SiC’s potential and obstacles in the energy market

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The power electronics industry saw a growth in the use of silicon carbide due to its high efficiency and chemical inertness.

The development of silicon carbide in 1891 provided an alternative to silicon, which had long been the standard semiconductor material for devices used in power-electronic converters used all over the world. SiC is a wide-bandgap semiconductor, which provides several benefits over conventional silicon-based devices due to the higher energy needed to excite an electron into the conduction band.

As a result of having a smaller leakage current and a greater bandgap, a device can operate across a wider temperature range without breaking down or losing efficiency. This, along with the fact that it is chemically inert, has further
Technical Articles SiC in the Energy Market: Prospects and Challenges August 26, 2022 Ingrid Jagdale
The power electronics industry saw a growth in the use of silicon carbide due to its high efficiency and chemical inertness.

The development of silicon carbide in 1891 provided an alternative to silicon, which had long been the standard semiconductor material for devices used in power-electronic converters used all over the world. SiC is a wide-bandgap semiconductor, which provides several benefits over conventional silicon-based devices due to the higher energy needed to excite an electron into the conduction band.

With a greater bandgap, it is possible to operate across a wider temperature range without experiencing a breakdown or losing efficiency.owing to decreased leakage current under typical circumstances. This has further solidified SiC’s importance in the field of power electronics and contributed to a surge in its use, together with the fact that it is chemically inert.

Many businesses, including Rohm, Infineon, Wolfspeed, and Qorvo, are already at the cutting edge of this technology. Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio, editor-in-chief of EEWeb and Power Electronics News and editor for EE Times, conducted a panel discussion with the presidents and managing directors of these companies at this year’s PowerUP Expo on the opportunities and difficulties of SiC in the energy markets. The panel included Peter Friedrichs, vice president of SiC at ROHM Semiconductor USA, Chris Dries, general manager of Qorvo Power Device Solutions, and Jay Barrus, president of ROHM Semiconductor USA.

Rob Rhoades, co-founder and president of X-Trinsic; Infineon Technologies; John Perry, vice president and general manager of Discrete Power Devices at Wolfspeed; Steven Shackell, director of Power Semiconductor Global Supplier Marketing at Arrow Electronics.

The panelists introduced themselves and provided background information on their individual businesses, including recent advancements and long-term goals. The companies are in the extremely fascinating position of having to meet an ever-increasing demand while continuing to produce goods of the high caliber for which they are each known. Each of them focuses on the numerous industries where these SiC-based technologies find applications, and they each offer distinctive goods and services. For instance, Qorvo has increased its focus on the automobile sector and its components, such as power-factor correction and DC/DC converters in relation to on-board chargers and the IT sector.

The implementation of these gadgets across the whole power system, including generation, transmission, and consumption, has been the main emphasis of Infineon. With Rohm being the oldest and X-Trinsic being the newest company represented in the panel, these businesses operate across a wide range of industries and have varying levels of market experience.

The panelists concurred that one significant factor contributing to this growing need is the fast electrification currently occurring around the globe, particularly in the automotive industry. Direct applications for SiC wafers in electric vehicle components, such as on-board chargers, traction inverters, and external charging stations, have helped this demand rise. The panelists agreed that this industry’s predicted expansion from $2 billion in 2024 to $3.5 billion in 2025 and then slowly growing to $6 billion in 2030 is a very modest prediction given the increase they are now seeing. Rohm’s Barrus made this point. Rohm is focusing on producing larger, 8-inch wafers, which frees up more capacity, in order to offer customers more services.

The fulfillment of this need for 8-inch wafers, in accordance with Rhoades of X-Trinsic, will speed its acceptance even more. This shift toward higher-capacity wafers has been influenced by the power density of the systems in an EV, which is a significant impact. In Mohawk Valley, New York, Wolfspeed has a brand-new fabrication facility set up that is designed to produce 8-inch wafers and measures 500,000 square feet. Although 8-inch wafers have a larger capacity, 6-inch wafers are still widely used, particularly in the automobile industry, according to Qorvo’s Dries, who had a similar opinion as Infineon’s Friedrichs.

Future electrification is anticipated to expand significantly, and SiC will soon play a significant role as more businesses realize its benefits and begin to switch to it. The businesses discussed in the session are ready to handle the anticipated rise in demand, and they are investing in technologies that will enable them to grow, ensuring that the transition to SiC goes smoothly and that more individuals and businesses may join it.

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