Electricity, in its predominant form of alternating current (AC), is at the heart of modern civilization. However, direct current (DC)... Show moreElectricity, in its predominant form of alternating current (AC), is at the heart of modern civilization. However, direct current (DC) electricity is re-emerging, offering higher transmission efficiency, better system stability, better match with modern electrical loads, and easier integration of renewable and storage resources than AC. DC power is gaining tractions in HVDC or MVDC grids, DC data centers, photovoltaic farms, EV charging infrastructures, shipboard, and aircraft power systems. However, DC fault protection remains a major challenge. Interruption of DC currents is extremely difficult due to the lack of current zero crossings which are naturally available in AC power systems. Conventional mechanical breakers only offer a very limited DC current interruption capability even after significant power derating. Hybrid circuit breakers (HCBs) offers a relatively low conduction loss but a response time too slow to protect many low-impedance DC grids. Solid state circuit breakers (SSCBs) can quickly interrupt a DC fault current within tens of microseconds but suffer from high conduction losses. Furthermore, it is generally difficult for an SSCB to distinguish between a short circuit fault and a normal inrush current condition during the start-up of a capacitive load.The purpose of this thesis is to develop a tri-mode, intelligent solid-state circuit breaker technology using wide bandgap semiconductors (especially Gallium Nitride transistors), referred to as iBreaker. The iBreaker design methodology includes the use of mΩ-resistance GaN and SiC devices, new circuit topology and control techniques beyond the commonly used ON/OFF switch configuration, and integration of intelligent functions without increasing component count. The iBreaker adopts a distinct pulse width modulation (PWM) current limiting (PWM-CL) state in addition to the conventional ON and OFF states to facilitate soft startup, fault authentication, and fault location functions. Key design elements, such as use of wide bandgap (particularly GaN) switches, tri-mode operation, combined digital and analog control, the bidirectional buck topology, variable PWM frequency control and universal hardware/software architecture, are discussed in detail.
Multiple iBreaker prototypes, rated at 380 V/20 A and 1000 V/10 A, respectively, are built and tested to validate the proposed SSCB design concept. 99.95% transmission efficiency, passive cooling, and μs-scale response time are demonstrated experimentally. Show less