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Ben Keller

University: Harvey Mudd College
Major: Engineering
Graduation Date: May 2010
Hometown: Pawtucket, RI

Project:  Power MOSFETs are widely used both in consumer and industrial applications.  Improving the availability and efficiency of these components has the potential to greatly improve the efficiency of these devices and the systems that use them.  Current research into using silicon carbide (SiC) for power MOSFETs is promising, as SiC has a much higher band gap than silicon and can therefore operate at higher temperatures and voltages.  The widespread implementation of SiC power MOSFETs is limited only by price and reliability.  As the price of these devices decreases with scale, rigorous reliability testing is essential to ensuring that they are suitable for mainstream applications.
All power MOSFETs eventually suffer from a process known as time-dependent dielectric breakdown (TDDB), in which the devices eventually fail after being subjected to high temperatures and voltages for extended periods of time.  This is a statistical process, so testing for TDDB characteristics requires that many devices be stressed for long periods of time to accurately establish the distribution of device reliability.

The current test setup used to measure TDDB is bulky, expensive, and can only test twenty devices at once.  I was tasked with designing the electronics for a system that is small, relatively inexpensive, and able to test hundreds or thousands of devices simultaneously.  These electronics are responsible for setting the stress condition for the devices, collecting and preconditioning the data, and interfacing with an external computer running LabView.  A PIC microcontroller is employed to control the various subsytems on the board and communicate with off-board devices.

 
About me: I grew up in New England before switching coasts and attending Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.  Science has always appealed to me, but as it became clear that computer engineering was my real passion, I began to take interest in engineering research.  I attended the SURF program in order to broaden my experience in engineering electronics and prepare myself for graduate school.  I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering after completing my senior year.

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Ben Keller