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Norstel and ETRI/AIST Enter Strategic Collaboration for Silicon Carbide Materials

Norstel AB (Norrköping, Sweden) and the Energy Technology Research Institute (ETRI) of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) (Tsukuba, Japan) have entered into a strategic collaboration for development of Silicon Carbide (SiC) single crystal material for semiconductor applications.

Silicon carbide semiconductors enable new designs in power electronics for improving energy efficiency and performance in a wide range of applications such as hybrid cars, mobile phone base stations and radar systems.

The primary purpose of the collaboration will be to study next-generation SiC crystal growth techniques based on Norstel’s High Temperature Chemical Vapor Deposition (HTCVD) method to optimize crystal growth quality and manufacturability.

The Parties will jointly develop next generation crystal growth processes for large-diameter high-quality and cost-effective high volume SiC manufacturing.

he HTCVD method utilizing controlled purity gases in the growth process has, under the supervision of Dr. Alexandre Ellison, yielded very high purity wafers for advanced semiconductor processing. AIST has developed growth techniques based on the sublimation method under the supervision of Dr. Shin-ichi Nishizawa during the past 7 years, with impressive results on materials quality of up to 4” diameter. In April 2007, Dr. Nishizawa joined ETRI of AIST.

This agreement brings together a breadth of SiC expertise without parallel in the industry. We at Norstel are excited about the new possibilities this offers us and we are thrilled to have someone of Dr. Nishizawa’s experience co-operating with Norstel as we look to next generation SiC manufacturing technology.

—Iain Jackson, Norstel CEO



I wonder how far Toyota Labs are with commercializing their SiC production process (still wondering if the P3 will use SiC in it's main inverter)...

Stan Peterson

It is great to see progress being made in growing large single crystals of silicon carbide. I know that this is meant for electronics but "boules" of silicon crystal are routinely grown to provide chip substrates.

A seldom recognized side benefit of being able to create large single crystal silicon carbide is its application to nuclear fusion.

There are only two problems remaining for controlled fusion. The first is confirming the Physics advances continue to hold in a Fusion power reactor sized Torus. And that is what the last fusion experiment, ITER, now building in France, is all about.

After that the problem is engineering. The second problem is "What is the best materials with which to to construct the reactor?" What to chose and use to produce as the optimal material for the several square meters of "First Wall" in fusion reactors. The fusion engineers already knew that Diamond or Silicon Carbide would be ideal, but no one expected to be able to generate the First Wall facing the plasma fusion fire from these materials.

The World fusion community has allocated up to 20 years of time to research this problem in an effort to find or create the answer but they already know that silicon carbide would be the best material.

Silicon Carbide is the best material by far to use as a first wall. It is tough, stands up to high heat, and most important does not become long term radioactive under neutron bombardment. A fusion reactor would not have to be shut down every few years to replace its first wall if constructed of Silicon Carbide. Or at least not anywhere as often. The material wouldn't be radioactive and thus safer and considerably easier to handle.

An inch or so of "First Wall" backed up by Lithium breeding blankets, and cooling channels, would absorb the neutron flux from a reactor with little problem.

End of a twenty five year provision for research.

Even if it cost as much as gold to fabricate a few square meters of SiC material for the application it would be cheap and easy to justify.

If this progress goes forward, long before the fusion scientists really need to look for an answer, it may already be a routine material to order from a materials catalogue.

Most advanced jet engines now use single crystal turbine blades weighing several pounds, grown out of of singel crsytal sapphire, so this is nowhere near as exotic as it sounds.

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