5-1 Introduction

5-1 Introduction

Silicon carbide (SiC)-based semiconductor electronic devices and circuits are presently being developed

for use in high-temperature, high-power, and high-radiation conditions under which conventional semiconductors

cannot adequately perform. Silicon carbide’s ability to function under such extreme conditions

is expected to enable significant improvements to a far-ranging variety of applications and systems.

These range from greatly improved high-voltage switching for energy savings in public electric power

distribution and electric motor drives to more powerful microwave electronics for radar and communications

to sensors and controls for cleaner-burning more fuel-efficient jet aircraft and automobile

engines. In the particular area of power devices, theoretical appraisals have indicated that SiC

power MOSFET’s and diode rectifiers would operate over higher voltage and temperature ranges, have

superior switching characteristics, and yet have die sizes nearly 20 times smaller than correspondingly

rated silicon-based devices. However, these tremendous theoretical advantages have yet to be widely

realized in commercially available SiC devices, primarily owing to the fact that SiC’s relatively immature

crystal growth and device fabrication technologies are not yet sufficiently developed to the degree required

for reliable incorporation into most electronic systems.

This chapter briefly surveys the SiC semiconductor electronics technology. In particular, the differences

(both good and bad) between SiC electronics technology and the well-known silicon VLSI technology

are highlighted. Projected performance benefits of SiC electronics are highlighted for several large-scale

applications. Key crystal growth and device-fabrication issues that presently limit the performance and

capability of high-temperature and high-power SiC electronics are identified.

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