Silicon Carbide – SiC

Silicon carbide was discovered in 1893 as an industrial abrasive for grinding wheels and automotive brakes. About midway through the 20th century, it began being used in LED technology. Since then, it has expanded into numerous semiconductor applications due to its physical properties. Because of this material’s superior hardness properties and heat resistance, it still has a very wide range of uses in and outside the semiconductor industry.

SiC can be produced using multiple polytypes of SiC, although within the semiconductor industry, most substrates are either 4H- or 6H-SiC. When referring to 4H- and 6H- silicon carbide, the H represents how the crystal lattice is structured, while the number represents the stacking sequence of the atoms within the crystal structure.

Advantages of Silicon Carbide

There are numerous advantages to using silicon carbide over more traditional silicon substrates. One of the major advantages of this material is its hardness. This gives the material numerous advantages, in high speed, high temperature and/or high voltage applications.

Silicon carbide wafers have high thermal conductivity, which is the ability for the wafer to transfer heat from one point to another. This improves its electrical conductivity and ultimately miniaturization, one of the common goals of switching to SiC wafers.

SiC substrates also have a low coefficient for thermal expansion. Thermal expansion is the amount and direction a material expands or contracts as it is heated or cooled. The most common explanation is ice, although it behaves opposite of most metals, expanding as it cools and shrinking as it’s heated. Silicon carbide’s low coefficient for thermal expansion means that it does not change significantly in size or shape as it is heated up or cooled down, which makes it perfect for fitting into small devices and packing more transistors onto a single chip.

Another major advantage of these substrates is their high resistance to thermal shock. This means they have the ability to change temperatures rapidly without breaking or cracking. This creates a clear advantage when fabricating devices as it is another toughness characteristics that improves the lifetime and performance of silicon carbide in comparison to traditional bulk silicon.

On top of its thermal capabilities, it is a very durable substrate and does not react with acids, alkalis or molten salts at temperatures up to 800°C. This gives these substrates versatility in their applications and further assists their ability to out perform bulk silicon in certain applications.

Its strength at high temperatures also allows it to safely operate at temperatures up to 1600°C, making it a suitable substrate for virtually any high temperature application.

SVM Silicon Carbide Specifications:

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