The transition from silicon to silicon carbide is the biggest change in the power semiconductor industry


Aug 14, 2023

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SiC (also known as silicon carbide) is a substrate for semiconductors that is composed of silicon and carbon. SiC can either be doped with phosphorus or nitrogen to form an N-type semiconductor or with beryllium to make a P-type semiconductor. It is a synthetically made crystalline compound consisting of silicon and carbide. Since the late 19th Century, silicon carbide was used to make sandpapers and grinding wheels. Recent applications include refractory coatings and heating components for industrial furnaces, wear resistant parts of rocket engines and pumps, and semiconductors substrates for light emitting diodes.
Discovering Silicon Carbide
Acheson was an American inventor who discovered the silicon carbide material in 1891. Acheson tried to make artificial diamonds by heating a coke and clay powder in an iron pot and using the bowl as electrodes. Acheson found green crystals stuck to the carbon electrode, and thought he’d made some new carbon-alumina compounds. The natural mineral form for alumina, corundum, is what he called the new compound. Acheson immediately recognized the significance of his discovery and filed for a US-patent after discovering that these crystals are close to the hardness level of diamonds. Acheson’s early products were initially used for gem polishing, and sold at a price comparable to that of natural diamond dust. This new compound has a very high yield and can be made with cheap raw materials. Soon, it will be an important industrial abrasive.

Acheson also discovered, at about the same time as Moissan’s discovery, that Henri Moissan had produced a similar substance from a combination of quartz with carbon. Moissan claimed that Acheson made the original discovery in a book published in 1903. Diablo meteorite from Arizona contained some silicon carbide that was naturally occurring. The mineralogical term for this is willemite.

What are some of the applications for silicon carbide?
The silicon carbide used in diamond and semiconductor simulants is also of gem quality. It is easiest to make silicon carbure by mixing silica sand with carbon in an Acheson Graphite Resistance Furnace at high temperature between 1600degC and 2,500degC.

How powerful is silicon carbide?
The crystal lattice of silicon carbide has strong bonds and is made up of a carbon-silicon tetrahedron. The result is a very strong material. The silicon carbide will not be corroded in any way by acids, alkalis or molten sodium up to 800degC.

Is silicon carbide expensive?
Silicon carbide ceramic is non-oxide and can be used for a variety products with high thermal (high thermal shock and thermal shock) or mechanical demands. The best performance is achieved by single-crystal SiC, however, the cost of manufacturing it is high.

How can silicon carbide be made in modern manufacturing processes?
Acheson developed a method for manufacturing silicon carbide that is used by the abrasive industry, as well as the metallurgical sector and the refractory market. The brick resistance furnace accumulates a finely ground mixture of silica sand with carbon. The conductor receives an electric current, which triggers a chemical process in which carbon in the coke and silicon in the sand combine to form SiC (carbon monoxide) gas. The furnace runs for several days and the temperature can vary from 2,200degC (2700degC) at its core to 1400degC (2500degF), near the outer edge. The energy consumption is more than 100,000 kWh per run. The final product consists of loosely-woven SiC cores ranging from green to black. These are surrounded by raw materials which have not been converted. The block aggregate is crushed and ground into different sizes for the final user.

Many advanced processes are used to produce silicon carbide for specific applications. After mixing SiC with carbon powder and plasticizer and shaping the mixture into the desired form, the plasticizer will be burned. Gaseous or molten Silicon is then injected into a fired object and reacts with carbon, forming a reaction bonding silicon carbide. Additional SiC. SiC’s wear-resistant layer can be created by chemical vapor deposition, which involves volatile carbon and silicon compounds reacting at high temperatures with hydrogen. To meet the needs of advanced electronic devices, SiC can be grown as large single crystals from vapor. The ingot is then cut into wafers, which are very similar to those of silicon to create solid-state electronics. SiC fibres can be used in reinforced metals and ceramics.

Is silicon carbide natural?
History and applications: silicon carbide. SiC or silicon carbide is the only compound made of silicon and Carbon. SiC can be found naturally as moissanite mineral, but it is rare. It has been mass produced as powder since 1893 for use in abrasives.

