NCSU rolls out PRESiCE manufacturing process to open up SiC power device market to more companies
North Carolina State University (NCSU) is rolling out a new manufacturing process and chip design for silicon carbide (SiC) power devices, which can be used to more efficiently regulate power in technologies that use electronics. The PRESiCE process was developed with support from the US Department of Energy (DoE)-funded PowerAmerica institute, which focuses on boosting manufacturing of wide-bandgap semiconductor-based power electronics, in order to make it easier for companies to enter the SiC marketplace and develop new products.
“PRESiCE will allow more companies to get into the SiC market, because they won’t have to initially develop their own design and manufacturing process for power devices – an expensive, time-consuming engineering effort,” says Jay Baliga, Distinguished University Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and lead author of a paper ‘PRESiCE: PRocess Engineered for manufacturing SiC Electronic-devices’ being presented at the International Conference on Silicon Carbide and Related Materials (ICSCRM 2017) in Washington DC (17-22 September). “The companies can instead use the PRESiCE technology to develop their own products. That’s good for the companies, good for consumers, and good for US manufacturing,” Baliga adds.
Picture: Jay Baliga, who developed the PRESiCE process.
Up to now, companies that have developed manufacturing processes for creating SiC power devices have kept their processes proprietary, making it difficult for other companies to get into the field. This has limited the participation of other companies and kept the cost of SiC devices high. The NC State researchers hence developed PRESiCE to address this bottleneck, with the goal of lowering the barrier of entry to the field for companies and increasing innovation.
The PRESiCE team worked with Texas-based foundry X-Fab to implement the manufacturing process. It has now been qualified it, showing that it has the high yield and tight statistical distribution of electrical properties for SiC power devices necessary to make them attractive to industry.
“If more companies get involved in manufacturing SiC power devices, it will increase the volume of production at the foundry, significantly driving down costs,” Baliga says. Presently, SiC devices cost about five times more than silicon power devices. “Our goal is to get it down to 1.5 times the cost of silicon devices,” he adds. “Hopefully that will begin the ‘virtuous cycle’: lower cost will lead to higher use; higher use leads to greater production volume; greater production volume further reduces cost, and so on. And consumers are getting a better, more energy-efficient product.” The researchers have already licensed the PRESiCE process and chip design to one company, and are in talks with several others.
“I conceived the development of wide-bandgap semiconductor (SiC) power devices in 1979 and have been promoting the technology for more than three decades,” Baliga says. “Now, I feel privileged to have created PRESiCE as the nation’s technology for manufacturing SiC power devices to generate high-paying jobs in the USA,” he adds. “We’re optimistic that our technology can expedite the commercialization of SiC devices and contribute to a competitive manufacturing sector here in the USA.”