Silicon as a semiconductor: Silicon carbide would be much more efficient
At the interface between silicon dioxide and silicon carbide, irregular clusters of carbon rings occur, which disturb the electronic function. Credit: Universität Basel, Departement Physik/Swiss Nanoscience Institute

In power electronics, semiconductors are based on the element silicon—but the energy efficiency of silicon carbide would be much higher. Physicists of the University of Basel, the Paul Scherrer Institute and ABB explain what prevents the use of this combination of silicon and carbon in the scientific journal Applied Physics Letters.

Energy consumption is growing across the globe, and sustainable energy supplies such as wind and are becoming increasingly important. Electric power, however, is often generated a long distance away from the consumer. Efficient distribution and are thus just as crucial as transformer stations and power converters that turn the generated direct current into alternating current.

Huge savings are possible

Modern must be able to handle large currents and high voltages. Current transistors made of for are now mainly based on silicon technology. Significant physical and chemical advantages, however, arise from the use of SiC over silicon: in addition to a much higher heat resistance, this material provides significantly better energy efficiency, which could lead to massive savings.

It is known that these advantages are significantly compromised by defects a

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