GB2308731A - Semiconductor device with electrostatic discharge protection - Google Patents

Semiconductor device with electrostatic discharge protection Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2308731A
GB2308731A GB9526305A GB9526305A GB2308731A GB 2308731 A GB2308731 A GB 2308731A GB 9526305 A GB9526305 A GB 9526305A GB 9526305 A GB9526305 A GB 9526305A GB 2308731 A GB2308731 A GB 2308731A
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United Kingdom
Prior art keywords
semiconductor
circuit
transistor
protective switch
coupled
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Withdrawn
Application number
GB9526305A
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GB9526305D0 (en
Inventor
Robert Anton Meyer
Markos Triantafyllou
Current Assignee (The listed assignees may be inaccurate. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the list.)
Motorola Solutions Germany GmbH
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Motorola Solutions Germany GmbH
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Filing date
Publication date
Application filed by Motorola Solutions Germany GmbH filed Critical Motorola Solutions Germany GmbH
Priority to GB9526305A priority Critical patent/GB2308731A/en
Publication of GB9526305D0 publication Critical patent/GB9526305D0/en
Publication of GB2308731A publication Critical patent/GB2308731A/en
Withdrawn legal-status Critical Current

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Classifications

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H03BASIC ELECTRONIC CIRCUITRY
    • H03KPULSE TECHNIQUE
    • H03K19/00Logic circuits, i.e. having at least two inputs acting on one output; Inverting circuits
    • H03K19/003Modifications for increasing the reliability for protection
    • H03K19/00315Modifications for increasing the reliability for protection in field-effect transistor circuits

Description

SEMICONDUCTOR DEVICE WITH ELECTROSTATIC DISCHARGE PROTECTION Field of the Invention This invention relates to the protection of semiconductor devices against damage by high voltages. In the present application, the term semiconductor device includes all types of electronic devices based on semiconductor elements, including discrete components with only one, or a few, such elements and integrated circuits with many elements.

Background of the Invention Semiconductor devices are susceptible to damage if high voltages are applied to the device leads. Although careful circuit design may eliminate the possibility of damage during normal operation, the chance that a high voltage pulse may be applied to a device terminal, for example during handling of the device by an operator, cannot be completely excluded. Occurrences of this type are called electrostatic discharge (ESD) and may result in a potential of several thousand volts on a device lead for a short period, leading to damage or destruction of the affected circuits. Output circuits are particularly vulnerable to ESD pulses, and it is therefore necessary to provide ESD protection for such circuits.

It is known to connect a resistor and/or diode between a lead of a semiconductor device and ground in order to bypass a vulnerable circuit element connected to the lead in the event of a high voltage pulse. However, although effective, this approach is inherently restricted for output circuits to low current, low frequency applications due to the presence of the resistor.

Alternatively, a switch such as a transistor may be connected to a lead of a device to provide active switching of high voltage ESD pulses through the transistor rather than sensitive circuit elements. This approach, though, has not proven successful in protecting the output transistors of MOS circuits, in particular n-channel field effect (NMOS) transistors, which are susceptible to ESD damage caused either by excess current due to secondary breakdown, or by gate oxide rupture caused by the high voltage on the gate oxide. The problem is particularly acute for positive voltage pulses to ground (for negative pulses the parasitic pn diode is forward biased).

By increasing the size of the NMOS output transistor it is possible to increase the failure threshold with respect to secondary breakdown; however, this measure reduces the tolerance of the transistor to gate oxide rupture, as the larger transistor is slower to turn on when an ESD strikes, so that the charge in the ESD pulse is dissipated to ground more slowly and therefore the gate oxide is exposed to a high voltage for a longer period of time.

It is also known to use devices employing a thick gate oxide, which are inherently robust against oxide rupture. However, such devices have a low drive capability and are therefore slow to dissipate the charge in an ESD pulse.

Moreover, this approach ignores the trend in semiconductor technology towards devices with thinner gate oxides. Such devices have a reduced resistance to gate oxide rupture and therefore require a more efficient protection against ESD pulses than has been possible in the prior art.

This invention therefore seeks to provide a semiconductor device having improved ESD protection that mitigates the above mentioned disadvantages and is also applicable to MOS output circuits.

