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Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor

The Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) is pivotal in modern electronics and is renowned for its ability to handle high currents and voltages efficiently while offering fast switching speeds. It represents a hybrid between the characteristics of a traditional Bipolar Junction Transistor (BJT) and a Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistor (MOSFET), combining the high input impedance of MOSFET with the current-handling capability of BJT.

Structure and Composition

The IGBT consists of three semiconductor layers: an n-doped drift region sandwiched between p-doped emitter and collector regions. This structure resembles that of a conventional BJT. However, what sets the IGBT apart is the addition of a MOSFET-like gate structure on top of the drift region. This gate structure is insulated from the drift region by a thin layer of oxide, allowing for precise control over the conductivity of the drift region.

The gate structure typically consists of a metal electrode separated from the drift region by a layer of silicon dioxide (SiO2) or another insulating material. Applying a voltage to the gate creates an electric field in the drift region, modulating the conductivity of the entire device. This gate-controlled conductivity modulation enables the IGBT to switch high currents with minimal power loss, making it highly efficient for power conversion applications.

The IGBT’s structure also includes heavily doped regions known as the emitter and collector, which facilitate the injection and extraction of charge carriers. These regions ensure low on-state voltage drop and high current-carrying capability, key factors in the IGBT’s suitability for high-power applications.

Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor


The operation of an IGBT begins with the application of a voltage to the gate terminal. When a positive voltage is applied to the gate relative to the emitter, it creates an electric field that attracts electrons towards the gate, forming a conductive channel between the collector and emitter regions.

Once the gate voltage reaches a certain threshold, the IGBT enters the ON state, allowing current to flow freely from the collector to the emitter. The voltage applied to the gate controls the conductivity of the channel, providing precise control over the flow of current through the device. This ability to modulate conductivity enables the IGBT to function as a switch, rapidly turning large currents on and off in response to changing input signals.

One of the key advantages of the IGBT is its ability to handle high voltage and current simultaneously. The BJT’s output stage allows it to handle large currents with minimal voltage drop, while the MOSFET input stage provides fast switching speeds and high input impedance. This combination makes IGBTs well-suited for a wide range of applications, including motor drives, power supplies, renewable energy systems, and electric vehicles, where efficient control of high power levels is essential.


IGBTs are found to be extensively used in motor control applications, such as variable frequency drives (VFDs), for controlling the speed of electric motors. By modulating the voltage and frequency supplied to the motor, IGBT-based VFDs enable energy-efficient operation and precise control over motor speed, torque, and direction. It makes them indispensable in industries ranging from manufacturing and transportation to HVAC systems and robotics.

Another significant application of IGBTs is in renewable energy systems, particularly in solar and wind power inverters. In these systems, IGBTs convert DC power generated by solar panels or wind turbines into AC power suitable for homes, businesses, and the grid. Their high efficiency and robust switching capabilities make IGBTs essential for maximizing the energy yield and reliability of renewable energy installations, thereby contributing to the global transition towards sustainable energy sources.

IGBTs also play a vital role in high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission systems, where they are employed to convert, control, and transmit large amounts of electrical power over long distances. HVDC systems using IGBT-based converters offer lower transmission losses, improved voltage control, and enhanced grid stability compared to traditional alternating current (AC) transmission systems, making them ideal for interconnecting power grids, integrating renewable energy sources, and supplying power to remote areas.

Article was last reviewed on Thursday, March 28, 2024

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