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The very low on-state resistance, the voltage-controlled gate, and the relative simplicity of fabrication of the normally ON silicon carbide junction field-effect transistor (JFET) make this device the most important player among all state-of-the-art silicon carbide transistors. However, the normally ON nature counts as the main factor which keeps this device far from being considered as an alternative to the silicon insulated-gate bipolar transistor. A self-powered gate driver without external power supply for normally ON silicon carbide JFETs is presented in this paper. The proposed circuit is able to handle the short-circuit currents when the devices are subjected to the dc-link voltage by utilizing the energy associated with this current. On the other hand, it supplies the necessary negative gate-source voltage during the steady-state operation. A detailed description of the operating states in conjunction with a theoretical analysis of the proposed self-powered gate driver is presented. The first part of the experimental investigation has been performed when the proposed circuit is connected to a device which is directly subjected to the dc-link voltage. The second set of measurements were recorded when the self-powered gate-driver was employed as the driver of normally ON components in a half-bridge converter. From the experimental results, it is shown that the short-circuit current is cleared within approximately 20 μs after the dc-link voltage is applied, while the power consumption when all devices are kept in the OFF state equals 0.37 W. Moreover, it is experimentally shown that the proposed gate driver can properly switch when it is employed in a half-bridge converter. Finally, limitations regarding the range of the applications where the self-powered gate drive can efficiently operate are also discussed.
Date of Publication: March 2013