Electronic – Power MOSFET overheating at 1A

led stripmosfet

I am building an arduino controlled RGB LED driver by using WS2803 constant current LED driver, TLP250 MOSFET drivers and IRF540N MOSFETs. This is how it looks like:

LED Driver

The picture got scaled down so it is harder to see, R3, R7 and R11 are 1k resistors.

This circuit is driving 5m RGB LED strip (100 segments) and should consume max 2A/channel. So each MOSFET should need to handle 2A at 13V max. IRF540N is rated at 100V/33A. RDSon should be 44mOhm. Thus I thought there would be no need for a heatsink.

I obviously want to PWM this things (WS2803 PWMs at 2.5kHz) but let's focus on full ON state. The problem I have is that the MOSFETS are seriously overheating in full ON state (no switching going on). You can see the values I measured in full ON state on the picture.

TLP250 seems to drive the MOSFETs correctly (VGS=10.6V) but I do not understand why I get so high VDS (like 0.6V on red LEDs). Those MOSFETs should have RDSon 44mOhm so when 1.4A is flowing through it, it should create a voltage drop of less than 0.1V.

The things I tried:

  • removed TLP250 and applied 13V straight on to gate – was thinking that the MOSFET are not fully open but it did not help at all, VDS was still at 0.6V
  • removed LED strip and used a car bulb 12V/55W on red channel. There was 3.5A flowing, VDS was at 2V and rising as the MOSFET was heating up

So my questions are:

  1. why is VDS so high and why is MOSFET overheating?
  2. even with VDS at 0.6V and ID at 1.4A the power is 0.84W which I assume should be fine without a heatsink?
  3. would I be better off with a less powerful MOSFET, something like 20V/5A? Or use logic level MOSFETs and drive it directly from WS2803 (though I like the optical isolation of TLP250).

Few notes:

  • I have this circuit only on a breadboard at the moment and the wires that connect MOSFET's source to GND get really hot too. I know that this is normal as there is a relatively high current flowing through them but I thought I just mention it
  • I bought the MOSFETs in bulk from China, can it be that those are not really IRF540Ns and have quite lower specs?

One more thing. I have created this controller based on the MOSFET driver from here. The guy is using separate power sources for TLP250 and for the load (Vsupply, VMOS). I used the same source for both. Not sure if that matters. And my power supply is 12V 10A regulated so I do not think that the power supply is the problem.


Best Answer

After receiving IRF540N from a reputable seller I can definitely confirm that the ones I was originally using are counterfeits.

After replacing fake one with a genuine one I got Vds=85mV on the red channel. What I was not expecting though is that the genuine FET got hot after a minute or so. And then I realized that those FETs are not generating much heat themselves but rather get heated up (and quite a lot) from the breadboard and the wires (Connor Wolf mentioned it). Short wires connecting FET's source to GND are screaming hot when this is in full ON state. Moving FETs off the breadboard confirmed that the source of the heat was the breadboard/wires. Fake one was getting hot but I could actually cool it down just by touching it. Genuine one was somewhere between the room temperature and luke warm. Btw. measuring Vds directly on FET pins vs measuring it 1cm away on the breadboard made around 200mV difference (85mV on pins, 300mV on breadboard).

Here are some pictures, fake on the left, genuine on the right and manufacturer's part marking on the bottom:

IRF540 fake vs genuine

Although there are more IRF package markings possible as shown in this document I could not find any similar to the fake one (which only supports that this is a counterfeit). Also the cutouts on the top of the back plate are rectangular vs round on the genuine and in the spec.

Thank you guys for all your comments! The circuit now works as expected (PWM included).