SiC: When Energy-Efficiency Dreams Come True

Article By : Patrick Le Fèvre, Powerbox

Silicon carbide technology is becoming more affordable as well as easier to implement and control in power-conversion applications.

Improving energy efficiency is a permanent quest for power designers, and from the early days of germanium rectifiers to today’s wide-bandgap (WBG) semiconductors, there’s a long history of technical evolution. With the urgency to reduce CO2 emissions, improving efficiency is not enough, and we are facing a drastic change in our society and in everything we do. The latest COP26 and reports published by the United Nations confirm the strategic importance of that, and part of the solution resides in moving from a carbon-based industry to a carbon-free one.

We all know that renewable energy sources are expanding and ground-transportation industries — e.g., cars, buses, and trucks — are migrating from combustion engines to electrical motors directly powered by batteries or via a fuel cell for a hydrogen-powered vehicle. In both cases, power conversion is a masterpiece, and managing energy to an optimal point requires the best combination of software and hardware.

AspenCore Guide to Silicon Carbide
AspenCore Guide to Silicon Carbide is now available in PDF and hard copy at EE Times Store.

We are used to designing power stages with thyristors, silicon bipolar junction transistors and silicon MOSFETs, and IGBTs/IPMs, but in the permanent search for higher performance and reliability, the development of WBG semiconductors is an important technological evolution, resulting in all power designers being very excited about the prospect of implementing WBG in their next-generation products.

From the marketplace introduction of the silicon carbide (SiC) diode in the early 2000s to the latest SiC MOSFETs released by leading semiconductor manufacturers, we have seen an impressive evolution in performance levels, reliability and cost. All of these contribute to making SiC technology affordable and easy to implement and control in power-conversion stages. This is absolutely fantastic, but a lot of questions remain for many power designers (and technology enthusiasts like me), causing a hesitation to jump into such technology and thus a slowdown to adoption.

In less than 10 years, WBG has gained interest and adoption, but the most important thing for all engineers is to learn about it and share their knowledge. As a certain Mr. Charles Darwin said, “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too), those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed,” and the AspenCore Guide to Silicon Carbide is a fantastic example of knowledge sharing, both easing learning and opening the door for curiosity and further progress. The range of applications within the power industry is very large and SiC is suitable for many. The Guide is very well-organized, and at a glance, it provides a very good overview right through from research to application and even production.

It’s hard to be more enthusiastic about this book, and congratulations to the team and contributors for sharing such a huge amount of knowledge with the passionate power designers that we are.

The Aspencore Guide to Silicon Carbide is available at the EE Times store.

This article was originally published on EE Times.

Patrick Le Fèvre is chief marketing and communication officer at Powerbox

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