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An overview of the common

converter topologies and power


semiconductor devices

CR

EA

TA

IEEE INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS MAGAZINE  MAR j APR 2010  WWW.IEEE.ORG/IAS

BY MARC HILLER, RAINER SOMMER,


& MAX BEUERMANN

22

ODAY, THERE ARE NUMEROUS DIF-

demands and special applications, thyristor converters are

ferent converter topologies and power

still frequently used.

semiconductor devices used in mediumvoltage drive systems. This article provides

Medium-Voltage Drives

a general overview of the common converter topologies

Over the past few years, a market for medium-voltage

available on the market and their corresponding major

drives has developed, which is growing at a rapid pace.

characteristics. The different topologies are compared and

This market is mainly driven by rising energy costs and by

evaluated with respect to the number of semiconductors

the energy-saving potential offered by variable-speed

and the complexity.

drives. The boom in the raw materials market has resulted

Due to the power semiconductor devices that are avail-

in an increased demand for medium-voltage drives over

able with maximum blocking voltages of 6.5 kV, the drive

the entire power and voltage range (drives for rolling

market with power ratings of up to 25 MW is domi-

mills, gas compressors, extraction pumps, etc.).

nated by voltage-source inverters (VSIs) in

The use of medium-voltage converters is not only

insulated gate-bipolar transistor (IGBT)

limited to applications in the high power range. Especially

and insulated gate-commutated

in the American and Asian markets, medium-voltage

transistor (IGCT) tech-

drives are used in a power range down to several 100 kVA.

nologies. For high-

In the small and medium power range of approximately

er power

300 kVA to 2 MVA, the output voltage is based on the

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MIAS.2009.935494

1077-2618/10/$26.002010 IEEE

standard voltages available throughout the world: 2.3 and


4.16 kV in the North American and 66.6 kV in the Asian
and Russian markets. Even 10 kV drives are emerging for
applications that have to operate on weak line supplies. In
Europe, low-voltage drives up to 690 V have become prevalent in this power range.
In the case of high rating drives from 2 to 60 MVA, the
output voltage can usually be freely selected and is determined by cost optimization of the whole drive system,
consisting of line transformer, converter, cables, switchgear, and motor.
Because of the various applications, the wide voltage and
power range for medium-voltage drives and the rapid development of the available power semiconductor devices,
numerous different converter topologies have been developed for medium-voltage applications in recent decades.
Unlike the low-voltage range, where the two-level (2L) voltage-source converter has become the dominant solution, a
large number of different converter topologies are available
in the medium-voltage market. The spectrum varies from
IGBTconverters with low- and high-voltage IGBTs through
IGCT converters to conventional thyristor converters.

Voltage-Source Inverters

The VSI can be basically divided into two categories:


converters in a delta connection and converters in a star

Medium-Voltage
Drives for Industrial
Applications

Star Circuit
Y

Delta Circuit

Current-Source
Inverters
(CSIs)

Cycloconverters
(CCs)

Delta Circuit

Series Connected Self-Commutated


Three-Level
Current Source
H-Bridge Cells
Neutral Point
Two-Level Cells Inverter (CSI)
Clamped
SC-HB (2L)
(3L-NPC)
Three-Level Cells
Four-Level
SC-HB (3L)
Flying Capacitor
(4L-FC)

Star Circuit
Y

Voltage-Source
Inverters
(VSIs)

Load Commutated Inverter


(LCI)
Synchronous
Motors (SMs)

Open Circuit
(CC-D)

With Common
Star-Point
(CC-S)
Induction Motors (IMs)

Synchronous Motors (SMs)

Induction Motors (IMs)


Synchronous Motors (SMs)

1
Main classification of the basic topologies available in the market today for medium-voltage converters in industrial
applications.

