The unfulfilled promise of silicon carbide

Written by George Leopold for Ojo & Yoshida Report – Despite its advantages, the power semiconductor technology continues to be plagued by false starts..

The power semiconductor material silicon carbide seemed poised for a different sort of band-gap leap in recent weeks as developers again touted SiC’s potential role in addressing skyrocketing electricity demand. That demand will only grow as sprawling data centers take on more energy-intensive AI workloads.

We were expecting to hear more about the promise of SiC technology and new applications this week from a key developer, Onsemi. Hours before we were to be briefed on its strategy, the chip maker based in Scottsdale, Ariz., abruptly postponed its announcement that appeared to be tied to a co-located event with AI chip giant Nvidia. No word on when Onsemi will reschedule its SiC platform announcement.

Through its publicist, Onsemi revealed this much: “As data centers increasingly need higher-voltage, higher-current devices to meet the demands for AI, this technology will enable the transition to a higher voltage platform while maintaining the high-efficiency requirements for continuously running, power-intensive systems.”  

Onsemi, Wolfspeed and others are targeting data centers as the next big SiC application. Given the proliferation of data centers handling AI model training, that application could help scale SiC production, thereby reducing the cost of currently pricey power semiconductor technology.

The need for more efficient power semiconductors is clear, but so far, SiC technology has made little headway in IT infrastructure and telecommunications applications. According to industry watcher Yole Group, automotive applications account for nearly three-quarters of the power SiC device market. The “Telecom & Infrastructure” segment (shown) that includes data center applications will account for a mere 0.3 percent of the total SiC device market through 2028, Yole forecasts… Full story