This article discusses factors that influence the robustness of a circuit in a harsh environment, like you would find for industrial applications. The topics covered include ways to handle voltage transients and to protect against electrostatic discharge (ESD) and faults. Link here
Semiconductor (IC) robustness—what is the operating temperature range? How is high electrical noise handled? What about ESD and fault protection? These issues are not necessarily the first things that a design engineer thinks about when selecting an IC. Nonetheless, robustness is a key performance parameter for long-term operation and a reliable, reputable end product. This is especially true when designing a system for an industrial environment where harsh operating conditions are common. Industrial equipment can be exposed to a wide range of temperatures, high electrical noise on either the power-supply lines or data lines, and fault events like ESD or short circuits.
Investigative app note from Richtek about the component failure point caused by EOS. Link here (PDF)
Failures in power ICs are often the result of Electrical Over Stress (EOS) on the IC input supply pin. This report explains the structure of power IC input ESD protection and how ESD cells can become damaged due to EOS. Common causes for input EOS are hot-plug events and other transient effects involving wire or trace inductance in combination with low ESR ceramic capacitors. Solutions are presented how to avoid EOS via special circuit and system design considerations.
A quick lookup on the ESD protection evolution of ICs in this app note from ON Semiconductor. Link here (PDF)
The stunning progress in integrated circuit capability over the last 40 years is most succinctly expressed by Moore’s Law; “Every 2 years the number of transistors that can be economically manufactured in an integrated circuit will double”. The secret to this success has been the shrinking of integrated circuit feature sizes in all three dimensions. To maintain circuit reliability with the smaller dimensions the operating voltage of integrated circuits has been steadily declining. This trend will continue in the future, as documented in the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors. As the working voltage for integrated circuits decreases the voltage at which circuit damage can occur also decreases.
The move to smaller geometries has also prompted fundamental changes in IC technologies that have had an adverse effect on the intrinsic ability of the technologies to survive ESD stress. A prime example is the evolution of nMOS transistors in CMOS technologies.
[Kevin Darrah] is risking the nerves on his index finger to learn about ESD protection. Armed with a white pair of socks, a microfiber couch, and a nylon carpet, like a wizard from a book he summons electricity from his very hands (after a shuffle around the house). His energy focused on a sacrificial 2N7000 small signal MOSFET.
So what happens to a circuit when you shock it? Does it instantly die in a dramatic movie fashion: smoke billowing towards the roof, sirens in the distance? [Kevin] set up a simple circuit to show the truth. It’s got a button, a MOSFET, an LED, and some vitamins. When you press the button the light turns off.
He shuffles a bit, and with a mini thunderclap, electrocutes the MOSFET. After the discharge the MOSFET doesn’t turn the light off all the way. A shocking development.
So how does one protect against these dark energies out to destroy a circuit. Energies that can seemingly be summoned by anyone with a Walmart gift card? How does someone clamp down on this evil?
[Kevin] shows us how two diodes and a resistor can be used to shunt the high voltage from the electrostatic discharge away from the sensitive components. He also experimentally verifies and elucidates on the purpose of each. The resistor does nothing by itself, it’s there to protect the diodes. The diodes are there to protect the MOSFET.
In the end he had a circuit that could withstand the most vigorous shuffling, cotton socks against nylon carpeting, across his floor. It could withstand the mighty electric charge that only a grown man jumping on his couch can summon. Powerful magics indeed. Video after the break.