IEEE INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS MAGAZINE  MAR j APR 2010  WWW.IEEE.ORG/IAS

Converter Topologies
Figure 1 provides a general overview of the converter topologies available on the market for medium-voltage applications. Table 1 shows the essential performance data and
the power semiconductor devices used in the various topologies. The data only refer to the basic converter configurations of the converter topologies being presented.
Possible parallel or tandem connections of power sections
or step-up transformers at the converter output are not
taken into account because this would give a misleading

impression of the actual performance of each topology in


conjunction with the power semiconductors being used.
Moreover, Table 1 only focuses on load-side inverters. Possible configurations for line-side converters have not been
taken into consideration.
The circuit topologies generally used in mediumvoltage industrial converters can be roughly divided into
three categories:
n VSIs
n current-source inverters (CSIs)
n cycloconverters (CCs) with thyristor technology.
These categories not only differ in their actual circuit
topology but also by the power semiconductors that are
usedan essential difference. In VSIs, asymmetrically
blocking turn-off devices (IGBTs and IGCTs) with antiparallel free-wheeling diodes of 1.76.5 kV are used,
whereas the 1.7-kV IGBTs are only used in cellular converters [SC-HB(2L)]. For CSIs, symmetrically blocking, turn-off gate-commutated transistors (GCTs) are
employed, whereas for load-commutated inverters (LCIs)
and CCs, electrically fired, symmetrically blocking thyristors are used.
All self-commutated VSIs, CSIs, and all line-commutated CCs are basically suitable for feeding induction
and synchronous motors. In contrast, LCIs can only be
operated in conjunction with overexcited synchronous
motors since this type of motor is able to provide the
reactive power necessary for the commutation of the
motor-side thyristors.

23

*Continuous power, without output transformer, only basic equipment (i.e., no parallel or tandem connection).

Ball-and-tube mills,
cement mills, marine
propulsion systems, and
rolling mills
022 Hz
(50 Hz
line)
14 kV
Thyristor
CC

325 MVA

Starting converters,
compressor drives, and
marine propulsion
systems
0105 Hz
1.812 kV
Thyristor
LCI

2.570 MVA

Pumps, blowers, and


extruders

IGCT: 4.166.9 kV (3L)

SGCT: 2.36.6 kV

IGCT: <24 MVA (3L)

SGCT: <7.5 MVA


SGCT
CSI

IGBT: 312 kV (2L)


2.34.16 kV (3L)
IGBT: <35 MVA (2L)
<5 MVA (3L)
IGBT

IGBT: 2.36 kV
IGBT: <5.8 MVA

SC-HB(2L, 3L)

IGCT: 2.34.16 kV
IGCT: <10 MVA

IGBT

PP-IGBT: 3.3 kV
PP-IGBT: <9 MVA

4L-FC

IGBT: 2.37.2 kV
IGBT: <6 MVA
IGBT and IGCT
3L-NPC

085 Hz

PP-IGBT, IGCT: High-power


drives (rolling mills) with
high alternating load
requirements and
coupled-axle drives
(common dc bus)

IGBT: mainly pumps,


blowers, and extruders
Typically:
0250 Hz

Main Applications
Frequency
Voltage
Power*
Semiconductor
VSI

Output Quantities

TABLE 1. GENERAL VIEW OF THE CURRENTLY CONFIGURABLE CONVERTER TOPOLOGIES WITH THEIR OUTPUT QUANTITIES AND MAIN APPLICATIONS.

IEEE INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS MAGAZINE  MAR j APR 2010  WWW.IEEE.ORG/IAS

