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Advanced Materials: Silicon Carbide Begins to Replace Silicon for Improved Electric Power Devices

By Dick Weisinger

In the move away from fossil fuels to electicity, the semiconductor compound called Silicon Carbide (SiC) is increasingly being used to improve electric power electronics. SiC provides high mechanical, chemical, and thermal stability. It is an excellent conductor, especially when compared with just silicon.

Tesla pioneered the use of SiC with the traction inverters in their Model 3 cars. Traction inverters take electricity from batteries and then powers the automobile. Using SiC in the traction inverter, Tesla was able to up the mileage range for the vehicle by 10 percent while also saving space and weight.

Now automobile manufacturers plan to use SiC for not only the traction inverters but also for other electrical components, like DC/DC converters and on-board chargers. SiC is expected to be able to improve the efficiency and time needed to charge electronic vehicles at charging stations.

Researchers are also investigating the use of SiC for the design of quantum computers.

Xiaoke Yi, professor at the University of Sydney, said that “the use of silicon carbide will potentially open up new opportunities in photonics for various applications, including quantum computing.”

Marko Lončar, professor at SEAS, said that “the silicon carbide modulator will likely find applications in quantum communications. For example, it could be used to control temporal and spectral properties of quantum emitters that exist in this material, as well as to route the photons in reconfigurable fashion.”

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