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thermal runaway[′thər·məl ′rən·ə‚wā]
A condition that may occur in a power transistor when collector current increases collector junction temperature, reducing collector resistance and allowing a greater current to flow, which, in turn, increases the heating effect.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
thermal runawayA repeating cycle in which excessive heat causes more heat until the operation ceases or an explosion occurs. For example, lithium ion batteries have been known to exhibit thermal runaway and explode. In germanium-based bipolar transistors, high temperatures cause current to leak. This, in turn, causes the transistor to heat even more and eventually become unstable or self-destruct. Obviously, after thermal runaway appears in new systems, the product is re-engineered to prevent it.
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