I'm popping MOSFETS....linear derating factor involved?

J

John

Jan 1, 1970
0
I have an active load that uses several MOSFETs in linear mode that
works great (very stable and controllable) but I'm popping MOSFETs at
high power levels when I don't think I should be.

I've confirmed that there's no noise or spikes (above a few
millivolts) on the power and gate leads and that I am not coming
anywhere near the rated drain-source or gate voltage ratings.

But, even with a large fan-cooled aluminum heat sink with a 1/2" thick
base and mounting the MOSFETs via a good phase-change thermal
interface compound (no pad) and Aavid MAX clips (18lbs. pressure), the
MOSFETs blow. They'll run fine for minutes to hours but eventually
blow in 10-30 seconds after starting up with the maximum load, even
with a cold heat sink.

I'm not really sure how to use the linear derating factor for MOSFETs
but I'm wondering if this is the problem, i.e., that I'm exceeding the
rated power level for these FETs at the junction temperature I'm
running them at. The case and heat sink temperatures seem OK at this
high power level according to the rated theta-jc and theta-cs numbers
from the MOSFET datasheet.

After checking the datasheet, I found that these Absolute Maximum
Rating numbers:
Junction Temperature = 175 degrees-C.
Power Dissipation (at Tc = 25C.) = 470W
Linear Derating Factor = 3.1W/degree-C.

In my load, each MOSFET can dissipate a max. of 125W and rise to a
calculated junction temperature of 140-degrees C. (based on heat sink
and case temperature measurements and theta-jc and theta-cs) after
almost 2 minutes with the heat sink I'm using.

Using the ratings above, are the equations below how to calculate if
I'm in trouble or not?

Junction Temp (calculated) = 140C
Room Temp = 25C
Junction temperature rise = 140C - 25C = 115C
(115C temperature rise) x (3.1W/degree-C. derating) = 356.5W
(470W max rating) - (356.5W derating) = 113.5W

Is this 113.5W number the maximum load I can dissipate with this FET
running at the junction temperature I've calculated? In other words,
is my 125W load for each FET the problem since they're only rated for
a 113.5W load at that Tj?

Another question...
For calculating the derating wattage number (356.5W in the example
above), do I use the junction temperature rise (as done above) or the
actual junction temperature?

I realize that I'm on the edge of these MOSFET's ratings but normally
I'm rarely at this high of a power level when using the load. I've
been abusing it lately to get a better understanding of how to
properly spec MOSFETs, heat sinks and thermal interface materials.
It's getting expensive though.

Thanks!

-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

L

legg

Jan 1, 1970
0
I have an active load that uses several MOSFETs in linear mode that
works great (very stable and controllable) but I'm popping MOSFETs at
high power levels when I don't think I should be.

In parallel? If so, then what method are you using to force current
sharing?

RL

J

John Larkin

Jan 1, 1970
0
But, even with a large fan-cooled aluminum heat sink with a 1/2" thick
base and mounting the MOSFETs via a good phase-change thermal

There are no good phase-change compounds. Use thermal silicone grease.
and Aavid MAX clips (18lbs. pressure)

That's pretty good with grease, although 18 lbs is a little wimpy
maybe.

, the
MOSFETs blow. They'll run fine for minutes to hours but eventually
blow in 10-30 seconds after starting up with the maximum load, even
with a cold heat sink.

I'm not really sure how to use the linear derating factor for MOSFETs
but I'm wondering if this is the problem, i.e., that I'm exceeding the
rated power level for these FETs at the junction temperature I'm
running them at. The case and heat sink temperatures seem OK at this
high power level according to the rated theta-jc and theta-cs numbers
from the MOSFET datasheet.

After checking the datasheet, I found that these Absolute Maximum
Rating numbers:
Junction Temperature = 175 degrees-C.
Power Dissipation (at Tc = 25C.) = 470W
Linear Derating Factor = 3.1W/degree-C.

I'd be suspicious of a fet rated for 470 watts. We tested a pile of
different fets rated 300 watts and up and only found two that could
honestly dissipate 300 watts for 100 milliseconds bolted to a copper
block. The rest turned into shrapnel.

Plus, even with a half-inch baseplate, thermal spreading resistance
will be a killer. The best thing for you to do might be to go with
more fets, and add some discrete power resistors in the drains to
share the dissipation if your application permits.

John

J

John

Jan 1, 1970
0
In parallel? If so, then what method are you using to force current
Each MOSFET is individually controlled by it's own op-amp loop. The
current level is stable.

