Researchers, Industry Partners Discuss Facility for Next-Generation Power Electronics

Researchers and industry partners met virtually in August to examine the need for a facility at the University of Arkansas capable of producing silicon carbide components, which are used in a variety of electronics, sensors and optical devices. Those devices are currently fabricated abroad.

The University of Arkansas Power Group, specifically Professors Alan Mantooth, Zhong Chen, and Greg Salamo, virtually hosted the Mid-scale Research Infrastructure Engineering Workshop.

The National Science Foundation-sponsored workshop gathered leading researchers and key players in the silicon carbide field to discuss and define critical needs, infrastructure, cooperation, and potential impact for an openly accessible Silicon carbide fabrication facility at the University of Arkansas. 

The facility is intended to enhance the nation's research into electronics, sensors and optical devices in silicon carbide, which must now be performed through fabrication facilities abroad. It also aims to create a low-volume prototyping capability that integrates the contributions of many research institutions around the country into a single fabrication line.

Mantooth, who is a distinguished professor of electrical engineering and holds the Twenty-First Century Research Leadership Chair in Engineering, said the facility would streamline research into the next generation of power electronics.

"This provides a key pathway to higher volume products for the next generation of power electronics, extreme environment electronics, and high power density systems for applications such as more electric transportation including passenger vehicles, trucks, heavy equipment, and aircraft," he said.

Mantooth opened the workshop,  speaking to the absence and necessity of a low-volume research and development prototyping tool in the United States. Presentations by experts in their fields included:

  • Impact of Silicon Carbide on Applications, John Palmour, Wolfspeed
  • High Production Silicon Carbide Manufacturing & Economic Impact, Thomas White, XFAB
  • Small Business Impact of Low-Volume Prototyping, Matt Francis, Ozark Integrated Circuits
  • Considerations Running an Existing Low-Volume Silicon Carbide Prototyping Fab, Carl-Mikael Zetterling, KTH Stockholm
  • Silicon Carbide Research Beyond Power MOSFETs: How Do We Make It Happen?, John Shen, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Operating Fabrication Facilities in a U.S. University Setting, Paul Braun, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Projections for the Silicon Carbide and GaN Power Electronics Markets, Isik Kizilyalli, ARPAe
  • Silicon Carbide Equipment Directions, Patrick Schmid, Centrotherm
  • Considerations for Silicon Carbide Fab Facility Development, Ulrike Grossner, ETH Zurich
  • Opportunities for Silicon Carbide Development, Jin-Ho Seo, Analog Devices
  • Prototypes and Small Volume Fabrication of 4H-Silicon Carbide MOS-based technologies - Prospects and Challenges, Tobias Erlbacher, Fraunhofer Institute
  • Design and Fabrication of Silicon Carbide CMOS Integrated Circuits for High Temperature and Control Applications, Neil Goldsman, CoolCAD

Attendees split into two groups at the end of the first day to dive into deeper discussions regarding the need and impact of the proposed unique silicon carbide research facility. On day two, attendees were treated to a virtual tour of the High Density Electronics Center (HiDEC) and the labs in the Nanoscale Material Science and Engineering Building. HiDEC will house much of the silicon carbide fabrication lab equipment and the Nanoscale Material Science and Engineering building will complement and be a resource to the proposed lab.

Mantooth said there's a need in the United States for such a facility.

"The United States does not possess low-volume prototyping for epitaxial growth on silicon carbide wafers, integrated circuits, sensors or optoelectronics," he said. "This is a key need to help organizations prototype ideas before ramping up to current and future larger volume production facilities.  The absence of such a low-volume research and development prototyping tool limits the US research, product discovery, and fabrication community and forces such activity abroad, if it occurs at all. This is currently slowing progress on innovation of electronic systems nationwide."

For more information regarding the proposed silicon carbide fabrication laboratory, please contact Alan Mantooth, mantooth@uark.edu.

Contacts

Karin Alvarado, marketing and communication specialist
Department of Electrical Engineering
479-575-4958, karina@uark.edu

Nick DeMoss, director of communications
College of Engineering
479-575-5697, ndemoss@uark.edu

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