24

connection. The three-level neutralpoint-clamped converter (3L-NPC,


[4], Figure 2) and the four-level flying-capacitor converter (4L-FC, [1],
[5], Figure 3) are typical examples for
delta-connected converters. Common
semiconductor devices used are IGBTs
(in a module or press-pack package)
and IGCTs for the 3L-NPC converter
and IGBT modules for the 4L-FC. The
blocking voltages of the semiconductors that are used vary from 3.3 to
6.5 kV for both types of converters. To
enable output voltages of up to 7.2 kV,
a direct series connection of IGBTs is
also used for 3L-NPC converters.
The voltage load VZW1 of the
semiconductors of a valve arm is calculated approximately by
p
VZW1 2  VMot ,
(1)
where VMot is the rms value of the
line-to-line motor voltage.
Typical star-connected VSIs are the
series-connected H-bridge (SC-HB)
cellular converter with 2L H-bridges as
shown in Figure 4 [SC-HB(2L)] or with
three-level H-bridges [SC-HB(3L)] as
shown in Figure 5. In this case, the
actual drive converter is formed by
connecting a number of single converters in series. A freely configurable
number of n cells are connected to form
a phase, and the three phases are connected to a star point. Converters of
this type available on the market have
a series connection number of n 17.
IGBT (1.73.3 kV-modules) and
IGCT (4.56 kV) are used as semiconductor valves. The voltage load
VZW2 of the semiconductors of a valve
arm is approximately calculated by
VZW2

p
1 1
2  VMot   ,
2 nZ

(2)

where nZ is the number of cells connected in series per phase (e.g., nZ


4 in Figure 4).
It is a characteristic feature of the
delta connection that the blocking
voltage rating is higher and the current
rating is lower for a given output
power compared with the star-connected topology. Therefore, SC-HB
topologies permit the use of lowblocking semiconductors (e.g., 1.7 kV)
in the medium-voltage range with a
reduced number of cells nZ .
Another major difference between
star- and delta-connected circuits are

the different line infeed configurations. In the case of starconnected converters, a separate three-phase infeed (individual transformer secondary winding) is required for each
cell. Depending on the number of cells, this can result in
very complex transformers. On the other hand, the delta
connection has a concentrated dc link, so that simple diode
rectifiers with standard transformers can be used. The
common dc link also permits the implementation of multimotor drives where several motors can be operated from
a single dc link (e.g., in rolling-mill applications).
An important advantage of cellular converters in a star
connection results from the small step sizes in the output
voltage waveform of the converter. This allows standard
line motors to be used without any output filter. For the
3L-NPC, on the other hand, a reinforced motor insulation
is required or a sine-wave filter in combination with
standard line motors.
Further, the dimensioning of the dc-link capacitors is
also influenced by the basic converter topology. In deltaconnected, VSIs, relatively small capacitances can be used
in the dc link. Assuming full active power at the output,
the amount of energy stored in the dc link would theoretically permit constant output powerfed just from the
capacitive energy stored in the dc linkfor only about
510 ms. Because the star-connected cellular converters feature a single-phase cell output, the reactive power pulsating
at twice the output frequency requires a relatively large

Valve
Arm

A1 A
1
A2
A3

A2

A3

B1 B1
B2
B3
C1
C1
C2
C3
D1
D1
D2
D3

B2

B3

C2

C3

D2

D3

Ud
2

4
SC-HB cellular converter with SC-HB(2L) per cell; four SC
cells per phase (nZ = 4); cells with a six-pulse diode infeed.

Ud
2
Valve
Arm

2
The 3L-NPC converter with a 12-pulse diode infeed.

Valve
Arm
A1
A2 A1
B1
B2 A2
C1
C2

Ud

B1

C1

B2

C2

3
The 4L-FC converter with a 12-pulse diode infeed.

5
SC-HB cellular converter with SC-HB(3L) per cell; one cell
per phase (nZ = 1); cells with a 12-pulse diode infeed.

IEEE INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS MAGAZINE  MAR j APR 2010  WWW.IEEE.ORG/IAS

Valve
Arm

dc-link capacitance to limit the dc-link voltage ripple.


Therefore, the energy storage effort in the dc link of starconnected circuits is four to ten times higher compared
with delta-connected circuits. This factor depends both on
the leakage inductance of the transformer, the resulting
coupling of the individual cells, as well as essentially on the
capacitor technology being used (e.g., dry film and electrolytic). In this topology, the dc-link capacitors therefore represent a considerable percentage of the converter costs.