-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

J

John

Jan 1, 1970
0
There are no good phase-change compounds. Use thermal silicone grease.

I'm finding that Aavid's Ultra-Stick compound is giving me better
performance (lower thermal resistance) than any silicone grease I've
used....about 0.022 degrees-C/W according to my tests.

I agree, I may go back to a standard TO-247 case (instead of Super
TO-247 without the screw hole) screw mounting with belleville washers.
There is a better clip (Aavid's MAX08, 27 lbs. for a TO-247 case) but
I haven't found it available anywhere.

Each FET only dissipates 125W, which I thought would be readily
achievable. Especially with the case and heat sink temperatures I'm

I did have twice the number of FETs in my original prototype (spread
around the heat sink) but the extra wattage I could dissipate didn't
seem worth the extra op-amp control loops I'd need to hook up. But, I
may have to do this if the derating factor is "causing" my problems.

Early on I had considered using higher-power drain resistors to help
with the dissipating (way beyond the 3W ones I use for current sensing
now). Might be worth considering again.

Thanks!

-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

W

Winfield Hill

Jan 1, 1970
0
John wrote...
I have an active load that uses several MOSFETs in linear mode that
works great (very stable and controllable) but I'm popping MOSFETs
at high power levels when I don't think I should be.

Were you going to give us any part numbers, and circuit details?

J

John Larkin

Jan 1, 1970
0
I'm finding that Aavid's Ultra-Stick compound is giving me better
performance (lower thermal resistance) than any silicone grease I've
used....about 0.022 degrees-C/W according to my tests.

I agree, I may go back to a standard TO-247 case (instead of Super
TO-247 without the screw hole) screw mounting with belleville washers.
There is a better clip (Aavid's MAX08, 27 lbs. for a TO-247 case) but
I haven't found it available anywhere.

Each FET only dissipates 125W, which I thought would be readily
achievable. Especially with the case and heat sink temperatures I'm

I did have twice the number of FETs in my original prototype (spread
around the heat sink) but the extra wattage I could dissipate didn't
seem worth the extra op-amp control loops I'd need to hook up. But, I
may have to do this if the derating factor is "causing" my problems.

Early on I had considered using higher-power drain resistors to help
with the dissipating (way beyond the 3W ones I use for current sensing
now). Might be worth considering again.

Thanks!

-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

If you're discharging batteries, why not use drain resistors as the
real loads and PWM the fets? That would save a ton of money all around
and be pretty much indestructable.

John

J

John

Jan 1, 1970
0
Were you going to give us any part numbers, and circuit details?

Well, originally, no.
With my testing to confirm that the circuit was stable and no other
ratings were exceeded I was concentrating on the "other" stuff like
derating factors. Especially since the circuit is based on one you
gave me last year. But, here it is. I could be very wrong about my
asssumptions that exceeding the total power rating for the FET could
be my only problem.

.. Vcc
5V
.. |
.. 1K
.. |
.. | | | LT1013 | |
.. 1.25V POT <-+--R2--+-----|+\ D |
.. Ref | | | | >--+--R6-- G |
.. -+------+-, | | ,--|-/ | S |
.. | | | | | === C1 | |
.. | | | | | | | |
.. +--|--R3--|--+----|---+---R5----+ |
.. | | | | | |
.. | | | | R7 |
.. | | | | | |
.. | | | |
.. | | | |
.. | | +5V ,-----+ |
.. | | | | |
.. | +--R2--+-----|+\ D |
.. | | | >--+--R6-- G |
.. | | ,--|-/ | S |
.. | | | | === C1 | |
.. | | | | | | |
.. LOW-LVL GND+-----R3--|--+----|---+---R5----+ |
.. | | | |
.. | | R7 |
.. | | | |
.. '--R4---+-------------+-------+
|
HI-AMP GND

R2, R3 = 49.9K,1%
R6 = 1K,1%
R4, R5 = 10K,1%
R7 are 0.01ohm,1%,3W
C1 = 0.01uF monolithic ceramic
MOSFETs are IRFP2907 or IRF1405.

LOW-LVL GND and HI-AMP GND are brought back separately to the supply's
GND pin.

with a quiet linear power supply. After setting the pot, current is
steady to within 0.1A up to 30A (max for my tests). Scoping out the
power supply, inv. and noninv. inputs to op-amps and gate lead to
MOSFETs shows no more than 4-5mV of noise.

