Silicon carbide: the future of the car

Silicon is an element that has become important for the production of electronic chips. However, it has shown its limits under certain temperature conditions. Brake for use in automotive electronics sensitive to high temperatures. Manufacturers found an even more durable successor, which some European companies began to produce on a large scale…

Our new technologies feature materials that will be essential to tomorrow’s industries.

Cars, trucks, planes, boats, RVs and motorcycles… the electrification of everything will create huge demand for raw materials like lithium, copper, nickel, cobalt and graphite.

But it will also lead to increased demand for semiconductors, which are integral to our modern lifestyles.

Special needs of electric vehicles

Even though your smartphone or even your laptop or computer needs relatively little electricity, heat can become a problem during long periods of use.

On the consumer side, this mainly applies to video game enthusiasts equipped with very powerful computers.

In addition, they need more efficient ventilation systems and even adapted cooling systems.

Electric vehicles have very special requirements in terms of electronics, including higher energy requirements and, until now, This means that the electronic components used must be very heat resistant.

A technological revolution happened when we discovered how to build
circuits that are semiconductors, these materials that have both
conductive and insulating properties.

We rely on most of our electronics today silicone as a semiconductor. Cheap and widely available, it has allowed us to improve performance and build more modern computers for decades.

But there’s a limit you can’t cross with silicone. It stops working as soon as you exceed the boiling point of water.

A solid semiconductor like diamond

Silicon is well-suited for most electronic products, but it is far from an ideal component in the face of the energy content of an electric vehicle.

And here comes another type of semiconductor, viz silicon carbide (SiC) it is one of the hardest substances available after diamond. It is used in many applications that require very strong and heat-resistant materials, such as the brakes of a car.

Its semiconducting properties, as well as its thermal resistance several times higher than that of normal silicon, make it an ideal material for powerful electronic components used in electric vehicles.

Not only is it superior to silicon in terms of heat resistance, it’s also more efficient, meaning more power flows from the battery to the wheels or from the charging station slot to the battery. .

Ideal for electric motors, power conversion and chips that control fast charging.

As you can imagine, in an environment where electric vehicle sales are growing and growing even faster, the demand for silicon carbide (SiC) based chips is expected to increase greatly.

Some European manufacturers of SiC semiconductors

Bosch, the German home appliance and automotive industry giant, began large-scale production of SiC semiconductors in late 2021. At launch, his order books were already full. The company aims to be the leader of this new generation of semiconductors.

French language Soitec (FR0013227113 – SOI), traditionally specialized in silicon wafers. It is now expanding into silicon carbide for clean vehicles. The company ranks very well in the European ranking of technology stocks. This new stance towards the electric car has allowed the company to significantly increase its growth targets for the coming years.

At the end of 2021, Soitec also entered into a partnership with the French Mersen (FR0000039620 – MRN), a company specializing in the production of advanced materials. The semiconductor market is also an important growth driver for Mersenne. The two companies plan to jointly develop new polycrystalline silicon carbide (polySiC) substrates for the electric vehicle market.

Of course, increased demand for SiC semiconductors could translate into big profits for companies at the forefront of this new movement around electric vehicles.

To the bright future!

Ray Blanco

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