Wide Bandgap Electronics Technology

4/12/1996 - 38-96r
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (202) 767-2541

Scientists in the Naval Research Laboratory's Electronics Science and Technology Division, in conjunction with other industrial and U.S. government laboratories, have made recent advances in wide bandgap electronics technology using silicon carbide and gallium nitride semiconductors. These advances have opened new application horizons that were first seriously considered just a dozen years ago and considered a dream when proposed at the First International Conference on Silicon Carbide in 1959.

Four different applications areas are of interest to the research and development community: high-temperature sensors; power switching; high-frequency power amplifiers and transmitters; and radiation-tolerant electronics. These applications areas can have wide ranging impacts: sensors able to transmit performance information from hot environments found in cars, trucks, and jets; high-voltage/current switches to enable the substitution of more efficient direct-drive electric motors for engines, power trains and hydraulics found in cars, aircraft, and ocean going vessels; and high-power radio frequency devices for communications and missile systems for defense. All of these applications will result in improved performance through increased energy efficiency, weight- savings through the elimination of cooling hardware, and increased reliability through the reduction of moving parts.

These applications are envisioned because the limitation imposed by nature on all semiconductors affects wide bandgap semiconductors less than silicon. This limitation results from the application of heat--most, if not all silicon devices are rendered useless at temperatures above 200 C (392 F). But wide bandgap semiconductor devices can operate at temperatures in excess of 400 C (752 F) and perhaps as high as 600 C (1112 F). This performance advantage of wide bandgap technology exists because the bandgaps of these materials are about 3 times larger than that of silicon.

The five speakers in this press conference represent industry, academia, and U.S. government laboratories performing research and development in wide bandgap technology. They will describe their vision for utilizing the unique properties of this class of semiconductors.

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