John

-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

J

John

Jan 1, 1970
0
If you're discharging batteries, why not use drain resistors as the
Good idea, I think I'll do the math again. I think I remember that
the current levels were too high to make that practical (over 100A at
0.9V min.) but it's worth revisiting.

-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

J

John Larkin

Jan 1, 1970
0
Good idea, I think I'll do the math again. I think I remember that
the current levels were too high to make that practical (over 100A at
0.9V min.) but it's worth revisiting.

-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

Are you sure nothing's oscillating?

John

J

John

Jan 1, 1970
0
Are you sure nothing's oscillating?

I can't find anything more than 5mV of noise or voltage variation
anywhere with the scope. I tried grounding the probe to both the main
supply ground and at op-amp gnd (and measuring around). Even when
that noise on the input to the op-amp, the cap on its output seems to
slow everything down enough to not let the noise affect the MOSET's
gate voltage.

My (possibly) exceeding the total dissipation rating of the FET isn't
a possible cause for the popping of FETs too? Still don't know if my
calculations and assumptions about linear derating factors are right.

John

-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

D

Dave Farrance

Jan 1, 1970
0
John said:
After checking the datasheet, I found that these Absolute Maximum
Rating numbers:
Junction Temperature = 175 degrees-C.
Power Dissipation (at Tc = 25C.) = 470W
Linear Derating Factor = 3.1W/degree-C.

Junction Temp (calculated) = 140C
Room Temp = 25C
Junction temperature rise = 140C - 25C = 115C
(115C temperature rise) x (3.1W/degree-C. derating) = 356.5W
(470W max rating) - (356.5W derating) = 113.5W

No. For each degree that the case rises above 25C, you can dissipate
3.1W less than 470W. That's what the derating means.

So you need to know how many degrees the FET case rises above ambient
for a given dissipation. Usually you will have to measure that rather
than calculate it because it depends on how large the heatsink is and
how good the airflow is.

When it's operating at the normal load that does *not* blow up the FET,
leave it like that for half an hour or whatever it takes to reach
equilibrium temperature. Then measure the FET case temperature with a
temperature probe.

J

John

Jan 1, 1970
0
No. For each degree that the case rises above 25C, you can dissipate
It's not the temperature rise of the junction that's used?
I was calculating the temp rise in the junction (based on measured
case temp) instead. I have the case temperature from earlier on,
before the FET blew. Here goes...

Max power rating for FET = 470W
Linear derating factor = 3.1W/degree-C
Ambient temperature = 25C
Measured case temperature = 100C (actually, it's 97C but I rounded up)
Case temp rise = 100C - 25C = 75C
Derating = (3.1W/degree-C) x (75C) = 232.5W
Power available to FET as a load = 470W - 232.5W = 237.5W

This seems to indicate that the 125W load the FET was dissipating at a
case temperature of 100C wasn't a problem (by itself). But, the
junction temperature was a lot higher (140C, calculated). Shouldn't
the temperature rise of the junction be the basis for the derating?

Thanks!

-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

T

Tim Wescott

Jan 1, 1970
0
John said:
It's not the temperature rise of the junction that's used?
I was calculating the temp rise in the junction (based on measured
case temp) instead. I have the case temperature from earlier on,
before the FET blew. Here goes...

Max power rating for FET = 470W
Linear derating factor = 3.1W/degree-C
Ambient temperature = 25C
Measured case temperature = 100C (actually, it's 97C but I rounded up)
Case temp rise = 100C - 25C = 75C
Derating = (3.1W/degree-C) x (75C) = 232.5W
Power available to FET as a load = 470W - 232.5W = 237.5W

This seems to indicate that the 125W load the FET was dissipating at a
case temperature of 100C wasn't a problem (by itself). But, the
junction temperature was a lot higher (140C, calculated). Shouldn't
the temperature rise of the junction be the basis for the derating?

Thanks!

-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

The critical parameter in this sort of design is the junction
temperature. You design to keep the junction below some maximum (125C
on most ICs, I see 150 or 175C on some transistors). Any derating has
to do with insuring that the junction temperature is less than the
maximum allowable.

So, for instance, if you have a 175C maximum junction temperature, a
3.1W/K thermal resistance, and a case temperature of 174C, you'd better
hold the dissipation to 3.1W!

