A Swedish innovation, known as HTCVD, makes it possible to produce high-quality silicon carbide (SiC). One of the inherent advantages is the high purity of the material produced. With the availability of high-quality silicon carbide guaranteed it would become possible to make electronic systems drastically more efficient, thus significantly reducing environmental impact and saving energy. The recently founded company Norstel AB will utilise this proprietary technology for industrial-scale manufacturing of SiC in a plant currently being constructed in Norrköping, Sweden.
The new method is the result of 10 years of intense efforts by a team of researchers at Linköping University, working together with ABB and the Finnish silicon wafer manufacturing company Okmetic. The project has been part of the significant Swedish national SiC programme, with financing from e.g. the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research and various European projects. Professor Erik Janzén, who has been in charge of the research at Linköping University, believes that the new method is a break-through technology that could lead to a paradigm shift in the areas of electronics and energy.
– The industry has been waiting for a method capable of providing high-quality silicon carbide on an industrial scale. These expectations will be fulfilled by HTCVD. Parallels can be drawn to what happened when silicon became industrially available in the 1950’s. High-quality silicon carbide will now become firmly established as a raw material for electronics, and a whole range of applications and processes in our society has the potential of becoming much more energy efficient, says Erik Janzén.
A Global Market
The method has been patented, and the recently founded company Norstel AB will commence SiC material manufacturing. The owners of Norstel are Okmetic Oyj, the management team and the Nordic venture capital companies Eqvitec, Northzone and Creandum, and. HSH Gudme Corporate Finance acted as the financial advisor. The Swedish government will, through the Swedish Energy Agency and VINNOVA, support the product development of Norstel with approximately 60 million SEK during the next three years. The total new investments in the operations of Norstel exceed 200 million SEK.
– The company’s new method, which has been developed in Sweden, is a very important technological innovation. It is a direct result of major Swedish investments in silicon carbide technology research and development. Silicon carbide is a material that not only gives new design rules for electronic devices, but also provides good opportunities to expand as a material supplier on a global market with good prospects for future growth. Therefore we strongly support this project, says Per Eriksson, Director General of VINNOVA.
– Silicon carbide enables the achievement to improve the efficiency within power and other electronic industries. Norstel is a good example on how different governmental authorities can act together with industry and universities to reach a common goal, says Thomas Korsfeldt, Director General of Swedish Energy Agency.
Product Development and Manufacturing to be Located in Norrköping, Sweden
Start-up of manufacturing will take place during 2006 in a plant being constructed in Norrköping, Sweden. The premises will be leased from Norrköpings Kommunala Fastighets AB (NKF).
Initially the company will employ about 50 people in manufacturing and advanced product development. A significant part of the manufacturing capacity has already been reserved, and the investment has met with great interest from companies working with a wide range of applications.
– Our goal is to gradually expand our operations as the high-quality silicon carbide supplier, as we see SiC expanding in a growing number of applications, says Asko Vehanen, CEO of Norstel.
A Revolution in Electronics
The basic material properties of silicon carbide make it a very suitable material for power and high frequency electronics, as well as high temperature electronics and sensors. Silicon carbide electronic devices are both small and efficient, thereby significantly reducing energy losses compared to the alternatives available today. HTCVD, the new method from Norstel, makes it possible, in a cost-efficient way, to obtain the high material quality required for large-scale introduction of these new devices.
Norstel is already working with several semiconductor device manufacturers and other companies located in Europe, USA and Asia.
Significant Savings in Energy and Reduced Environmental Impact
Applications involving conversion, transmission and management of power will be prime candidates for utilising silicon carbide semiconductor devices. Transmission losses can be significantly reduced, and at the same time household appliances and industrial systems designed around silicon carbide devices will consume less power. SiC devices can be used to e.g. make more of the energy produced in solar power modules and wind power stations reach the consumer, or to improve the performance of hybrid cars.
Silicon carbide is also used for producing light emitting diodes (LEDs), which is a product likely to lead the development towards a more efficient use of electric energy for illumination. Many companies are today engaged in the development of highly efficient high power LEDs, targeted to replace light bulbs and other currently used sources of illumination.
Product development at Norstel takes place in close collaboration with device manufacturers, thus aiming at solutions that quickly can be introduced on the market. The effects on our society, including energy savings and reduced environmental impact, can be truly significant on a global perspective.
Telecommunications and Radar
The high-quality silicon carbide from Norstel can also be used for high frequency devices. Electronic systems, such as mobile phone base stations and radar, can be made more efficient with reduced size.
– We have already obtained a major contract to deliver silicon carbide to a large project for a Western European Union new defensive radar system. The contract is with the Swedish Defense Materiel Administration (FMV), which is co-ordinating the Swedish part of the project. Norstel was the only European source of SiC high frequency material capable of meeting the stringent demands, says Asko Vehanen.