Is diamond harder than silicon carbide?
The people have known about it since the late 1880s. It is nearly as hard as diamond. Hardness of silicon carbide (naturally found in diatomaceous ash) is slightly less than diamond for naturally occurring minerals. (It is still harder than spiders silk.)

The Impact of Silicon Carbide on Electrification
Since the switch from bipolar to IGBTs in the 80s, the next transition to silicon carbide is the largest change in the semiconductor power industry. As this transition is occurring, many industries are experiencing a period of unusual transition. The advantages of silicon carbide are no longer a secret. All major players are going through tremendous changes and further integrating it into their technologies.

The automobile industry is an example of a modern industry, which will be undergoing a radical transformation in the next decade from internal combustion to electric engines. The move from silicon to carbide plays an important role in enhancing efficiency, helping electric cars meet consumer demand and comply with government regulations designed to reduce climate change. Silicon carbide products are not only beneficial for telecommunications and military applications but also improve electric vehicle performance, fast-charging infrastructure and drive inverters.

Electric vehicle possibilities
Ford, Tesla and other automakers have announced they will invest over $300 billion in electric cars in the next decade. This is due to an increase in demand from consumers, as well as tighter government regulations. Analysts believe that battery electric cars (BEV) are expected to account for 15% in 2030 of all electric vehicles. This means the market for silicon carbide components used in EVs will double over the next couple of years. Due to the emphasis placed on electrification by manufacturers, they have been unable ignore the benefits of Silicon Carbide. Comparing it to the silicon technology used in older electric vehicles, this improves battery life, performance, and charging times.

Efficiency improvement
The switching loss for silicon carbide devices is lower than the silicon IGBT. Due to the fact that silicon carbide devices do not contain a built-in power source, they have also reduced their conduction loss. All these factors allow silicon carbide devices to have a higher power density. They also enable them to be lighter and operate at a higher frequency. Cree’s silicon carbide reduced inverter losses from silicon by about 78%.

In the automotive sector, these improvements in efficiency can be found in powertrains, power converters and onboard and onboard chargers. Comparing this with silicon-based solutions, the overall efficiency can be increased by 5-10%. Manufacturers could use that to improve range or reduce expensive, bulky batteries. Silicon carbide reduces cooling needs, conserves space and is lighter than silicon. The fast chargers are able to increase the range by 75 miles within 5 minutes.

Cost-reductions of silicon carbide products are driving the further adoption. As an example, we estimate the silicon carbide component costs of electric cars to be between 250-500 US dollars depending on their energy needs. The automakers could save $2,000 per vehicle due to the reduction in battery costs and the weight and space of inverters and batteries. This factor is critical, even though many factors are driving a transition from silicon to silica carbide.

The automotive industry is not the only one that has a global impact
Other major demand drivers are rare. Canaccord Genuity estimates that by 2030 the demand for Silicon Carbide will reach US$20 billion.

Silicon carbide power products also allow energy and industrial companies to make the most of every square meter and every kilowatt of electricity. The advantages of silicon carbide are far greater than the cost in this field. They enable high-frequency power supplies, uninterruptible power supply, with higher efficiency and higher power density. In this industry, greater efficiency equals higher profits.

Power electronics benefit from silicon carbide’s superior efficiency. The power density of silicon carbide, three times higher than that of silicon, makes high voltage systems lighter, smaller and more cost-effective. In this market, such excellent performance has reached an important point. Manufacturers who wish to remain competitive will no longer ignore the technology.

The future of semiconductors
Previously, cost was the primary obstacle to silicon carbide adoption. But, as the quantity and expertise has increased, so has the price, leading to a more efficient manufacturing process. The customers realized the true value of silicon carbide is at the system level and not the comparison among components. The price will continue to decrease as manufacturing continues to develop and meet the demand of many industries.

No matter when we will be making the transition from silica to silicon carbide this is not a problem. Now is a great time to get involved in industries undergoing massive changes. It is clear that the future of these industries won’t be the same. However, we will continue seeing unprecedented changes. Manufacturers will benefit from these changes if they can adapt quickly.

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