltage VGS
Voltage VGE
Input ImpedanceLowHighHigh
Output ImpedanceLowMediumLow
Switching SpeedSlow (µs)Fast (ns)Medium

Device structure

Cross-section of a typical IGBT showing internal connection of MOSFET and bipolar device

An IGBT cell is constructed similarly to a n-channel vertical-construction power MOSFET, except the n+ drain is replaced with a p+ collector layer, thus forming a vertical PNP bipolar junction transistor. This additional p+ region creates a cascade connection of a PNP bipolar junction transistor with the surface n-channel MOSFET.

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