Have you ever heard of an IGBT? It is an energy efficient device.
Most engineers are familiar with digital processing chips, but few are familiar with power switching silicon transistors. A key example of the latter is the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor or IGBT, a three-terminal power semiconductor device primarily used as an electronic switch. Since it is designed to turn on and off quickly, IGBTs are widely used as switching devices in DC to DC inverter circuits to drive small to large motors.
Recently, these lesser-known devices have become popular in the global transition to energy efficient systems. But before we see how, let’s take a look at the market trends for these devices.
According to Intelligence from Mordor, the IGBT market was valued at $ 6.047 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $ 11.01 billion by 2026. The report notes that IGBTs control electrical power through switching amplifiers in several modern devices, such as stoves, microwaves, electric cars, trains, variable frequency drives (VFDs), refrigerators, air conditioners, lamp ballasts, municipal power transmission systems and stereo systems.
Another reason for the growth of IGBTs is the electrification of automotive powertrains in electric and hybrid (EV / HEV) vehicles. With IGBTs, conduction and switching losses are considerably reduced, thus directly impacting the overall efficiency of the vehicle.
Electric car sales in Europe, North America and China are opening new avenues for IGBTs to support electric vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing. These sales help further strengthen IGBT’s position in the market, the report explains.
Trains and lights
Years ago at the IEEE International Electronics Device Meeting (IEDM), the inventor of the insulated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) spoke about the societal impact of power semiconductors. Professor Jayant Baliga of North Carolina State University claimed that his invention of IGBT solid-state power switch had reduced gasoline consumption by 10% and improved electrical energy efficiency by more than 40%.
To be more precise, an IGBT is a power transistor with a MOS structure for the input and a bipolar structure for an output design. These devices are used for high voltage and high current applications by controlling high power with less drive power. In addition, IGBT technology is widely used in the reconstruction of old energy and transport vehicles.
For example, IGBT technology was used to update locomotives with older gate stop thyristors (GTOs) to control motors. A GTO is a power switching device used in medium voltage high power inverter bridges. But this technology tends to be expensive with a complicated gate driver circuit. In contrast, IGBT devices can handle much higher currents and are easier to control.
Lighting is another example of using IGBT devices to reduce energy consumption. According to the US Department of Energy (DOE), artificial lighting consumes about 10% of household electricity use. A typical Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) with support for IGBT-based electronics in the base has been shown to reduce power consumption by 80% while operating for 10 times the lifespan of incandescent lamps. According to Baliga, Motorola (On-Semi) has shown that the IGBT offers the most cost-effective power device technology for use in electronic ballast of CFLs compared to bipolar power transistors and power MOSFETs.
John Blyler is the editor of Design News, covering the areas of electronics and advanced manufacturing. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of experience in hardware-software-network systems as a publisher and engineer in advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductors. John has co-authored books on systems engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.