Wolfspeed Silicon Carbide Power Devices

Wolfspeed develops wide bandgap semiconductor materials and power devices for use in electric vehicles, fast charging stations, 5G networks, renewable energy applications, aerospace & defense programs as well as renewable energy projects. Wolfspeed are currently world leaders in SiC (silicon carbide) power device production.

Construction project of John Palmour Manufacturing Center for Silicon Carbide will allow this company to increase material capacity by twofold to meet rising demands for silicon carbide products.

What is Silicon Carbide?

Silicon Carbide (SiC) is a crystalline material comprised of equal portions of silicon and carbon. This hard and durable material resists high temperatures well, and is used in industrial applications like sandblasting, grinding wheels, furnace parts, ceramics and engineered products.

SiC is an effective semiconductor material, thanks to its atomic structure. This allows electrons to easily move between its valence and conduction bands allowing electronic devices to conduct electricity with much greater efficiency than with materials like insulators or metals.

SiC has an astounding voltage resistance that is 10 times greater than silicon, even surpassing Gallium Nitride used widely today in power electronics applications. This makes SiC an excellent material choice for use in electric vehicles, fast charging stations and renewable energy inverters, among other applications.

Silicon carbide’s hardness, durability, and corrosion resistance enable it to be utilized in demanding engineering applications like pump bearings, valves, sandblasting injectors and extrusion dies. Furthermore, its high melting point and low thermal expansion properties make it an excellent material choice for high temperature use in industries such as metallurgical manufacturing or aerospace applications.

What are the Benefits of Silicon Carbide?

Silicon carbide is widely known for its hardness, rigidity, thermal conductivity, low expansion rate and thermal conductivity – qualities which make it the ideal material for large telescope mirrors such as those found on Herschel space telescope and Gaia observatory telescopes. [40] Both facilities utilize silicon carbide mirrors.[41]

SiC is a difficult material to work with; crystals must be grown under extremely high temperatures — approximately half that of the sun — before being cut into circular wafers that Wolfspeed either sells to other semiconductor manufacturers or fabricates into chips itself in its New York and North Carolina facilities.

Wolfspeed power semiconductors are much more energy efficient than standard silicon chips, and are being utilized by electric vehicle traction inverters to extend range, as well as fast charging infrastructure and industrial power supplies.

Following that success, the company secured $5 billion in funding to support its capacity expansion plans. This investment includes building a highly automated 200mm wafer device fabrication facility in Durham, NC which will become the world’s largest silicon carbide materials factory. Furthermore, ZF announced a multi-million dollar joint research center dedicated to Silicon Carbide systems and devices, designed to accelerate breakthrough innovations through real world challenges in e-mobility and renewable energy system level challenges.

How is Silicon Carbide Made?

Silicon carbide is formed by combining carbon and silicon atoms in small molecules that assemble themselves into various crystal structures, the most stable being cubic (b-SiC). Polytypes exist too if required.

SiC is known for being very hard and durable, with diamond-like strength. Due to its unique layered structure, SiC can also act as a wide bandgap semiconductor at temperatures higher than traditional silicon chips; handling huge temperature swings with ease makes SiC an excellent choice for power electronics applications.

To produce silicon carbide, b-SiC must first be ground into a fine powder before being combined with non-oxide sintering aid (binder) to form a paste. Binder types typically include organic compounds like urea or nitrates; after which, compacted and shaped paste is compacted before sintering at high temperatures under pressure for short amounts of time.

Once sintering has taken place, the SiC part produced is subjected to stringent quality tests for dimensions and mechanical properties such as tensile strength and impact resistance. Certification processes are mandatory with every customer and may take place at any stage during production.

What is Wolfspeed’s Mission?

Wolfspeed semiconductor chips stand apart from their silicon counterparts by being constructed out of Silicon Carbide (SiC). SiC chips operate more effectively at higher temperatures and can even outperform them 10x faster.

Silicon carbide technology provides more power in less space at reduced costs, making it useful in everything from electric car batteries to solar energy production and beyond. Below is an infographic which highlights just some of the many ways silicon carbide is changing our world for good.

Wolfspeed has quickly established itself as the global leader in silicon carbide manufacturing. Their predecessor company Cree was the pioneer in commercializing SiC technology and has led device design and manufacturing process innovations ever since, producing smaller chips with greater performance ratings.

Recently, Wolfspeed entered into an extensive supply agreement with General Motors (NYSE: GM) to supply power devices for electric vehicle drivetrains featuring SiC power devices from Wolfspeed for improved power density and range.

This partnership marks a key step forward for the company as it gives it a solid platform to expand within their primary target market of the EV industry. Furthermore, they continue to add Design-in opportunities of $14.8 billion, and their Mohawk Valley fab facility – the world’s first and largest 200mm silicon carbide device fabrication facility with uncompromised wafer quality and greater yield – expands capacity.

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