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Posted: Nov 29, 2013
The heir to the silicon throne
(Nanowerk News) A large consortium is developing silicon carbide (SiC) technology poised to pick up where silicon (Si) leaves off in terms of performance and operating conditions. Additional benefits include reduced energy consumption and emissions.
Si is by far the most widely used semiconductor material, forming the basis for transistors, diodes and integrated circuits such as microprocessors. However, Si-based devices are approaching their material limits in terms of operating performance (switching frequency, losses, efficiency) and operating conditions (electric field, temperature).
Emerging SiC technology promises to overcome these barriers. Its demonstrated suitability for high-power applications combined with significant energy savings makes it an important candidate for a step-change in the performance of electronic devices.
SiC occurs in many different crystal structures called polytypes. A consortium of highly experienced labs and newly recruited researchers is investigating SiC of various polytypes and its interfaces with other materials. With EU funding of the project 'Training network on functional interfaces for SiC' (NETFISIC), the team plans to facilitate improved function of electronic devices while training a new group of experts, strengthening the competitive position of the EU in a large global market.
Five topics are under investigation for applications in high-temperature, high-power and harsh environments. These include the conditions for stabilising and growing the polytypes 3C–SiC and 15R–SiC, which exhibit better interfacial properties than commercial 4H–SiC. In addition, doping of SiC with germanium (Ge) is of interest for the enormous improvement in crystalline quality of 3C–SiC grown on 4H–SiC.
Newly recruited SiC scientists (13 in all) will rotate through all partner labs, which will share in their training to enhance not only individual expertise but knowledge transfer and collaboration among labs. Industrial partners will focus on commercial production, ensuring compatibility with the entire process chain of power devices.
NETFISIC plans to advance the state of SiC technology for improved power devices in harsh environments. In addition to strengthening the EU position in a huge global market, the commercialisation of outcomes will reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions for important financial and environmental benefits as well.
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