SiC semiconductors enable the manufacturers to address the limitations associated with the conventional silicon-based semiconductors.
FREMONT, CA: Researchers in the semiconductor industry are always trying to enhance the efficiency of the existing materials. Silicon has been widely used as the key element in semiconductors. However, with time and the emergence of technologies, there has been a constant pursuit to find a better alternative to silicon. Researchers have come up with a SiC (silicon carbide), a compound of silicon that can address the limitations associated with silicon.
The inherent limitations of silicon can be attributed to limited thermal conductivity, difficulty in switching frequencies in certain applications, low bandgap energy, and higher power dissipation. Alternatively, the use of SiC semiconductors results in the following advantages.
Tolerant to Higher Voltages
The ubiquity of electronic products means that semiconductors are often faced with higher voltage. Silicon doesn’t fare well in the above scenario. However, semiconductors utilizing silicon carbide can withstand voltages of up to 10 times higher than silicon. This feature has direct implications on system complexity and cost. Moreover, power systems comprising SiC semiconductors require fewer switches in series. Thus, the net result is a simpler and more reliable system layout with a reduced number of components.
Resistant to Higher Temperatures
Common silicon insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) offer a lower level of thermal conductivity. Usually, a power semiconductor utilizing silicon operates at temperatures below 150°C. SiC powered semiconductors are useful here as well. SiC semiconductors can operate at temperatures of 200°C or more. This can be accounted from the fact that the thermal conductivity of a SiC semiconductor is better than that of common silicon.
The packaging is an essential aspect of the semiconductor world. SiC packages are smaller, lower profile, and better thermally efficient than silicon. SiC specific packaging and gate drivers, when designed according to symmetric layout, can minimize loop inductance, thereby enhancing the performance of the system.
SiC semiconductors are increasingly being leveraged by the electronics as well as other industries to win over performance, speed, and operational limitations.