25

Current-Source Inverters

Load-Commutated Inverters

The self-commutated CSI (Figure 6) differs from the LCI


(described below) by the turn-off components that are
used on the motor-side converter. This enables the operation of both synchronous and induction motors. The
pulsewidth modulation results in almost sinusoidal motor
currents. This requires a real dc link with sufficient
magnetically stored energy. Because the dc link does not
permanently conduct the peak value of the ac output current, the dynamic response of this converter is comparatively low. The ac filter capacitors must be used at the
output terminals, which are capable of conducting the dclink current at any time and therefore permit commutation of the turn-off power semiconductors [3]. These
capacitors also operate as output filters and reduce the
voltage stress on the motor windings.
As a turn-off semiconductor, symmetrically blocking
GCTs are generally used. The requirement for a symmetrical blocking capability results in a special design of the
GCT. Therefore, the range of commercially available devices is limited. The typical power range covers 17 MW,
and the input voltage is limited to typically 6.6 kV due to
the magnetic power supply of the gate-control circuits.
Thyristor Converters

LCIs are suitable for driving synchronous motors with a


variable output frequency. The line- and motor-side rectifiers are controlled, so that the same dc-link voltage reference value is obtained. Hence, two dc voltage systems are
coupled by a filter choke (Figure 7). This results in motor
currents that are approximately square-wave currents. On
the other hand, the output voltage waveform is close to
sinusoidal. Because of the reactive power required for the
commutation of the thyristors, LCIs can only be used for
operating over-excited synchronous motors.
LCIs are primarily used for converters (e.g., gas compressors, gas liquefaction applications, and main propulsion drives for ships) that operate continuously. The typical
power range of these drives is 1070 MW (Figure 8).
A further application for LCIs is starting converters for
synchronous motors. Here, gas turbine generators for
power generation represent a special application as the
starting power is only a fraction of the full generator
power. Starting the generator not only requires a step-up
transformer to increase the output voltage but also a
closed-loop control that permits the high field-weakening
ratios. With this concept, gas turbine generators with a
power of 600 MW can be started with a converter power
of approximately 15 MW.

Basically, two thyristor converter topologies have become


prevalent today.

Cycloconverters

IEEE INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS MAGAZINE  MAR j APR 2010  WWW.IEEE.ORG/IAS

dc-Link

26

6
CSI with six-pulse line- and motor-side converters.

Filter

The CC is the only medium-voltage converter topology


that does not use any kind of energy storage device in the
dc link. Using three antiparallel three-phase bridges for
the three motor phases, the control always connects the
appropriate line-voltage sections to the corresponding
motor phase by using the thyristor switch matrix. However, because the thyristors have to be commutated by the
line, the maximum output frequency is limited to half the
line frequency. On the other hand, because of the high
overload capability of the thyristors and the fact that the
motor phases are directly connected to the feeding power
system, very high-transient overload currents can occur.
This feature is also used to implement a fast dynamic
response of the drive system.
The main advantage of the open connected CC (CC-D
in Figure 9) compared with the star-point-connected CC
(CC-S in Figure 10) is that it is possible to use a standardline transformer with low-leakage inductance.
These characteristics have resulted in two main
applications:
n Rolling mill main drives for use in roughing mills
where the rolling process results in high-surge loads

8
7
LCI with 12-pulse line- and motor-side converters.

Example of a commercial LCI: 12-pulse motor- and lineside bridge with filter choke of a Siemens Sinamics GL150
converter with six thyristors connected in series per valve
(V Mot = 12 kV, P = 65 MW, 8 3 2.5 3 1.7 m3).

(20 MW for 60 s). The frequencies of the directly


driven rolling stands are typically 1020 Hz.
Ball-and-tube mills for crushing rock have a diameter of up to 10 m and can be directly operated with
synchronous motors that are just as large (ring
motors) at typically 69 Hz. Mills such as these
have a continuous rating of approximately 20 MW.

