STMicroelectronics recently completed the qualification of its third-generation SiC technology platform. Planar MOSFETs based on this platform set new industry-leading benchmarks for transistor efficiency, power density, and switching performance. ST’s portfolio of medium- and high-voltage power products based on SiC technology is among the widest in the industry. ST manufactures its SiC products to the highest standards to ensure reliable performance and efficiency gains for electric vehicle (EV) applications, solar inverters, energy storage, industrial motor drives, and power supplies.
To discuss this all, Gianfranco Di Marco, Marketing Communication Manager – Power Transistor Sub-Group, STMicroelectronics, caught up with ELE Times and had the technical discourse on the disruptive compound semiconductor material i.e. Silicon Carbide. Excerpts.
ELE Times: What improvements can be expected in the EV battery and powertrains with the adoption of SiC?
ST: Silicon Carbide (SiC) is a disruptive compound semiconductor material. It’s earned this description because of its intrinsic properties that provide superior performance and efficiency to silicon in key, high-growth power applications for electric mobility and industrial processes. SiC allows for more efficient power conversion, lighter and more compact designs, and overall system-design cost savings – all key parameters and factors for success in automotive and industrial systems. While making significant strides to lower battery cost by increasing battery capacity, electric vehicle makers are also increasing powertrain power density, which is defined as the ratio of power efficiency to overall size, and decreasing overall size, weight, and cost. SiC power switches are the enabler, particularly in onboard chargers (OBCs) and traction inverters in powertrain systems. So, power electronics based on SiC extend the driving range, charge faster, and lower the total system-level cost of ownership. These benefits result from the material properties of SiC and the manufacturing skill of a few specialized companies like ST that allow EV manufacturers to design powertrain systems that are more efficient, robust, and compact.
ELE Times: Elaborate on your plans for the 200nm manufacturing with this tech collaboration.
ST: The goal of ST’s technical cooperation with Soitec is ST’s adoption of Soitec’s SmartSiC technology for future 200mm substrate manufacturing at our integrated manufacturing sites. ST is now working on a qualification plan over the next 18 months that achieves 150mm line qualification and then accomplishes our main goal, 200mm line qualification.
ELE Times: What is your approach to moving with a vertically integrated model? Any challenges so far?
ST: ST is making significant investments in in-house Silicon Carbide (SiC) substrate manufacturing to support the ramp-up of its STPOWER devices and power modules for automotive and industrial customers globally. Cooperation with Soitec on SmartSiC promises several benefits for ST’s internal SiC substrate manufacturing. These include improved manufacturing yields and providing additional support for the transition from 150mm to 200mm wafers to substantially increase capacity.
ELE Times: How do you see the future of semiconductor technologies in the coming 5 years? Are any other collaborations in the pipeline?
ST: Globally, automotive and industrial customers are adopting Silicon Carbide (SiC) to improve the performance and energy efficiency of their systems as they shift to electric platforms. The accelerating adoption of SiC power devices is constrained by supply and, with greater volumes expected to be needed to support global demand, ST sees this cooperation as providing a path to enable ST and Soitec to mutually benefit from the additional qualified capacity to support this strategic market. As you might imagine, With ST’s leadership in the market, we are deeply involved in conversations with the full range of key technology and market players. In these, our goals are to advance the technology, our manufacturing processes, and our efforts to deliver sustainable value to our customers.