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Challenging high-power automotive applications demand parallel switching

Challenging high-power automotive applications demand parallel switching

As we move ever-closer to truly autonomous vehicles, we are seeing ever-higher levels of electrification in the vehicles that leaving modern production lines. In many cases the electronic content is low-power technology that brings additional processing and sensing capability to the vehicle, making it safer and easier to drive.

Alongside this, electrical and electronic systems are replacing some of the mechanical and hydraulic systems within the vehicle. These older systems, including steering, starter motors, water and fuel pumps were heavy and prone to wear and, ultimately, failure. Through replacing these belt-driven pumps with electric motors and their associated control electronics the vehicle becomes cleaner, more efficient, more reliable and lighter.

However, these electric motors require significant power.  One idea could be to connect MOSFETs in parallel to drive large currents. Parallel connection of MOSFETs is not a new technique, but it does require careful design. In particular, it is important to pay attention to the switching timing difference between paralleled MOSFETs. This is because the greater the difference there is in switching timing the greater the imbalance of switching loss there is likely to be among the paralleled devices. If one MOSFET turns on earlier or turns off later than the other MOSFETs in the parallel set-up, the switching loss concentrates around this single MOSFET, with potentially catastrophic results.

To address this issue, Toshiba released its TK160F10N1L - a new 100V, 160A power MOSFET that provides a tighter threshold voltage (Vth) specification than previous devices. Offering Vth specs of min2.5V/max3.5V versus its predecessor’s min2V/max4V, the TK160F10N1L is ideal for automotive power switching applications as switching loss is distributed more evenly among the paralleled MOSFETs.

A comprehensive white paper covering the issues around automobile power system design, and the new generation of MOSFETs that will address the challenges, has been published by Toshiba. For more information visit:

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