Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Marian Kazimierczuk (Advisor), Saiyu Ren (Committee Member), Ray Siferd (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (MSEE)


Gallium nitride (GaN) technology is being adopted in a variety of power electronic applications due to their high efficiencies even at high switching speeds. In comparison with the silicon (Si) transistors, the GaN-based devices exhibit lower on-state resistance and parasitic capacitances. The thermal performance of the GaN transistors are also better than the Si counterparts due to their higher junction temperature and lower temperature-coefficient of on-resistance. These unique properties make the gallium-nitride power transistors an appropriate selection for power electronic converters and radio-frequency power amplifiers, where size, efficiency, power density, and dynamic performance are major requirements.

Foreseeing the immense capabilities of the GaN transistors in the near future for the fast-growing electronic industry, this thesis endeavors to make the following contributions: (a) analyze the important properties of GaN as a semiconductor material, (b) study the formation of the 2-dimensional electron gas layer required for current conduction, (c) determine the functionality of the GaN as a field-effect transistor, and (d) test its performance through simulations and experiments at high switching frequencies in power electronic converters, where the Si-based transistors cease to operate normally. The critical material properties include the intrinsic carrier concentration, the specific on-resistance, and the intrinsic carrier mobility. The dependence of these properties on the temperature is investigated. The comparison of these properties are made with the silicon and silicon-carbide (SiC) semiconductor materials to give a clear view about the superior performance of GaN over the other types.

While the Si MOSFETs create a channel to conduct the electrons and holes between the source and drain terminals, the GaN field-effect transistors (FET) form a 2-dimensional electron gas (2-DEG) layer, whose thickness is controlled by the applied gate potential. Because of the high electron density in the 2-DEG layer, the GaN FETs are termed as high-electron mobility transistors (HEMT). The operation of both enhancement and depletion mode GaN FETs are discussed in detail and the model of the drain current through the 2-DEG layer is provided. The figure-of-merit (FOM) for the GaN transistors is explained and then compared with that of Si and SiC transistors.

Two important implementations of GaN transistors are in the (a) pulse-width modulated synchronous-buck DC-DC power converters and (b) Class-D resonant inverters. These circuits are better representative examples since they comprise of one GaN FET (high-side switch) connected to a "hot" point and the other GaN FET (low-side switch) referenced to ground. While the low-side switch consumes minimum gate-drive power for turn ON/OFF transitions, the high-side switch demands a higher gate-drive power to operate the transistor as a switch. Also, these switches exhibit switching losses due to the charge/discharge process of the parasitic capacitances. The gate-drive power and switching losses increase as the switching frequency is increased. However, due to the superior performance and very low values of the device parasitic resistances and capacitances in the GaN transistors, higher switching frequencies can be achieved at very minimal switching losses. Simulations were performed to analyze the behavior of the two circuits at different switching frequencies and were compared with those using Si transistors. It is observed that the overall efficiency reduced to 48% at 5 MHz for the Si-based buck converter and down to 41% at 5 MHz for the Si-based Class-D inverter. However, using GaN transistors showed an improved performance, where the overall efficiency reduced to only 71% at 15 MHz for the buck converter and 60% at 10 MHz for the Class-D inverter.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Electrical Engineering

Year Degree Awarded