Title page for ETD etd-11292012-150503

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Kim, Woochan
Author's Email Address woochan@vt.edu
URN etd-11292012-150503
Title Integrated Current Sensor using Giant Magneto Resistive (GMR) Field Detector for Planar Power Module.
Degree Master of Science
Department Electrical and Computer Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Ngo, Khai D. T. Committee Chair
Guido, Louis J. Committee Member
Lu, Guo-Quan Committee Member
  • GMR
  • integrated gate driver circuit
  • field detector
  • planar power module
  • signal-conditioning circuit
  • over-current protection
Date of Defense 2012-11-16
Availability unrestricted

Conventional wire bond power modules have limited application for high-current operation, mainly because of their poor thermal management capability. Planar power modules have excellent thermal management capability and lower parasitic inductance, which means that the planar packaging method is desirable for high-power applications. For these reasons, a planar power module for an automotive motor drive system was developed, and a gate-driver circuit with an over-current protection was planned to integrate into the module. This thesis discusses a current-sensing method for the planar module, and the integrated gate driver circuit with an over-current protection. After reviewing several current-sensing methods, it becomes clear that most popular current-sensing methods, such as the Hall-Effect sensor, the current transformer, the Shunt resistor, and Rogowski coils, exhibit limitations for the planar module integration. For these reasons, a giant magneto resistive (GMR) magnetic-field detector was chosen as a current-sensing method.

The GMR sensor utilizes the characteristics of the giant magneto resistive (GMR) effect in that it changes its resistance when it is exposed to the magnetic-flux. Because the GMR resistor can be fabricated at the wafer level, a packaged GMR sensor is very compact when compared with conventional current sensors. In addition, the sensor detects magnetic-fields, which does not require direct contact to the current-carrying conductor, and the bandwidth of the sensor can be up to 1 MHz, which is wide enough for the switching frequencies of most of motor drive applications. However, there are some limiting factors that need to be considered for accurate current measurement:

  • Operating temperature
  • Magnetic-flux density seen by a GMR resistor
  • Measurement noise
If the GMR sensor is integrated into the power module, the ambient temperature of the sensor will be highly influenced by the junction temperature of the power devices. Having a consistent measurement for varying temperature is important for module-integrated current sensors. An experiment was performed to see the temperature characteristics of a GMR sensor. The measurement error caused by temperature variation was quantified by measurement conditions. This thesis also proposes an active temperature error compensation method for the best use of the GMR sensor.

The wide current trace of the planar power module helps to reduce the electrical/thermal resistance, but it hinders having a strong and constant magnetic-field-density seen by the GMR sensor. In addition, the eddy-current effect will change the distribution of the current density and the magnetic-flux-density. These changes directly influence the accurate measurement of the GMR sensor. Therefore, analyzing the magnetic-flux distribution in the planar power module is critical for integrating the GMR sensor.

A GMR sensor is very sensitive to noise, especially when it is sensing current flowing in a wide trace and exposed to external fields, neither of which can be avoided for the operation of power modules. Post-signal processing is required, and the signal-conditioning circuit was designed to attenuate noise. The signal-conditioning circuit was designed using an instrumentation amplifier, and the circuit attenuated most of the noise that hindered accurate measurement. The over-current protection circuit along with the gate driver circuit was designed, and the concept was verified by experiments. The main achievements of this study can be summarized as:

  • Characterization of conventional current-sensing methods
  • Temperature characterization of the GMR resistor
  • Magnetic-flux distribution of the planar power module
  • Design of the signal-conditioning circuit and over-current protection circuit

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