Isolated gate drivers offer ‘ultimate protection’ for industrial, green energy

Isolated gate drivers offer ‘ultimate protection’ for industrial, green energy

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The launch of a CMOS gate isolator with a product lifetime of 100 years raises some questions.
By Rich Pell


When would you say the electronics industry started? You would probably cite the Marconi Wireless Telegraph company in 1897 and Edison’s inventions at the same time, or maybe even Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone in 1876.  The modern electronics industry dates back to the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958, a mere 58 years ago. So what will the industry look like in 100 years?

That’s the question that arises from the launch of the latest CMOS gate isolator from Silicon Labs (Austin, TX). The company is citing a lifetime (mean time to failure, MTTF) of over 100 years at 120ºC for the isolator, or 876,000 hours of operation.

Is it even possible to predict what the industry will look like? Electronics is very different from the first days of the integrated circuit, whoever is credited with the invention.

We are not talking about a long product design cycle such as a nuclear reactor that might take 15 years to design and build and last for another 40 years.  This is why organisations such as the International Institute of Obsolescence Management and distributors such as Richardson Electronics with die banks are important, providing strategies for long term supply of components.

Are we really expecting an air conditioner or industrial motor to last 25 years, let alone a minimum of 100. Many of the other components will have failed long before then. Silicon Labs is adamant that the 100 year lifetime makes sense.

“The basic idea is that we do very harsh accelerated life testing of the dielectric used in our devices,” said Ross Sabolcik, VP of Power Products at Silicon Labs. “This simulates extremely long life stresses.  Based on these tests and using standard modeling of the lifetime expectancy we arrive at the 100 year number.  Note that we are using the same models many of our competitors use to calculate these lifetimes.  In fact we use the more conservative model which would give the shortest estimated lifetime.”

So is this over engineering for a solution or merely the benefit of more rugged CMOS technology?

You can see the datasheet at Documents/TechnicalDocs/Si8285-86.pdf and the reliability results at Documents/QR-Report.pdf

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