The Electrical Properties of Silicon Carbide

Silicon carbide (SiC) is an extremely durable synthetically produced compound of silicon and carbon used in many industrial furnaces, from linings and heating elements to abrasives such as sandpaper.

Due to its unique atomic structure, it functions as a semiconductor and allows for control over its electrical properties. Furthermore, its bandgap is three times wider than standard silicon semiconductors and it is capable of handling higher voltages.


Silicon carbide, also referred to as carborundum, is an outstanding semiconducting material characterized by exceptional electrical properties in high temperature and voltage environments. It is widely used in power semiconductor devices like diodes and transistors which require high breakdown voltage and can operate at high temperatures; its wide energy gap offers multiple advantages over traditional silicon-based devices for greater current density and faster switching speeds.

SiC power electronics offer many advantages over silicon-based versions, including physical robustness and thermal conductivity, yet their higher costs make them prohibitive to their widespread adoption. Manufacturers are currently developing technologies that make SiC more cost-competitive against traditional silicon power electronics; key challenges for increasing device efficiency include increasing breakdown voltages and decreasing turn-on resistance.

Silicon carbide in its pure state acts as an insulator; however, its semi-conduction properties can be exploited through controlled doping with impurities that introduce electrons or holes that reduce resistivity to allow electric current to pass through it more freely and form power semiconductor devices such as diodes, transistors and thyristors.

With growing interest in green energy comes an increase in demand for silicon carbide power electronics. This material features a wide bandgap to conduct more electricity at higher temperatures while its low resistivity makes it ideal for high voltage applications. Silicon carbide also handles large electric fields efficiently with lower switching losses and heat production – both crucial factors when increasing efficiency.

Silicon carbide’s properties are determined by its structure and crystal lattice. As a cubic semiconductor with three distinct polytypes ranging in composition and properties, silicon carbide’s most popular form, known as 3C-SiC, features cubic crystal structure with saturation velocity that is 2.7 times greater than silicon. Meanwhile, 4H-SiC and 6H-SiC each possess hexagonal crystal structures.

Dependent upon its processing conditions and porosity, porous silicon carbide (pSiC) electrical resistivity can vary significantly, with greater variation occurring with sintered materials in nitrogen (b-SiC). A lower electrical resistivity of sintered materials with enhanced nitrogen doping being responsible for its lower resistance; this is likely attributable to their reduced number of deep acceptors generated from Sc or Al doping.

Porous b-SiC material comes with either a carbon or tungsten core. Fibers made of porous carbon-cored b-SiC show an intermediate composition between carbon rich near its interface and more stoichiometric silicon carbide towards its surface; those featuring tungsten cored b-SiC feature an outer mantle made up of pure silicon carbide; both types feature an intrinsic carrier concentration dependent on temperature that allows power devices to minimize bipolar deterioration, leading to increased RDS(ON) MOSFETs or decrease VSD body diodes respectively.


Silicon carbide can either act as an electrical conductor or insulator depending on its fabrication and composition. With superior electrical, mechanical, thermal and wear properties it makes silicon carbide an excellent material choice for applications like resistance heating and flame igniters as well as electronic components and wear-resistant parts. Furthermore, it can be combined with other materials to form composites with controlled electrical resistance such as metal nitrides or carbides adding metal nitrides or carbides into its composition.

One key property of any material that determines its conductivity or insuligence is its bandgap. This refers to the energy it takes for electrons to transition from its valence band into the conduction band; conductors have much wider bandgaps than insulators and therefore can handle higher voltage. Silicon carbide stands out among these options with three times larger bandgaps than standard silicon, making it an excellent option for high voltage applications.

Silicon carbide in its pure form acts as an insulator; however, when doped with impurities or dopants it can exhibit semi-conductivity properties. Doping it with aluminum, boron and gallium creates a p-type semiconductor while impurities like nitrogen and phosphorus help turn it into an N-type semiconductor – eventually it may even become superconducting!

Silicon carbide’s qualities that make it suitable for manufacturing semiconductor devices include its wide bandgap, high melting point, low dielectric constant and high saturated electron drift velocity. Furthermore, silicon carbide boasts much higher critical breakdown voltage compared to silicon, enabling thinner drift layers and larger doping concentrations as well as lower on-resistance for improved power devices with decreased power loss efficiency.

Silicon carbide can be converted to a thin film with exceptional electrical conductivity, making it suitable for applications where high power density is needed. Deposition can take place under vacuum conditions to minimize contamination from gases or dust particles while formation on an insulator provides heat and shock resistance.

Integrating SiC-on-insulator materials into devices requires careful consideration of its performance, size and cost. While SiC has excellent electrical properties that allow it to replace traditional insulators, its complex manufacturing process limits its adoption. Furthermore, as demand for high-power electronics increases, materials able to handle higher temperatures and voltage levels than conventional insulators devices are becoming more and more popular in this market – driving sales of silicon carbide-on-insulator devices further.


Silicon carbide semiconductor is the ideal material for power applications, offering greater voltage resistance than devices made of silicon. Plus, with its higher electron mobility and reduced power losses, silicon carbide diodes and transistors make an excellent choice for use in converters, inverters, battery chargers and motor control systems.

Physics scholars are intrigued by the electrical properties of 2D materials such as graphene, but its lack of a bandgap poses a problem for research. When activated, current flows rapidly in its on state but cannot be turned off again easily; on the contrary, silicon carbide’s wider bandgap allows current to flow freely both on and off states.

Silicon carbide’s superior thermal conductivity makes it one of its greatest assets, allowing it to dissipate heat much faster than silicon, even when conducting large amounts of electricity through devices. Furthermore, this property enables thinner devices that can handle higher voltages; one such silicon-carbide device that’s as thick as comparable silicon devices can actually support ten times higher voltage because its electric field doesn’t need to spread itself across as much material.

Silicon carbide’s electrical properties can be adjusted through a process known as doping, which involves injecting impurities into its crystal structure to alter atomic structures and allow more free charge carriers (electrons and holes) to move through it freely. Doping is widely practiced within the semiconductor industry to alter material properties.

In a typical silicon carbide transistor, both layers are doped differently to form channels for current to flow through. The n-layer may be doped with nitrogen or phosphorus while beryllium aluminium or boron may be doped into its respective p-layer allowing current to pass. A gate acts as the contact point between these layers; charging it either negatively or positively will switch on or off the transistor respectively.

When switching from its on, current-carrying state to its off, voltage-blocking state, there’s a short period where electrons exposed to high voltage are drawn through the device and dissipated as heat; this period is known as reverse recovery time. Silicon carbide transistors offer five times shorter reverse recover times compared to their silicon counterparts making them suitable for high speed switching applications.

Silicon carbide will become increasingly vital as we transition away from fossil fuels towards cleaner forms of energy, providing hardness, wear resistance, and impressive electrical properties that could reimagine energy grids by eliminating bulky substation transformers while simultaneously increasing efficiency along their paths to consumers.

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