An electric power grid supplies reliable power with the help of electronic devices that ensure smooth, reliable power flow. Until now, silicon-based assemblies have been relied upon, but they have been unable to handle the requirements of the smart grid. Wide-band-gap materials such as silicon carbide (SiC) offer a better alternative as they are capable of higher switching speeds, a higher breakdown voltage, lower switching losses, and a higher junction temperature than traditional silicon-based switches. The first such SiC-based device to reach market is the Ultra-high-voltage Silicon Carbide Thyristor (SiC Thyristor), developed by GeneSiC Semiconductor Inc., Dulles, Va., with support from Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M., the U.S. Department of Energy/Electricity Delivery, and the U.S. Army/Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.
The developers adopted a different operational physics for this device, which operates on minority carrier transportation and an integrated third terminal rectifier, which is one more than other commercial SiC devices. Developers adopted a new fabrication technique that supports ratings above 6,500 V, as well as a new gate-anode design for high-current devices. Capable of performing at temperatures up to 300 C and current at 80 A, the SiC Thyristor offers up to 10 times higher voltage, four times higher blocking voltages, and 100 times faster switching frequency than silicon-based thyristors.