Summarv of the Invention According to the present invention there is provided a semiconductor device with electrostatic discharge protection comprising circuit means coupled to an external terminal of said device; a protective switch having a first current electrode coupled to said external terminal and a second current electrode coupled to a reference potential, said protective switch providing electrostatic discharge protection for said circuit means; characterised in that a control electrode of said protective switch is capacitively coupled to said external terminal.

In this manner, the protective switch rapidly responds to any high voltages applied to the external terminal of the semiconductor device, providing enhanced ESD protection.

In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the first circuit means and the protective switch are n-channel field effect transistors. This combination has proved particularly effective in combating damage due to ESD pulses.

In a further embodiment of the invention, the semiconductor device further comprises an RC network coupled to the control electrode of the protective switch. In this way the ESD protection may be tuned to a particular combination of circuit elements and ESD pulse type.

Brief Description of the Drawings An exemplary embodiment of the invention will now be described with reference to the drawings in which: FIG. 1 is a representation of the current signal from a high-voltage pulse through an NMOS output transistor with no ESD protection.

FIG.2 is a circuit diagram of a conventional output circuit incorporating ESD protection.

FIG.3 is a representation of the current signal from a high-voltage pulse: (i) through the output transistor and (ii) through the protective transistor of the circuit of FIG.2.

FIG.4 is a circuit diagram of an output circuit representing the preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG.5 is a representation of the current signal from a high-voltage pulse: (i) through the output transistor and (ii) through the protective transistor of the circuit of FIG.4.

FIG.6 is a representation of the initial part of FIG.5, expanded along the time axis.

FIG.7 is a representation of the voltage level at the gate of the protective transistor in the circuit of FIG.4 during an ESD event.

FIG.8 is a representation of the integral of dissipated charge versus time: (i) for the output transistor and (ii) for the protective transistor of the circuit of FIG.4 during an ESD event.

Detailed Description of a Preferred Embodiment The effect of a human body touching the lead of a semiconductor device may be simulated by a 4000V transient (HBM pulse) applied to the device. FIG. 1 shows the current forced to flow through an unprotected NMOS output transistor by an HBM pulse; the result of this event would generally be the destruction of the transistor due to secondary breakdown or gate oxide rupture.

FIG.2 shows a conventional ESD protection circuit for circuit means, represented by an NMOS output transistor 2, the ESD protection being provided by a switch 1. In the example shown the switch is a protective NMOS transistor that is connected in parallel with the output transistor 2 and has the gate and source electrodes tied together. As may be seen from FIG.3, in which curve (i) represents the current through output transistor 2 and curve (ii) represents the current through protective transistor 1, this arrangement provides increased protection of the output transistor 2 against secondary breakdown, but not against gate rupture, as the protective NMOS does not turn on any faster than the output transistor 2 and will fail at the same voltage threshold; hence the output transistor 2 is still exposed to high gate voltages. Moreover, the protective NMOS transistor 1 increases the space requirements of the device significantly, because in order to avoid premature secondary breakdown the protective NMOS must have a size similar to that of the output transistor.

Referring to FIG.4, there is shown part of a semiconductor device having ESD protection in accordance with the invention. As in FIG.2, the principle of the invention is illustrated by showing an output stage of a semiconductor device in which protection against ESD events is provided by protective transistor 11. However, as will be clear to the skilled reader, the advantages of the invention are not restricted to this example, but may include any suitable circuit element that is coupled to an external terminal and requires ESD protection, including thin and thick gate oxide MOS devices or bipolar devices.

Similarly, although in the preferred embodiment the protective switch is an NMOS transistor, the invention is not restricted to a particular type of transistor, but may encompass any suitable switching element incorporating MOS technology, either thick film or thin film. It is even envisaged to employ a thick-film capacitively coupled MOS transistor to provide ESD protection for a bipolar integrated circuit.

Moreover, the external terminal may be any external device terminal that is coupled to circuits that it is desired to protect against ESD damage, including either input or output terminals or even power supply terminals.

As shown in the circuit of FIG.4, the protective transistor 11 is connected in parallel with output transistor 12, with the gate 13 of protective transistor 11 coupled to the output terminal 14 via a capacitive element 15.