Power Semiconductors
M

Thyristors

9
Cycloconverter in an open connection in a six-pulse design.

10
Cycloconverter with common star point (CC-S) in a
six-pulse design.

TABLE 2. DEVELOPMENT OF THE MAIN THYRISTOR


CHARACTERISTIC VALUES [2].
Year

Si (in)

1965

0.5

1970

Current (A)

Voltage (V)

40

1,350

400

3,600

1980

1,400

4,200

1990

2,600

5,200

2000

3,000

8,000

IEEE INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS MAGAZINE  MAR j APR 2010  WWW.IEEE.ORG/IAS

Although the basic converter concept of LCIs and CCs has


not changed over the past 20 years, the components that are
used have undergone an astonishing increase in performance.
Thyristors for use in converters were already being used in
commercial applications in the early 1960s. The performance of the thyristors has significantly increased. This development has been accompanied by increasing wafer size,
mainly driven by telecommunications technology. This is
because (unlike the finely structured IGBTs, which are commercially produced up to a maximum area of 225 mm2 per
chip) the thyristor function can be realized on wafers of any
size using simple contact masks. The increase in the off-state
voltage also requires doped material that is even more pure
and more homogeneous. The precise doping is realized
through neutron conversion of silicon to phosphor. Thyristor development often follows silicon development.
Based on this dynamic development, the number of
individual semiconductors and therefore the costs of the
overall converter have been significantly reduced. One
example of this is a 16-MW LCI: today, only 24 individual
semiconductors are required, whereas 20 years ago, 96
thyristors were needed.
With the increased silicon surface areas of the individual
thyristors, LCIs and CCs can also be implemented without
fuses without reducing the short-circuit withstand capability. If a semiconductor fails, thyristors (which are generally
implemented as press packs) have the advantage that they
form a safe short-circuit path for the subcircuit that is
affected. This prevents arcing in the case of a fault.
Because of the press-pack structure, thyristors have a
practically unlimited service life. Many systems have been in
operation for more than 20 years without any fault, which
clearly indicates the high reliability of these components.
With the availability of large individual devices, it is
no longer necessary to connect devices in parallel, which
avoids the known problems of static and dynamic current distribution.
To enhance the converter output voltage and output
power, thyristors must be directly connected in series.
Because of the RC snubber and tight tolerances of the reverse
recovery charges, thyristors can be connected in series without having to use individually matched devices (Figure 11).
However, the modularization regarding the number of
devices connected in series requires a suitable control
method. In the past, simple magnetic couplers were
usually used to provide the necessary galvanic isolation.
However, this requires individually adapted transformers
that meet the requirements of the insulation system.
This is the reason that manufacturers changed over to
module LCI and CC concepts with thyristor control
electronics, including power supplies fed directly from the

27

IEEE INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS MAGAZINE  MAR j APR 2010  WWW.IEEE.ORG/IAS

