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How Fast is the Switching Speed of a GaN Switch?

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

by Steve Sandler

How fast is the world’s fastest GaN switch? It is an interesting question, and maybe is mostly wanted for bragging rights, but the measurement does present some challenges. With the GaN switching 100 V at an expected bandwidth of above 1 GHz, the selection of the probe is critical. GaN is very low capacitance, so the probe must be near-zero capacitance. The probe also needs to have a flat response up to a few GHz and provide a usable dynamic range of more than 100 V. Unfortunately, no such probe exists, and if it did, the PCB trace inductance would still impact the measurement.

In an earlier post, How Can You Determine the Turns Ratio of a Power Transformer in a Sealed DC-DC Module?, we showed that it is possible to recreate a switching waveform using the E and H fields surrounding the switch. Since this is an unusual measurement, the method should first be validated, performing the measurement on a known switching speed, of similar magnitude. Using a Picotest VRTS3 demo board, which has 50 Ohm signals at about 375 ps, this is about the closest measurement we have that is reasonably close. Using an SMA connector to provide a direct measurement of the edge speed and a waveguide-field probe to sample the fields from the PCB trace, two results are obtained for comparison. The direct measurement and the measurement recreated by integrating the E-fields data.

This measurement, shown in Figure 1, provides remarkably similar looking results, within 10% of each other for the edge speed (fall time).

Figure 1 Direct voltage measurement and integrated E-field measurement of a 375ps edge available on the VRTS3 demo board.

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