Mar 2024

SiC semiconductors: Key technology for efficient and sustainable electronics

Where silicon reaches its physical limits, silicon carbide opens up new possibilities and is therefore increasingly used, especially in power electronics. The properties that optimize the performance of electronic components while also contributing to the environment speak for themselves.

The characteristics of SiC semiconductors are diverse and include:

  • A triple higher bandgap: With a bandgap of 3.26 eV, silicon carbide enables more efficient electronic performance and better capability at high temperatures compared to 1.11 eV for silicon.
  • A 10-fold higher breakdown field strength: This means that silicon carbide can withstand higher voltages without breakdown or damage, increasing reliability and performance.
  • Twice the electron drift velocity: This allows for faster switching frequencies and reduced energy losses, particularly advantageous in power electronics.
  • Three times better thermal conductivity than silicon: This leads to more efficient heat dissipation, thereby lowering operating temperatures and increasing component lifespan.
  • Ability to tolerate temperatures above 250°C: This high temperature resistance expands the potential applications of silicon carbide in environments with extreme temperatures, such as in high-performance electronics or the automotive industry.

SiC vs. Si

Breakdown field strength
Electron drift velocity
Heat dissipation

Various industries benefit from the technical properties of SiC semiconductors and utilize their potential in diverse ways:

  • In power electronics, especially in electric vehicles and renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power plants, SiC semiconductors are used. The superior properties of this material contribute to a more efficient utilization and conversion of energy.
  • Due to their thermal properties, SiC semiconductors are also ideal for electrical components in extreme conditions, making them attractive for industries such as aerospace and oil and gas.
  • SiC semiconductors play a significant role in energy conversion in renewable energy and industrial processes, leading to more efficient use of electrical energy and reducing environmental impact.
  • Even in electronic chargers for mobile phones and other devices, SiC semiconductors are utilized to improve charging speed and efficiency.

Overall, the enhanced properties of SiC semiconductors enable a more powerful utilization of electrical energy and contribute to the development of advanced technologies in various industries.

Where is SiC technology used?

Wind energy
Electric vehicles
Oil industry

How widespread are SiC semiconductors?

In terms of mass-market viability, it can be said that SiC semiconductors are commercially deployed in some applications such as power modules and transistors, primarily in the industry and also in electric vehicles. It is widely known that SiC semiconductors are more expensive than their Si counterparts. However, due to the smaller footprint and lower thermal management requirements of SiC products, overall costs can be reduced. The technology and production of SiC semiconductors are evolving and will lead to even more cost-effective manufacturing and broader application in the future. According to a market study by Yole Intelligence in 2023, the SiC power semiconductor market is expected to grow to over $9 billion in revenue by 2028.

Environmental impact of SiC efficiency

The advancement of silicon carbide semiconductors not only holds promise for enhanced efficiency and performance in electronic devices but also contributes significantly to environmental sustainability. By reducing CO2 emissions, SiC becomes a crucial player in environmental initiatives. At the chip level, its superior electrical breakdown strength allows for smaller component sizes and higher power conversion efficiency, leading to potential energy savings of up to 30 percent compared to traditional silicon chips. Moreover, SiC-based electronic devices require fewer or no cooling systems due to their higher operational temperatures and better thermal conductivity. Silicon chips typically need cooling at temperatures of 90°C to work optimally, whereas the silicon carbide counterpart only requires cooling at 250°C and, due to its three times better thermal conductivity, is less likely to exceed the 90°C mark.

Similarly, innovations such as Siconnex’s BATCHSPRAY® technology contribute to sustainability efforts by reducing the consumption of chemicals, water, and energy throughout the entire IC fabrication process compared to conventional wet benches.
Siconnex has set new standards with its own BATCHSPRAY® technology. Thanks to an additional recirculating system, further process media is saved, while the rotation of the batch around its own axis ensures a uniform spray pattern. The results are comparable to those of single-wafer processing. Through specially developed processes, chemicals such as sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide can be completely avoided or achieve 100% polymer removal in cleaning processes.

Solutions for SiC wafer processing of Siconnex

Resist strip