28

RC circuit. This technique has been


IGCTs
used in high-voltage dc transmission
The IGCT is a further development of
MULTILEVEL
systems for a long time. Because of the
the gate turn-off thyristor (GTO). The
progress made in digital electronics,
fine structure of the silicon pellet with
CONVERTERS ARE
state-of-the-art gate drivers are able to
more than ten single thyristors per
FORMED BY
transmit additional information about
square centimeter allows the anode
the state of the thyristor to the higher
cathode current to be commutated into
CONNECTING
level control. Using a complex programan anode-gate current. This means that,
mable logic device (CPLD), numerous
for several microseconds, the complete
A NUMBER OF
coded feedback signals (thyristor voltload current has to be conducted by the
age, correct firing) can be signaled back
gate. However, as a result of the progress
SINGLE
to the control electronics. Communicamade in MOS power transistors and
tion is implemented using standard duelectrolytic capacitor technology, today,
CONVERTERS
plex fiber-optic cables. This allows
this is possible up to currents of
IN SERIES.
individual thyristors to be monitored
6,000 A. The only disadvantage today
using the control electronics.
is the relatively high power requireThis technique allows simple modment of the gate-control circuit.
ular structures to be realized up to very high power ratings.
Figure 12 shows an example of a typical IGCT power
Taking everything into account, this explains why the thyr- electronic building block (PEBB) for a 3L-NPC converter.
istors still play a significant role in medium-voltage power It consists of four IGCTs, including gate drivers and the corelectronics even after 45 years of industrial use. Of course, responding free-wheeling diodes, the water cooling system,
the lower and medium power range is now addressed using RCD snubbers, and di/dt-chokes. Using 4 kA/4.5 kV IGCT
components that can be turned off (IGBTs). At higher devices, the maximum converter power in a 3L-NPC topolpower ratings, a special thyristor version is used: the IGCT. ogy is 910 MVA.
In the highest power range, the thyristor still remains
unbeatable when it comes to performance, reliability, and IGBTs
low equipment costs.
IGBTs now completely dominate the low-voltage converter
sector and are also being increasingly used for mediumvoltage converters. Because of the low cell size of the MOS
structure, only relatively small chip sizes of maximum 15
P
 15 mm2 are currently in industrial production. Because
each of these chips has to be capable of blocking the maximum device voltage, an individual edge termination has to
L1
be integrated. However, the edge width on the chip
L2
increases nearly linearly with the required blocking capaL3
bility and results in a significant reduction of the active
semiconductor surface. While a 1,700-V chip still has
approximately 75% active surface, for a 6,500-V chip, the
N
active surface is reduced to 50%.
11
The main advantages of IGBTs, especially for small and
Siemens LCI thyristor module with 18 thyristors, including drivers
medium power ratings, are the controllability of the
and RC snubbers and the corresponding circuit arrangement.
switching behavior as well as the short-circuit capability

T1
T1
D1

T2

D1

T2

D2

T3

D2

T3

IGBT-Powercard

NPC-Diode
Powercard

T4
T4

12
IGCT 3L-NPC phase module (V Mot = 3.3 kV, IMot = 1,750 A).

13
Siemens Sinamics GM150 IGBT 3L-NPC phase design with
IGBT- and NPC-Diode-Powercards for 3.37.2 kV converters.

Diodes

Diodes are used in all of the VSIs. For


IGBT modules, diode chips with the
same production technique are used.
However, in this case, developers have
no possibility of selecting a specific
silicon surface of the diode chips. The
diode surface is usually about half that
of the IGBT surface. This limits the
converter design regarding the regenerative power capability and the shortcircuit protection.

IGBTPowercard
NPC-Diode
Powercard

1.2 m
Inverter
(3L-NPC)

Control
Cabinet

2.4 m

14

Air-cooled Sinamics GM150 IGBT converter (Siemens).

Load-Cycling Capability

100

SA (MVA)

While the load-cycling capability of


the press-pack components currently
used for all applications offers a sufficient margin, IGBT modules with
their soldering and bonding techniques require a precise analysis of the
load-cycling requirements and the
resulting temperature changes that
occur in the application. The loadcycling capability of the connection
bond wire/chip can be significantly
increased by applying an additional
polyimide coating to the bond wires.
For the necessary resistance to cyclic
temperature stress, which determines
the reliability at low operating frequencies (typically <15 Hz) or temporary overload conditions (in rolling
mills typically 60 s load, 300 s no
load), further measures have to be
taken in the module structure. The
aim is to adapt the thermal and
mechanical expansion coefficients to
those of silicon to avoid cracks in the

soldered joints. This adaptation is


achieved using Al-N ceramic substrates
and a base plate made of Al-SiC (aluminum-filled Si-C).

