Silicon Carbide: An artificial advanced semiconductor ceramic used until today

Silicon Carbide

In 1893, Henry Moissan discovered the first Moissanite gemstone in a meteorite crater in Canyon Diablo (Arizona) while he was examining different rock samples. In the beginning, he confused the piece with a diamond ore due to its similar color and hardness. Still, until 1904, in a second check, he identified it as a novel compound called silicon carbide. The inner material base is a pure Silicon (Si) and Carbon (C) elements with a stoichiometry formula SiC. The origin of raw SiC mineral is sporadic because it can only be found in small quantities in certain meteorites throughout the world. The major problem of encountered crystals of silicon carbide in nature is because it does not have a liquid form; this difficulty sets an impossible modification between solid to a liquid state. Until the 1950s, SiC was found by a handmade with rudimentary techniques, impurities, and instabilities issues. After a period of industrial development and intense scientific evolution, a synthetic silicon carbide semiconductor was possible, simulating and controlling the high-temperatures conditions in laboratories.

In 1978, the groups of techniques that opened the production on a big scale of a single crystal of SiC with success, without instabilities problems, and impurities were Physical Vapor Depositions (PVD). In these methods, a reliable source of inner pure Si and C have subdued a specialized chemical blend gas until both raw elements condensed together and form an evaporation material. This gas phase is transported in a controlled vacuum chamber conditions and deposited in targets or substrates, forming thin films and coatings. Another manufacturing method is the Lely procedure, which involves heat by induction of silica sand and coal at 2500 degrees Celsius, until form a gaseous mixture in which develop a silicon carbide powder. The successes in the crystallization of silicon carbide represent a significant benefit in the current industry, due to the low-price production and the compound incredible intrinsic applications, which made it a highly desirable material until today. The silicon carbide in the semiconductor world is a significant compound that shows flexibility because doping SiC with nitrogen or phosphorus produces n-type semiconductors; on the other hand, adding concentrations of beryllium, boron, aluminum, or gallium produce a p-type form.


Other applications of a pure SiC could be separate in a) photonic devices due their tunable optical light-absorption and emission that made them useful as solar cells, UV sensors for various harsh environments, LEDs, and switches in electric power distribution systems; b) high-temperature applications for their high thermal conductivity, high melting point, and good chemical stability for the construction of high-temperature turbine engines, high-temperature gas detectors, c) mechanical properties for their low frictions and high hardness intriguing characteristics which are used to mechanical protection coating, as a support shelving material under extreme conditions and trauma plates of ballistic vests and d) jewelry, as a gemstone is used in the engagement ring because is transparent, hard, bright, higher luster, strongly birefringent and good resilience.


Image by Republica from Pixabay

Currently, silicon carbide presents different forms, for example, polytypes with modifications in the range of fundamental properties, as a substrate and sputtering target in the thin film industry for the fabrication of advance ceramic compounds adding new applications; as a nanocrystal in which influence the conductivity and heat resistance of the complete material as a doping concentration; and, as an amorphous phase with a series of unique adjustable variations of Si and C stoichiometry in one sample. All past descriptions increase the versatility of the SiC and show novels respond as electric and magnetic resonances allowing unexplored dielectric metamaterials designs. High-quality silicon carbide is used in optoelectronics for their low defects, which reveal an advanced growth route affecting the present quantum technologies. Strong photoluminescence (PL) has been reported as a confinement effect that nanoparticles of SiC report; this is a critical process that has been used to improve the spectral response in the external/internal quantum efficiency of solar cells. Finally, porous membranes of silicon carbide over silicon substrate are described as ultra-sensitive UV sensors and filters. All the past related properties are commercially available; the future of the advanced ceramic industry involves the evolution of the applications in compounds.

Observed the potential of silicon carbide as a material is looking at how the manufacturing and production change over the years until today. SiC becomes a central player in the semiconductors industry, for example, powering MOSFETs (Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor) with voltage thresholds at 10kV comparing the limited breakdown voltages at 900V in silicon pure. With proper implementation, SiC can reduce and inverter the losses energy nearly 50%, with the low coefficient of thermal expansion, high thermal conductivity, and high current density represent useful space-sensitive applications. It’s expected in the future more development of Silicon Carbide properties, new patents in the material, and novel descriptions around this semiconductor material.