During normal operation of the circuit, protective NMOS 11 is disabled; however, a positive ESD pulse will push a positive charge through the capacitive element 15 and turn this transistor on. The response of the protective NMOS 11 is faster than that of the output transistor 12 and therefore this semiconductor device in accordance with the invention has optimal ESD protection. FIG.5 shows in curve (i) the current through the output transistor and in curve (ii) the current through the protective transistor in the circuit of FIG.4 for a 4000V HBM ESD when the capacitive element 15 is selected to have a capacitance of about 10fF.It has been found that capacitance values of from about 1fF to about lpF for element 15 result in a useful level of ESD protection; as the value of capacitance increases, the rapid turn-on effect of the protective switch is enhanced, but at the cost of reduced gate protection.

Although the inclusion of capacitive element 15 in FIG.4 is on its own sufficient to provide the desired fast turn on of transistor 13, an optional integrating and delaying RC network 16 may be coupled to the gate electrode 13 of the protective transistor 11 in order to optimise the response of the protection circuit to the ESD pulse. In the circuit of FIG.4, a capacitance of 10fF and a resistance of 4kQ in the RC network produced the response shown in FIG.5, although any capacitance value less than about 1pF was found to be suitable.

The ESD protection circuit of the present invention offers the following advantages: a). By using capacitive gate coupling, the protective switch will be turned on very fast by the rising edge of the ESD pulse. The time for turn-on is found to be much faster than that of the output transistor or of a conventional protective transistor. The fast turn-on time is illustrated by FIG.6, which shows an expanded view of the first 20ns of the curves of FIG.5.

b) The response of the protective switch is proportional to the rise time of an ESD pulse; hence the faster the ESD pulse arrives, the faster the protection circuit will react.

c) The protective switch is protected from secondary breakdown due to excess current flowing, because it is turned off after the ESD pulse has reached its peak. Moreover, any desired delay in the action of this circuit can be pre-programmed by selecting the components of the RC network to optimise the response time of the protection circuit.

d) If the protective switch is an MOS transistor, the gate oxide is not liable to rupture during an ESD pulse, because the voltage levels appearing at this part of the circuit are only moderate. FIG.7 illustrates the evolution of the gate voltage of the protective NMOS of FIG.4 during a 4000V HBM ESD.

The protective NMOS described in the present embodiment can be kept to a small size compared to the conventional protective transistor and therefore results in a reduction of the space required by the output circuit.

The coupling capacitance necessary for the successful operation of the protection circuit is very small, of the order of 10fF, and may be realised either by an overlapping area of metallisation layers, or metallisation and polysilicon layers. The values of R and C in the RC network may be selected to provide an even distribution of absorbed charge, and hence even power dissipation, between the output transistor 12 and the protective transistor 11 whilst permitting a compact circuit layout.

The ability to select the relative power dissipated in each transistor by the choice of R and C is a useful advantage of this embodiment of the present invention. This is because the power that a transistor can dissipate before it fails is directly proportional to the width of the transistor channel. In the example shown in FIG.5 the ratio of the area of the output transistor to the area of the protective transistor is 5:1, which compares with a ratio of dissipated power of the transistors of 4:1 illustrated in FIG.8 as the integral of the charge dissipated by each transistor over time (corresponding to the dissipated power).

Hence, although the peak currents through the output transistor and the protective transistor are comparable - as shown in FIG.5 - the power dissipated by each element can be predetermined by the choice of R and C in the RC network. This means that the protection circuit can be adapted to different circuit layouts and transistor sizes and may be applied to a wide range of devices, such as CMOS and MOS circuits.

Claims (5)

Claims
1. A semiconductor device with electrostatic discharge protection comprising: circuit means coupled to an external terminal of said device; a protective switch having a first current electrode coupled to said external terminal and a second current electrode coupled to a reference potential, said protective switch providing electrostatic discharge protection for said circuit means; characterised in that a control electrode of said protective switch is capacitively coupled to said external terminal.
2. A semiconductor device according to claim 1, wherein: said circuit means comprise an output transistor and said external terminal is an output terminal.
3. A semiconductor device according to claim 1 or 2, wherein: said circuit means and said protective switch are n-channel field effect transistors.
4. A semiconductor device according to any one of the preceding claims wherein: said control electrode of said protective switch is coupled to said external terminal by a capacitance of between about 1fF and about lpF.
5. A semiconductor device substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to FIGs.4-8.
5. A semiconductor device according to any one of the preceding claims and further comprising: an RC network coupled to the control electrode of said protective switch.
6. A semiconductor device substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to FIGs.4-8.
Amendments to the claims have been filed as follows 1. A semiconductor device with electrostatic discharge protection comprising: circuit means coupled to an external terminal of said device; a protective switch comprising a field effect transistor having a first current electrode coupled to said external terminal, a second current electrode coupled to a reference potential, and a control electrode capacitively coupled to said external terminal, said protective switch providing electrostatic discharge protection for said circuit means; and an RC network coupled to the control electrode of said protective switch to optimise the response time of the protective switch.
2. A semiconductor device according to claim 1, wherein: said circuit means comprise an output transistor and said external terminal is an output terminal.
3. A semiconductor device according to claim 1 or 2, wherein: said circuit means and said protective switch are n-channel field effect transistors.
4. A semiconductor device according to any one of the preceding claims wherein: said control electrode of said protective switch is coupled to said external terminal by a capacitance of between about 1fF and about lpF.
GB9526305A 1995-12-22 1995-12-22 Semiconductor device with electrostatic discharge protection Withdrawn GB2308731A (en)