Perfect Harmony4
SC-HB (2L)
1.7 kV-IGBT

Simovert GL1503
LCI
Thyristor
Siemens Perfect
Harmony SC-HB
(2L) 3.3 kV-IGBT

Sinamics
SM1502 3L-NPC
4.5 kV-IGCT

10

1Up

to 2 Parallel Connection
to 3 Parallel Connection
3Output Six-Pulse for Starting
Converter or 12-Pulse for
Continuous-Duty Converter
4Implemented Drive with Four
Motor Winding Systems
2Up

Siemens Perfect
Sinamics Harmony SC-HB (2L)
1.7 kV-IGBT
GM1501
3L-NPC
3.3 kV-IGBT
1
2
2.3

kV

4
3.3

kV

6
V

6k

4.1

8
7.2

10

kV

Siemens medium-voltage converters (without the CC Simovert D).

VA
[kV

12

eff

15

IEEE INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS MAGAZINE  MAR j APR 2010  WWW.IEEE.ORG/IAS

of the components. This makes it possible to operate the IGBTs without a


THYRISTORS ARE
snubber, enabling a simple, low-cost
converter design. A further advantage
STILL IMPORTANT
results from the simple series connectability of the IGBTs, which now perDEVICES FOR
mits converters with output voltages
HIGH-POWER
up to 7.2 kV rms to be implemented
in 3L-NPC technology.
AND LOWThe design of 3L-NPC phase of the
Siemens Sinamics GM150 IGBT
FREQUENCY
converter is shown in Figure 13. The
modular phase design consists of four
DRIVES IN
identical IGBT-Powercards and one
NPC-Diode-Powercard. Each IGBTSPECIAL
Powercard comprises two IGBT modAPPLICATIONS.
ules (including gate drivers), whereas
two SC IGBTs are located on neighboring Powercards. The NPC-DiodePowercard consists of two double-diode modules and the
corresponding RC snubbers for passive voltage balancing
in the series connection. This design is used for all Siemens Sinamics GM150 IGBT converters with output voltages from 3.3 to 7.2 kV using either 3.3 or 6.5 kVIGBTs. A simplified structure without SC semiconductors is used for the 2.3-kV inverter.
The converter cabinet design of a Siemens Sinamics
2.2 m
GM150 IGBT converter using the phase design in Figure
13 is shown in Figure 14. It consists of a standard 12-pulse
diode rectifier, the three-phase 3L-NPC-inverter, and the
control cabinet. The output voltage range of this design is
3.37.2 kV. The maximum output power is 5.8 MVA for
Rectifier
a single water-cooled unit or 4.3 MVA for the air-cooled
12-Pulse
version. The output power can be extended up to 10 MVA
for the water-cooled version when units are connected in
parallel.

29

350
300
250
200
150
100
50
Thyristor 5.2 kV
CC (1,2)

Thyristor 8kV LCI

IGBT 4.5 kV-PP


3L-NPC (2)
IGCT 4.5 kV-PP
3L-NPC (2)

IGBT 6.5 kV-Module


3L-NPC

IGBT 3.3 kV-Module


3L-NPC

0
IGBT 1.7 kV-Module
2L (690 V)
IGBT 1.7 kV-Module
SC-HB (2L)

Si-Area Switch and Diode (cm/MVA)

400

1) CC All Semiconductors Considered


Because Line Side and Motor Side
Are Not Separable
2) Converters with High Load Cycle
Capability

16

IEEE INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS MAGAZINE  MAR j APR 2010  WWW.IEEE.ORG/IAS

Silicon surface for various topologies and semiconductors


with reference to the output apparent power (motor-side
converters only).

