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How SiC Will Impact Electronics

Yole Développement updated its new markets & technological study dedicated to silicon carbide industry.
Yole’s report details major market metrics of the current and projected SiC device and substrate business, describing the targeted applications, the key players, the supply chain, the volumes and related market size of each segment. It gives the possible total accessible market for SiC electronics, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of this technology over the current established silicon technologies. It describes the recent progress of device technologies as well as the new challenges offered by 4" and 6" substrates.

SiC challenges a $2.6B silicon device market that is part of the overall $12B Si based power discrete business (2008). Today the largest applications in potential revenue remain Power Supply PFC, UPS and Motor AC drives. Tomorrow, EV/HEV and inverters for PV installations will take the lead exhibiting higher CAGR (>15%/year).

However, cost issues slow down SiC penetration and Yole Développement only forecasts approximately 4% of the overall Silicon based power discrete market to be displaced by SiC in 2019.

“Low Voltage applications (< 1.2kV) are representing over 99% of today SiC device sales but Yole Développement anticipates a huge increase of Medium Voltage applications (1.2kV-1.7kV) in the next 2 years" says Dr Philippe Roussel, Project Manager at Yole Développement. High Voltage apps will slowly appear from 2013- 2014 along with technology improvement and cost reduction.

The entrance of SiC in the promising EV/HEV field has been postponed to 2014 as no switch has reached large volume production yet and car makers are still improving silicon IGBT technology. Moreover, most of the current or new entrant EV/HEV manufacturers are working on both GaN and SiC for their next gen inverters and no choice has been validated yet. In the 600-1200 V range, promising GaN technologies might threaten SiC. However, SiC industry maturity should protect it from frontal competition at least for the 2 next years. The total SiC substrate merchant market, including both n-type and S.I. has reached roughly $48M in 2008. According to Yole Développement’s analysis, it is expected to exceed $300M in a decade. CREE stays ahead of the competition, but its relative market share on the open market is shrinking as II- VI, SiCrystal and several new entrants are gaining momentum in the substrate battle.

Yole Développement saw the emergence of 2 new entrants in SiC substrates in 2008: N-Crystals (Russia) and Xiamen Powerway Advanced Material Co., Ltd (China) who are manufacturing and marketing 2" and 3" SiC substrates 4H & 6H in both S.I. or n-type doping. Early 2009, another Chinese company, TankeBlue, announced impressive progress on scale up production of 3" SiC wafers, exhibiting micropipe density < 10/cm2. “This let us think that Chinese companies are becoming more and more present on the market place proposing products with state of the art specs and competitive pricing", explained Dr Roussel.

Yole Développement assesses that the technical gap between yesterday’s leaders and today’s challengers is decreasing day by day. 4" wafers are now at full production at CREE and in final qualification phase at II-VI, Dow Corning and Nippon Steel. 6" is already announced by 2010. 150 mm wafers will definitely accelerate the cost reduction of SiC device manufacturing.

Transistor availability is the key condition to envision significant market growth. According to recent announcements from CREE, SemiSouth, TranSiC, Rohm or Mitsubishi, Yole Développement remains confident that 2010 will see first commercial volume offers in MOSFET, J-FET or BJT.

Once this condition is met, the SiC device industry will have to cut the cost to fit with client expectations. 2 parameters will have to be improved:

• SiC substrate $/mm2 cost

• SiC device manufacturing cost and yield, with a particular emphasis on epitaxy process.

The adoption of the SiC technology will also have to go through the severe qualification process of the industry (especially in the automotive sector). There, progress on reliability and robustness must fit the current silicon standards. If all conditions are passed, then Yole Développement can forecast $800M market size for SiC devices in a decade from now.
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