Silicon carbide gets ready for prime time

By Bolaji Ojo for the OJO – YOSHIDA REPORT: Riding hot applications in electric vehicles, silicon carbide is on the rise. Multiple players are positioning themselves to grasp what many see as an exponentially growing sector.

Wideband Gap semiconductor applications. (Source: Infineon Technologies)

What’s at stake

Those who invested early in silicon carbide are seeing their efforts start to pay off. But competitors are popping up everywhere, putting more SiC-related M&A and partnership deals in place. The question is who, over time, can build the right ecosystem to advance SiC technologies, bring down costs and ensure a stable supply of raw materials and SiC wafers.

Perfection will come later. Ready or not, silicon carbide is being avidly sought by leading car OEMs and electronics manufacturers for use in high-growth applications where the known strengths of the SiC technology can offer a competitive edge.

Triggering the industrywide interest in this novel material is the success of SiC devices in high-profile electric vehicle (EV) models such as Tesla’s. Once pitched as the prime choice for power electronics, SiC is now claiming a clear growth market segment of its own – power electronics in EVs, along with other industrial and green energy sectors. The reason? SiC offers the kind of latency, form factor and power efficiencies that silicon semiconductor manufacturers can only dream of, according to proponents.

Even those who have been on the sideline are taking notice and making moves. In the second half of 2021 alone, the semiconductor industry saw more acquisitions in the business, technology and supply chain sides of silicon carbide than ever before (see chart below).

In early August, Foxconn announced the acquisition of a 6-inch wafer fab from Taiwan’s Macronix International at $90.8 million, with a plan to make “automotive chips.” The move by Foxconn, not known as a semiconductor supplier, turned a lot of people’s heads. Analysts at Yole Développement in France suspect that Apple, known for its ambition to get into the EV market, influenced Foxconn’s decision to acquire the fab in order to make SiC devices for EVs.

In November, Qorvo acquired United Silicon Carbide (UnitedSiC), a leading manufacturer of SiC power semiconductors based in Princeton, N.J… Full year