Automotive Power Technology Moves Up A Gear

STMicroelectronics has designed a new generation of its proprietary VIPower (Vertical Intelligent Power) family of technologies. Called M0-5, the new technology employs a patented control strategy that reduces chip and package sizes while delivering the same power level as currently available devices, and at the same time increasing robustness.

The technology is particularly suitable for automotive applications which are characterised by a demand for smaller, lighter and less expensive modules.

ST's new generation of automotive smart power technology is based on a analysis of the physical mechanisms that can lead to device failure during abnormal operating conditions such as temporary or permanent short circuits and the fast thermal transients that can occur when a circuit is first switched on.

The company developed control strategies that reduce the effect of these stresses on the most vulnerable elements of the circuit through active power limitation. In this way, while the die size and hence the package size, needed to implement a given power-handling specification has been reduced by an average of about 40%, the robustness of the devices has been increased.

"This is the most significant breakthrough in automotive semiconductor technology in many years," claimed Domenico Billè, VIPower and RF Division general manager. "Historically, reducing the physical dimensions of the power transistors has always made them more susceptible to the kind of stresses that are inevitably found in real automotive applications. Now, through the embedding of novel active protection circuits, our new devices are not only more compact and cost-effective but also much more resistant to the effects of the anomalous operating conditions encountered in automotive applications."

Like all of ST's VIPower technologies, the M0-5 technology is based on vertical current flow where the high current flows vertically between the top and bottom of the chip through high-performance power-transistor configurations, while the integrated control and diagnostic circuitry is formed horizontally on a top layer of the chip.

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