GaN 48V/12V converter for Mild Hybrids has high efficiency

May 11, 2021 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
 GaN 48V/12V converter for Mild Hybrids has high efficiency
The EPC9137 is a 1.5 kW, two-phase 48 V – 12 V bidirectional converter that operates with 97 % efficiency in a very small footprint. The vendor EPC supports design engineers with a scalable demonstration board.

The design of this demonstration board is scalable; that is, two converters can be paralleled to achieve 3 kW or three converters can be paralleled to achieve 4.5 kW. The board features four EPC2206 100 V eGaN FETs and is controlled by a module that includes the Microchip dsPIC33CK256MP503 16-bit digital controller. eGaN stands for enhancement mode gallium nitride, a technology from EPC that promises particular high efficiency.

By 2025, one of every 10 vehicles sold worldwide is projected to be a 48 V mild hybrid. 48 V systems boost fuel efficiency, deliver four times the power without increasing engine size, and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions without increasing system costs.   These systems will require a 48V – 12V bidirectional converter, with power ranging from 1.5 kW to 6 kW. The design priorities for these systems are size, cost, and high reliability.

EPC eGaN FETs can operate with 97% efficiency at 250 kHz switching frequency, enabling 800 W/phase compared to silicon-based solutions, which are limited to 600 W/phase due to the limitation on the inductor current at 100 kHz maximum switching frequency. By using GaN FETs, it is possible to reduce the number of phases from five to four for a 3.5 KW converter while increasing efficiency.   The efficiency of a four-phase GaN converter operating at 250 kHz is 1.5% higher than a five-phase silicon MOSFET-based converter operating at 100 kHz.

Overall, the DCDC converter is three times faster, more than 35% smaller and lighter, and offers greater than 1.5% higher efficiency compared to silicon MOSFET solutions, promises EPC. Additionally, the excellent efficiency and thermal performance of GaN FETs enables air cooling instead of water cooling and the small size of the GaN FETs strongly reduce heat-dissipating aluminum housing for additional system cost saving.

The EPC9137 demonstration board is priced at $510.72/each and is available for immediate delivery from Digi-Key at

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