--

Tim Wescott
Wescott Design Services
http://www.wescottdesign.com

J

John

Jan 1, 1970
0
So, for instance, if you have a 175C maximum junction temperature, a
Wait...a case temp of 174C, or a junction temp of 174C limits me to
3.1W? I'm hoping it's the junction temperature as that would make
sense.

I was thinking about all of this and realized that a great way to
picture it (I beleive) is to not think about the power I'm dissipating
but to only concentrate on the junction temperature at first. If my
junction is at 140C (steady state temp, at the power level I want),
then I need to get my derating calculated before I can even begin to
consider how much power I can dissipate.

I would take that junction temp, subtract the ambient temp, multiply
it by the derating factor, subtract that from the max rated power for
the FET and arrive at a derated power rating for the MOSFETs/load/heat
sink/grease/etc. I'm using:

(470W) - ((140C - 25C) x (3.1W/degree-C)) = 113.5W

Since I have the MOSFETs dissipating a 125W load (each) when at a
junction temperature of 140C, I believe that means I'm in trouble. It
could certainly explain why I'm popping FETs after a few
minutes/hours.

And that's not even starting to address that 140C is just too darn
high all by itself....100C is great, 125C is max IMHO (for a 175C
rated device).

I have noticed that my case temperatures are averaging 14C higher
using the Aavid MAX07 clips vs. screw mounting. Going back to
screw-mounting the TO-247 cases, and bringing the junction temp back
down to around 123C (earlier calculated value based on 83C case temp
measurement), is definitely going to help. Just doing that brings my
derated power rating up to:

(470W) - ((123C - 25C) x (3.1W/degree-C)) = 163.1W (I believe)

Not a great safety margin for a 125W load, but a heck of a lot better
than before! It's amazing what a simple change in mounting can do.

John

-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

T

Tim Wescott

Jan 1, 1970
0
John said:
Wait...a case temp of 174C, or a junction temp of 174C limits me to
3.1W? I'm hoping it's the junction temperature as that would make
sense.

No. A case temp of 174C with 3.1W/K thermal resistance means that you
can only dissipate 3.1W before you hit a maximum Junction temperature of
17_5_ C. (obviously this is an absurd example -- if you really have to
operate at 174C you know you're operating in no-man's land anyway).
I was thinking about all of this and realized that a great way to
picture it (I beleive) is to not think about the power I'm dissipating
but to only concentrate on the junction temperature at first. If my
junction is at 140C (steady state temp, at the power level I want),
then I need to get my derating calculated before I can even begin to
consider how much power I can dissipate.

I would take that junction temp, subtract the ambient temp, multiply
it by the derating factor, subtract that from the max rated power for
the FET and arrive at a derated power rating for the MOSFETs/load/heat
sink/grease/etc. I'm using:

(470W) - ((140C - 25C) x (3.1W/degree-C)) = 113.5W

What? You're confusing yourself (and me). All the derating stuff is
there for people who don't understand thermal resistance (I'm opening
myself up for comments here, I know it).

All you need to know is the maximum allowable junction temperature
(either the manufacturer's or yours), the thermal resistance to ambient,
and ambient. So if ambient is 25C (it never is) and your maximum
allowed junction temperature is 175C then your allowed temperature rise is

T_rise = T_jmax - T_ambient = 150K (note the switch to Kelvin --
this is just a quirk on my part)

If you know that your thermal resistance from junction to ambient is
1K/W then this means that you can calculate the dissipation from

P_max = T_rise / (thermal resistance) = 150W
Since I have the MOSFETs dissipating a 125W load (each) when at a
junction temperature of 140C, I believe that means I'm in trouble. It
could certainly explain why I'm popping FETs after a few
minutes/hours.

So you've calculated a junction temperature of 140C? I assume your
devices are rated for 125C, or something less than 140C, then.
And that's not even starting to address that 140C is just too darn
high all by itself....100C is great, 125C is max IMHO (for a 175C
rated device).

175C junction temperature is max for a 175C device. That's why they say
that. You may wish to derate further, depending on how much you trust
the manufacturer. _Package_ temperature is different, but you can work
out the _Junction_ temperature from dissipation, package temperature and
thermal resistance.

--

Tim Wescott
Wescott Design Services
http://www.wescottdesign.com

J

John

Jan 1, 1970
0
What? You're confusing yourself (and me). All the derating stuff is
OK, this is good. Thermal resistance I know about.

