November 18, 2019
Do you work with active and passive microelectronic circuitry and design? If so, you’re very familiar with the negative effects that high temperatures can have on these devices. High operating temperatures can cause performance degradation and decreased service life. As such, engineers should constantly consider thermal implications to mitigate potential problems in device designs.
Gallium nitride (GaN) is still considered a relatively new semiconductor technology. Because of its superior properties, it is being used more and more in market areas previously dominated by legacy technologies. One area where GaN rises above the incumbent technologies is thermal management. In short, GaN “can take the heat” much better than other semiconductor technologies.
This blog post and our video titled “Understanding GaN Thermal Analysis” provide practical tips about how to properly design using GaN with thermal considerations in mind.
Semiconductor reliability is partly deduced by estimating the device maximum channel temperature (TCH,MAX) so an estimated lifetime can be determined. These values are gathered by measuring and modeling thermal resistances, power dissipations, and heat transfer.
Infrared (IR) microscopes are widely used for determining fault location by searching for hot spots on the semiconductor device. However, spatial resolution limits, difficulty imaging reflective surfaces, and chip surface structures (air bridges) limit the usefulness of IR imaging for measuring GaN channel temperatures. Furthermore, even if perfectly accurate numbers are obtained from IR testing, the true maximum channel temperature actually resides somewhere below the device gate.
Even though there are limitations with using IR technologies, it remains a popular technique for measuring device temperature. At Qorvo, we take a few more steps beyond IR imaging to accurately determine GaN TCH,MAX. We use 3D thermal modeling, also called finite element analysis (FEA) in conjunction with micro-Raman thermography and then compare those results with RF testing and IR imaging. Using this combined data set, we develop an FEA model for a packaged part providing an accurate value for TCH,MAX.
(1) Finding the Device IR Surface TCH
(2) Determining the FEA Device Median Time to Failure
We encourage you to review the short tutorial video “Understanding GaN Thermal Analysis” as well as the application note GaN Device Channel Temperature, Thermal Resistance and Reliability Estimates for a more detailed explanation on this topic.
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