Advantages of Silicon Carbide
February 8, 2019
One of the materials produced by GT Advanced Technologies is silicon carbide (SiC), which is made with equal parts silicon and carbon, and then doped with nitrogen to give it a specific resistivity range. It’s also a natural but very rare material known as moissanite. SiC is not new, but its electrical properties are very desirable in markets where basic silicon falls short. One of these is the electric vehicle (EV) market. You can imagine the amount of current and voltage that any kind of EV (car, truck, train, ship) requires. The problem with silicon is that it can’t support the high temperatures and high voltages these applications demand. But SiC can, and it is why the material is going to be a transformative one for high-growth markets going forward.
But the problem with silicon carbide is that demand for it far exceeds supply. The number of companies capable of making SiC is very small, and that number decreases further when you factor in affordability and volume. The global supply of high-quality SiC is still very small. That’s where GT Advanced enters the picture with production capability that is at scale now and with an aggressive cost-down roadmap.
What this means is that the pathway for mass adoption of EVs is going to come sooner than anyone thought because the supply of premium quality SiC is going to soar, thanks to GT’s focus on this high-demand material. “When you talk about a consumer asset like an electric car, everyone wants one but few can afford them,” said Global SiC Product Manager Henry Chou. “The cost of the electronic modules is still high and the supply is still low, which flows up in the supply chain to material companies like ours,” said Henry. “What we aim to do is produce lots of it, and affordably, which will drive EV cost down and adoption up.”
Since GT Advanced Technologies has decades of experience growing crystal materials, the focus on SiC is not an altogether unfamiliar one. “We have the experience building the furnaces that grow SiC and we know how to tune the process and dial-in the quality of the material we produce,” noted Henry. This focus is why volume and cost targets are well within reach and why high-growth markets like EV will also be able to increase volume and reduce cost on the end product. “We are literally at the leading edge of a market that is poised to explode,” concluded Henry. “It really is exciting to know that what we do will literally shape the market for EVs going forward.”