With the linear derating factor calculation results I got, I'm
concerned that I might not have the proper thermal resistance data
though. Calculating the junction temperature from the measured case
temperature gives me this:

T_junction = (T_case) + (P_dissipated) x (Theta_junction-case)
T_junction = (100C) + (125) x (0.32)
T_junction = 140C

The device is rated for a 175C max junction temperature, so it appears
we're OK (but little-to-no safety margin, that's OK for now), but I'm
still blowing FETs. We're running the tests again to re-measure any
possible noise/spike/oscillations but we're pretty sure we have a
clean, stable test rig that isn't blowing up the FETs for us.

When the derating calculations are done though, it shows I have a
problem. Derating P_max leaves me with a value of 113.5W. With a
load of 125W, that could definitely explain why FETs are popping.

Seems that either the Theta_junction-case for the FET is not the same
as that quoted in the datasheet or calculating junction temperature is
often not as easy as using the one equation above...which I've heard

John
-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

L

legg

Jan 1, 1970
0
Each MOSFET is individually controlled by it's own op-amp loop. The
current level is stable.

-- remove SPAMMENOT for e-mail responses --

Viewing the schematic, I can see no fault in the sharing method,
however you should be wary driving these parts from a 5V source, as
some may not be capable of the full intended load at this gate
voltage, particularly if the source resistors have a signifigant
voltage drop.

This would mean that those that can, will pass more current than their
compatriots. Easy to check with a voltmeter.

I wouldn't trust clips as far as I could throw them, in a high
current/power/temperature application.

RL

T

Terry Given

Jan 1, 1970
0
John said:
OK, this is good. Thermal resistance I know about.

With the linear derating factor calculation results I got, I'm
concerned that I might not have the proper thermal resistance data
though. Calculating the junction temperature from the measured case
temperature gives me this:

T_junction = (T_case) + (P_dissipated) x (Theta_junction-case)
T_junction = (100C) + (125) x (0.32)
T_junction = 140C

yep, thats it.
The device is rated for a 175C max junction temperature, so it appears
we're OK (but little-to-no safety margin, that's OK for now), but I'm
still blowing FETs. We're running the tests again to re-measure any
possible noise/spike/oscillations but we're pretty sure we have a
clean, stable test rig that isn't blowing up the FETs for us.

When the derating calculations are done though, it shows I have a
problem. Derating P_max leaves me with a value of 113.5W. With a
load of 125W, that could definitely explain why FETs are popping.

Seems that either the Theta_junction-case for the FET is not the same
as that quoted in the datasheet or calculating junction temperature is
often not as easy as using the one equation above...which I've heard

John

mostly manufacturers like to use wildly optimistic (read as: bullshit)
figures for the power handling capability. they do things like assume Tj
= 25C.

dont forget that your Tj is very sensitive to Rtheta, which is pretty
low at 0.32K/W. It wouldnt take much to accidentally crank it up to say
1K/W, at which time Tj skyrockets to 220C. loose screw, too much goop,
slightly warped heatsink etc.

IME devices need to be torqued down with appropriate hardware (eg
belleville washers) to prevent loosening (clips can be great). I have
done failure analyses on literally hundreds of dead converters, and
found many to be due to inconsistent screw tightening.

in one funny case, the contract manufacturer used a nylock nut on the
FET of a smps. The FET heated up to about 100C, the nylon in the nylok
nut melted, the nut came loose and kablooey. when I opened up the unit,
the nut weas tight on the bolt (with a blob of melted plastic hanging
out of it) and the FET free-spun on the heatsink when desoldered.

As a result of these experiences, I get my techs to check the fasteners
(tighten up with torque wrench) before repair, otherwise they destroy
the evidence....and of course use torque control during manufacture.

Cheers
Terry

D

Dave Farrance

Jan 1, 1970
0
John said:
With the linear derating factor calculation results I got, I'm
concerned that I might not have the proper thermal resistance data
though. Calculating the junction temperature from the measured case
temperature gives me this:

T_junction = (T_case) + (P_dissipated) x (Theta_junction-case)
T_junction = (100C) + (125) x (0.32)
T_junction = 140C

Yes.

And Tc means case temperature (normally!). But I didn't stop to think
that if you were assuming that it was junction temperature, then you
should have been giving yourself an extra safety margin. Even more
puzzling that you're blowing up FETS then.

Clutching at straws: how close are you to the current limit?

Replies
2
Views
2K
Replies
11
Views
2K
Replies
5
Views
3K
Replies
16
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
823