Kenmore 158: MOSFET vs. Rectified 120 VAC

This arrangement actually worked:

Kenmore 158 - FW bridge MOSFET test
Kenmore 158 – FW bridge MOSFET test

At least until I blew out the MOSFET, which is about what I expected. It’s screwed to that randomly selected heatsink, with a dab of thermal compound underneath.

Incoming AC from an isolated variable transformer (basically, an isolated Variac) goes to a bridge rectifier. Rectified output: positive to the motor, motor to MOSFET drain, MOSFET source to negative.

MOSFET gate from bench supply positive and supply negative to source.

Hall effect current probe clamped around the motor current path.

The MOSFET was an IRF610: 200 V / 3.3 A. That’s under-rated for what I was doing, but I had a bunch of ’em.

I actually worked up to that mess, starting with the bare motor on the bench running from the 50 VDC supply. That sufficed to show that you can, in fact, control the motor speed by twiddling the gate voltage to regulate the current going into the motor. It also showed that a universal-wound motor’s square-law positive feedback loop will definitely require careful tuning; think of an unstable fly-by-wire airplane and you’ve got the general idea.

In any event, flushed with success, I ignored the safe operating area graph (from the Vishay datasheet):

IRF610 - Safe Operating Area
IRF610 – Safe Operating Area

Drain current over half an amp at 160-ish peak volts (from rectified 120 VAC) will kill the MOSFET unless you apply it as short single pulses, not repetitive 120 Hz hammerblows.

I also ignored the transfer characteristics graph:

IRF610 - Typical Transfer Characteristics
IRF610 – Typical Transfer Characteristics

The curve starting at the lower left should be labeled 25 °C and the other should be 150 °C. The key point is that they cross around VGS = 6.5 V, where IDS = 2 A. Below that point, the MOSFET conducts more current as it heats up… which means that if a small part of the die heats up, it will conduct more current, heat up even more, and eventually burn through.

Yes, MOSFETs can suffer thermal runaway, too.

The motor draws about half an amp while driving the sewing machine, which suggests the gate voltage will be around 5 V. In round numbers, it was 5.5 to 6 V as I twiddled the knob to maintain a constant speed.

At half an amp, the MOSFET dissipated anywhere from a bit under 1 W (from RDS(on) = 1.5 Ω to well over 25 W (while trying to maintain headway with friction on the handwheel). I ran out of fingers to record the numbers, but dropping 10 to 20 V across the MOSFET seemed typical and that turns into 5 to 10 W.

It eventually failed shorted and the sewing machine revved up to full speed. Sic transit gloria mundi.

In any event, I think the only way to have a transistor survive that sort of abuse is to start with one so grossly over-rated that it can handle a few amps at 200 V without sweating. It might actually be easier to get an ordinary NPN transistor with such ratings; using a hockey puck IGBT or some such seems like overkill.

Eks probably has a box full of the things …