Intelligent Power ICs Protect Themselves and Their Loads from Harm

Oct. 6, 2023
Learn more about the latest intelligent power devices (IPDs) on the market in this installment of the Products of the Week gallery.

As higher voltages, currents, and power levels become more the rule rather than the exception in industrial and automotive systems, safety and reliability are becoming increasingly critical specifications for power ICs under the hood.

For this reason, power semiconductor giants from Infineon and STMicroelectronics to Renesas Electronics and ROHM are rolling out new intelligent power devices (IPDs) that combine power MOSFETs with analog circuitry for diagnostic, protection, and control functions in a single chip. They’re “intelligent” in the sense that they can carefully regulate power while protecting themselves and their loads from failing or breaking down.

To enhance power density, these companies pack everything into smaller, more rigid packages and upgrade them under the hood to limit resistance and other parasitics that can cause excess power losses and, thus, heat that can sap the system’s performance. They’re also improving these power ICs to protect against a wider range of abnormal conditions and isolate faults faster—before they can lead to permanent damage.

These devices are typically designed to be placed on the high side of the system between the positive power line and the load, or on the low side connecting the load to ground. But regardless of where they’re placed, IPDs promise to reduce the risk and severity of failures even in the event of a malfunction in the microcontroller or other embedded processors. IPDs can also typically send diagnostics to the MCU that controls the power supply.

IPDs are relatively new to the world of power electronics, first hitting the market a decade ago or so. In this gallery, we'll explore how these devices are constructed and review some of the latest offerings on the market.

Check out the previous Products of the Week gallery here.

You can also visit the Products of the Week archives here.

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