Raytheon looks set to develop cheaper silicon carbide wafers

Defence manufacturer Raytheon has received government funding that will be used to develop cheaper silicon carbide wafers.

Silicon carbide is a material that can withstand harsh environments, allowing integrated circuits to operate in temperatures of up to 300°C.

Transistors made from the material enable much more efficient power electronics, leading to improved energy efficiency in many application areas, such as oil and gas exploration, energy generation and future electric vehicles.

Raytheon UK will be using the £499,115 funding from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and Scottish Enterprise to develop the new wafers, alongside Anvil Semiconductors, a spin-out from Warwick University.

Jen Cormack, Raytheon’s silicon carbide manager, told The Engineer: ‘Anvil Semiconductor has quite a unique processing technique that allows you to put silicon carbide on top of silicon wafers.’

Cormack explained that the technique has the potential to make silicon carbide wafers 10 times cheaper than their existing market price, reducing the cost from $1,500 (£950) to $150 (£95).

Peter Ward, chief executive officer of Anvil Semiconductors, said: ‘We grow the cubic form of silicon carbide by heteroepitaxy on silicon wafers.’

Heteroepitaxy is often used to grow crystalline films of materials for which crystals cannot otherwise be obtained and to fabricate integrated crystalline layers of different materials. In this scenario, silicon carbide crystals will be grown on top of of silicon wafers.

This project will be carried out from October 2012 to September 2015.