30

A greater degree of freedom is offered by converters


with press-pack components in which the diode function
is implemented in separate components. In this case, the
diode area can be adapted to the specific requirements of
the application.
Summary
The typical converter topologies over the power and output
voltage range are shown in Figure 15 using examples from
the Siemens product spectrum in the medium-voltage
range. CCs have been omitted. Voltage-source converters
(3L-NPC and SC-HB) cover the complete power range up
to 25 MVA and motor voltages up to 7.2 kV. In some cases,
converters with a voltage dc link (SC-HB) up to 60 MW
have already been implemented by connecting single converters in parallel. In the power range up to approximately
20 MW, IGBTs (off-state voltage between 1.7 and 6.5 kV)
and IGCTs (off-state voltage 4.5 kV) are used.
IGCTs (and IGBTs in a press-pack package) are preferred
wherever the application demands a very high load-cycling
capability, e.g., in rolling mills. A further advantage when
using IGCTs is the fact that the actual semiconductor
switches are separated from the free-wheeling diode so that
the diode surface and the diode properties can be adapted to
the requirements of the application. Examples are an
improved regenerative feedback capability or a higher surge
current capability when compared with a module diode.
Despite the wide overlap between the different converter
systems (Figure 15), each topology has its own preferred
fields of application. The selection of a converter concept
that is suitable for a specific application largely depends on
the drive system costs. The semiconductors make up a

considerable portion of the costs, especially for VSIs. The


silicon area used per megawatt of output power is therefore
an indicator of the costs of each converter concept. Figure 16
shows the silicon area per megavoltampere of converter output
power for the various converter concepts explained earlier. For
comparison, the corresponding silicon area for a 690-V motorside converter in 2L technology (pink bar) is also shown.
It is clearly apparent that by using high-voltage IGBT
modules (blocking voltage  3.3 kV) in 3L-NPC topology,
the silicon area and therefore the semiconductor costs are
considerably higher. This is because of the higher switching and on-state losses of the high-voltage IGBTs
requiring a larger silicon area per megavolt ampere
compared with IGCT or thyristor-based solutions.
However, the higher semiconductor costs are nearly compensated by the simpler mechanical design and the considerably lower snubber costs compared with the drives
using press-pack technology. A comparably small semiconductor surface can be achieved in the SC-HB(2L) topology using 1.7-kV components. The smaller nonactive
edge termination area in 1.7 kV devices enables a higher
utilization of the installed silicon area. In conjunction with
the relatively small switching and on-state losses of lowvoltage IGBTs, this leads to a substantially lower silicon
area per megavoltampere compared with topologies
requiring high-voltage IGBT devices (e.g., 3L-NPC).
However, in the SC-HB topology, the very high costs of
passive components (dc-link capacitors and line transformers) also have to be taken into account.
LCIs have clearly the smallest silicon surface of all the
concepts. The LCI will therefore remain an important drive
technology, especially for high power applications and
because of its high reliability (lower number of switching
components and control electronics). Comparing the CC
with the VSC topologies, the silicon area is comparable.
Therefore, the CC will remain an attractive solution for
special applications (e.g., rolling and ball mills).
In the future, the drive market up to 30 MW will be
dominated by VSIs with IGBTs and IGCTs. At higher
powers and for special applications, thyristor converters
will still be important.
References
[1] S. S. Fazel, D. Krug, T. Taleb, and S. Bernet, Comparison of power
semiconductor utilization, losses and harmonic spectra of state-of-theart 4.16 kV multi-level voltage source converters, in Proc. 2005 European Conf. on Power Electronics and Applications (EPE05), Dresden,
Germany.
[2] A. Hoffmann and K. Stocker, Thyristor-Handbuch, 4. Auflage,
1976.
[3] B. Wu, High-Power Converters and AC Drives. New York: Wiley, 2006.
[4] M. Ruff, R. Sommer, and G. Zaiser, Spannungszwischenkreisumrichter im Mittelspannungsbereich, ETG-Fachtagung Bauelemente
der Leistungs elektronik und ihre Anwendungen, Bad Nauheim, Germany, 2002.
[5] C. Keller, Low power converters for high output voltages, in Proc.
2005 European Conf. on Power Electronics and Applications (EPE05),
Dresden, Germany, 2005.

Marc Hiller (marc.hiller@siemens.com), Rainer Sommer, and


Max Beuermann are with Siemens AG in Nuremberg, Germany.
This article first appeared as Converter Topologies and Power
Semiconductors for Industrial Medium Voltage Converters at the
2008 IEEE Industry Applications Society Annual Meeting.