Priority Applications (1)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
GB9526305A GB2308731A (en) 1995-12-22 1995-12-22 Semiconductor device with electrostatic discharge protection

Applications Claiming Priority (3)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
GB9526305A GB2308731A (en) 1995-12-22 1995-12-22 Semiconductor device with electrostatic discharge protection
PCT/EP1996/005493 WO1997023956A1 (en) 1995-12-22 1996-12-09 Semiconductor device with electrostatic discharge protection
SG1996011617A SG46761A1 (en) 1995-12-22 1996-12-10 Semiconductor device with electrostatic discharge protection

Publications (2)

Publication Number Publication Date
GB9526305D0 GB9526305D0 (en) 1996-02-21
GB2308731A true GB2308731A (en) 1997-07-02

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GB9526305A Withdrawn GB2308731A (en) 1995-12-22 1995-12-22 Semiconductor device with electrostatic discharge protection

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SG (1) SG46761A1 (en)
WO (1) WO1997023956A1 (en)

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Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
CN107733026B (en) * 2017-10-30 2020-06-05 Oppo广东移动通信有限公司 Negative voltage protection circuit, USB charging circuit and terminal equipment

Citations (6)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
GB2185621A (en) * 1985-10-29 1987-07-22 Plessey Co Plc Protection circuit for an I.C
US5041889A (en) * 1989-03-16 1991-08-20 Siemens Aktiengesellschaft Monolithically integratable transistor circuit for limiting transient positive high voltages, such as ESD pulses caused by electrostatic discharges on electric conductors
US5173755A (en) * 1989-05-12 1992-12-22 Western Digital Corporation Capacitively induced electrostatic discharge protection circuit
WO1993015541A1 (en) * 1992-02-04 1993-08-05 Cirrus Logic, Inc. Shunt circuit for electrostatic discharge protection
EP0573213A1 (en) * 1992-06-05 1993-12-08 AT&T Corp. ESD protection of output buffers
EP0575062A1 (en) * 1992-06-05 1993-12-22 AT&T Corp. ESD protection of output buffers

Family Cites Families (2)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
JPS6048106B2 (en) * 1979-12-24 1985-10-25 Fujitsu Ltd
US5400202A (en) * 1992-06-15 1995-03-21 Hewlett-Packard Company Electrostatic discharge protection circuit for integrated circuits

Patent Citations (6)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
GB2185621A (en) * 1985-10-29 1987-07-22 Plessey Co Plc Protection circuit for an I.C
US5041889A (en) * 1989-03-16 1991-08-20 Siemens Aktiengesellschaft Monolithically integratable transistor circuit for limiting transient positive high voltages, such as ESD pulses caused by electrostatic discharges on electric conductors
US5173755A (en) * 1989-05-12 1992-12-22 Western Digital Corporation Capacitively induced electrostatic discharge protection circuit
WO1993015541A1 (en) * 1992-02-04 1993-08-05 Cirrus Logic, Inc. Shunt circuit for electrostatic discharge protection
EP0573213A1 (en) * 1992-06-05 1993-12-08 AT&T Corp. ESD protection of output buffers
EP0575062A1 (en) * 1992-06-05 1993-12-22 AT&T Corp. ESD protection of output buffers

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Publication number Publication date
GB9526305D0 (en) 1996-02-21
SG46761A1 (en) 1998-02-20
WO1997023956A1 (en) 1997-07-03

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