The demand for silicon carbide substrates has experienced massive growth, and SOI wafer supplier Soitec has developed SmartSiC technology to accelerate the adoption of SiC in electric vehicles.
The electrification of road transport is essential to achieving the European Union’s decarbonization and climate change objectives. The demand for silicon carbide substrates has experienced massive growth, and French silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafer supplier Soitec has developed SmartSiC technology to accelerate the adoption of SiC in electric vehicles.
SiC, a wide-bandgap semiconductor, has been a technology accelerator for EVs, increasing the power density of the electronics system while reducing the overall size, weight, and cost of the car. Soitec anticipates that more than 40% of new cars will be electric by 2030 and expects SiC will account for 10% of its revenue by 2026.
To reach this ambitious target, Soitec successively acquired Grenoble-based Novasic and launched the construction of its Bernin 4 facility to mass-produce SmartSiC SiC substrates.
Soitec’s SmartSiC emerged from its pilot line at its Substrate Innovation Center within CEA-Leti in Grenoble. SmartSiC is an adaptation of Soitec’s proprietary SmartCut process to SiC, achieved by bonding a very thin layer of high-quality SiC to a very low-resistivity polySiC wafer. Soitec claims SmartSiC substrates will enable new levels of performance and energy efficiency compared with traditional bulk SiC through higher donor wafer reusability, improved yields, and lower die sizes.
After roughly four years at the head of CEA-Leti, Emmanuel Sabonnadière joined Soitec as vice president of the SiC program in 2021 to drive SmartCut SiC technology development and capture new markets. In a Q&A with EE Times Europe, Sabonnadière explained how Soitec’s strategy execution can support the transition to zero-emission mobility and how its SmartSiC technology can improve the performance of power electronics and boost EV energy efficiency.
EE Times Europe: In July 2021, the European Commission unveiled a set of proposals to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% from 1990 levels by 2030. Part of the European Union’s Green Deal, the EC’s Fit for 55 package calls for a ban on the sale of new fossil-fuel cars as part of a plan to reach climate neutrality by 2050. How does Soitec view the European Green Deal and the Fit for 55 policy package?
Emmanuel Sabonnadière: The European Green Deal is very good news for the planet and a tremendous step forward toward a decarbonized mobility for 400 million people. At Soitec, sustainability is the cornerstone of our strategy, stated in our corporate responsibility policy and guiding every single action of our people [as they create] substrates that reconcile performance and energy efficiency in electronic products. No project is launched without serious and tangible green objectives.
EETE: How does Soitec intend to support this effort?
Sabonnadière: Our products are an integral part of the daily lives of millions of people. They are essential for the adoption of innovative technologies such as 5G, electric and autonomous vehicles, and artificial intelligence embedded in connected objects. [These technologies are possible] only with energy efficiency inside.
In 2020, we conducted a study of the greenhouse gas emissions avoided through the use of three of our products — FD-SOI, RF-SOI, and Photonics-SOI — compared with previous generations or competing products. We found that the avoided emissions totaled 1,030 ktCO2eq [kilotons of CO2 equivalent]. The energy savings amounted to 1,738 GWh, representing the yearly domestic energy consumption of a city of 1 million inhabitants — greater than the population of Marseille or San Francisco.
Anne-Françoise Pelé is editor-in-chief of EE Times Europe.