Tokyo-based Showa Denko K.K. (SDK) has decided to expand its facilities for producing high-quality-grade silicon carbide (SiC) epitaxial wafers for power devices – which have already been marketed under the trade name High-Grade Epi (HGE) – from a capacity of 3000 wafers per month to 5000 wafers per month (equivalent, for SiC epiwafers for power devices with a withstand voltage of 1200V). The expanded facilities will begin operation in April 2018.
Compared with mainstream silicon-based semiconductors, SiC-based power devices can operate under high-temperature, high-voltage and high-current conditions while substantially conserving energy, enabling the production of smaller, lighter and more energy-efficient power control modules. SiC power devices are already used in the power sources of servers for data centers, and in distributed power supply systems for renewable energy. Moreover, the application of SiC power devices in inverter modules for railcars and in quick-charging stations for electric vehicles has been making progress in recent years. The market for SiC power devices is hence expected to grow 27% annually until 2020.
Power modules for high-voltage, high-current applications mainly contain devices with a Schottky barrier diode (SBD) structure and transistors with a MOSFET (metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor) structure. While manufacturers have entered into the mass production of SiC SBDs, the practical application of SiC MOSFETs has required a further reduction in various types of surface and crystal defects. In HGE (developed by SDK), the density of basal plane dislocations (BPDs), which is a typical crystal defect, is controlled to be within 0.1/cm2.
Since its launch in October 2015, HGE has been adopted as a key component of SiC SBDs, claims SDK. In addition, HGE is being adopted increasingly by device makers as a key component of developing SiC MOSFET for practical use, the firm adds. SDK has now decided to expand its HGE production capacity because its existing facilities are operating at full capacity, and it expects that the SiC MOSFET market will begin to take off in 2018.
SDK reckons that the SiC epiwafer market for power devices will reach 20 billion in 2020, as the early use of SiC power devices in vehicles is under consideration. The firm says that it aims to continue to meet market demand for high-quality SiC epiwafers in future.