There are dedicated "MOSFET driver" IC's available (ICL7667, Max622/626, TD340, IXD*404). Some also control IGBTs. What is the practical purpose of these? Is it all about maximizing the switching speed (driving gate capacitance) or are there other motives?
A MOSFET driver IC (like the ICL7667 you mentioned) translates TTL Or CMOS logical signals, to a higher voltage and higher current, with the goal of rapidly and completely switching the gate of a MOSFET.
An output pin of a microcontroller is usually adequate to drive a small-signal logic level MOSFET, like a 2N7000. However, two issues occur when driving larger MOSFETs:
- Higher gate capacitance - Digital signals are meant to drive small loads (on the order of 10-100pF). This is much less than the many MOSFETs, which can be in the thousands of pF.
- Higher gate voltage - A 3.3V or 5V signal is often not enough. Usually 8-12V is required to fully turn on the MOSFET.
Finally, many MOSFET drivers are designed explicitly for the purpose of controlling a motor with an H-bridge.
Yes, it's about maximizing the switching speed by dumping lots of current into the gate, so that the power MOSFET spends the least amount of time possible in the transition state, and therefore wastes less energy and doesn't get as hot.
It says as much in the datasheets of the parts you listed :)
The ICL7667 is a dual monolithic high-speed driver designed to convert TTL level signals into high current outputs ... Its high speed and current output enable it to drive large capacitive loads with high slew rates and low propagation delays ... The ICL7667’s high current outputs minimize power losses in the power MOSFETs by rapidly charging and discharging the gate capacitance.
If you want to calculate the gate current during switching you can use this formula:
Ig = Q/t
where Q is the gate charge in Coulomb (nC from the data sheet) and t is the switching time (in ns if you use nC).
If you need to switch in 20 ns, a typical FET with a total gate charge of 50 nC will need 2.5A. You can find nimbler parts with gate charge below 10 nC. I prefer to use 2 BJTs in a totem configuration for driving MOSFETs instead of the expensive driver ICs.