Silicon Carbide: a love-hate relationship

An article written by Lefeng Shao for EETIMES – Silicon carbide (SiC) has excellent properties as a semiconductor material, especially for power conversion and control. However, SiC is extremely rare in the natural environment. As a material, it was first discovered in tiny amounts in meteorites, which is why it is also called “semiconductor material that has experienced 4.6 billion years of travel.”

Yole Development’s recently published “Power Silicon Carbide (SiC): Materials, Devices and Applications – 2019 Edition” report predicts that, by 2024, the market for SiC power semiconductors will grow to $2 billion by 2024, at an annual growth of 29%. The automotive market is undoubtedly the foremost driver, with around 50% of total device market share in 2024.

Will the wafer shortage continue?
In the past couple of years, wafer supply shortages have been a major bottleneck restricting SiC industry growth. Combined with increasing market demand, many players, including fabs, have recognized the need to expand their investments to fill the supply chain.

Cree announced in May it is investing $1 billion to expand and develop an automated 200 mm SiC fabrication facility. Expected to be complete in 2024, it will support Wolfspeed’s SiC and gallium-nitride on SiC business, enabling up to a 30-fold increase in SiC wafer fabrication capacity and 30-fold increase in SiC materials production, to meet the needs of electric vehicles (EVs) and the 5G market.

Rohm SiC Wafer

6-inch SiC MOSFET wafer. (Source: Rohm)

STMicroelectronics has a strong focus on SiC, having generated $100 million in revenue in 2018 and targeting $200 million in 2019; its target revenue for 2025 is $1 billion and it hopes to account for 30% of the SiC market. To this end, STMicroelectronics signed a multi-year supply agreement for SiC wafers with Cree in January this year; as part of the agreement, Cree will supply STMicroelectronics with $250 million of 150 mm SiC bare wafers and epitaxial wafers. A month later, ST acquired a 55% stake in Norstel AB, a Swedish SiC wafer supplier, with the option to acquire the remaining 45%… Full article


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