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6-inch SiC Company Thinks Bigger

C9 has secured New York state funds for a new facility to house its proprietary SiC superlattice growth equipment, so that it can scale up production to support military contracts.

C9 Corporation has won $1.75 million funding for facilities to ramp up its 6-inch SiC growth technology, and reach for even larger wafer sizes.

The power semiconductor company will establish its proprietary equipment in a new fab in Malta, New York, in order to enter production for its military contract activities.

This expansion, which could cost up to $20 million in total, will also allow C9 to up its headcount from ten to 35, with occupancy targeted in late 2008.

C9 s SiC superlattice wafers are grown slowly on a silicon substrate, one atomic layer at a time, at comparatively low temperatures.

Further silicon layers are interleaved at regular intervals, nano-engineering a single crystal which incorporates both silicon and SiC with no defects, claims the firm.

“We were micropipe-free from day one," said Kevin Donegan, C9 s CEO.

The C9 technique s origins lie with its CTO, C.G. Wang. Wang is also CEO at Nanodynamics-88, a fellow New York company and close collaborator, which grows silicon-on-insulator wafers using similar methods.

C9 has invested $11 million in its SiC program since starting with an MBE approach in 2005, which it has progressively modified, allowing progress from 2-inch to 6-inch SiC wafers in under 12 months.

Its interest in larger size material comes from working with the US military on large SiC devices, ranging from 1 cm2 to whole wafer size. These are currently made within the confines of semiconductor products company Fala Technologies manufacturing plant, where C9's COO Frank Falatyn is president and CEO.

Initially C9 is producing Schottky diodes aimed at next generation military vehicles, which will be powered by hybrid electric/petrol engines. Such vehicles will be subject to extremes of temperature, and have high power demands, which Donegan sees as the ideal niche for C9 s SiC electronics.

This military connection could lead to other electronic devices that can work in the harshest environments. Next on Donegan s list is a SiC multi-junction solar cell with bandgaps tailored by carbon content, which C9 is aiming to start work on next year.

“People in the solar industry don't tell you how badly the existing cells work in a high-temperature environment," Donegan said.

Beyond this, Donegan has his eye on processor chips made from SiC which can work in extremes of heat and is touting for partners to work with, keenly aware of the proximity of logic giant AMD to C9 s Malta site.

In the shorter term, Donegan is focussed on getting his new site up and running and getting into production. The particularly low number of devices made on each wafer means this involves simultaneous scaling up of wafer size as much as possible, with Donegan claiming he will have an 8-inch batch SiC reactor in action by March 2008.

“For silicon carbide to be viable you have to be able to make large wafers," he said.

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