What are the Electrical Properties of Silicon Nitride?

Providing an exceptional combination of mechanical and thermal properties, silicon nitride (Si3N4) is one of the most advanced engineering ceramics on the market. Every member of the Si3N4 ceramic family consists of a densely-packed atomic arrangement of high-strength intra-structural covalent bonds of silicon (Si) and nitrogen (N).


Image Credit: International Syalons

This arrangement provides the foundation for the material’s high thermal and mechanical performance, in addition to fascinating electrical properties that can be personalized for specific applications.

In relation to their electrical properties, ceramics are frequently overlooked due to their favorable ability to withstand corrosion, abrasion, and extreme heat. Nevertheless, the electrical conductivity and resistance of a ceramic can be equally as critical, but is dependent on the machining requirements and the end-product operating circumstances. Among ceramics, its electrical properties make Si3N4 unique.

A Ceramic’s Electrical Properties and Why They are Important

Silicon semiconductors lead the electrical and energy generation industry, with a changing resistivity that allows electrical currents to move selectively through the material. Organic photovoltaics (OPVs) convert solar energy into electricity via an electronic junction and this behavior has been instrumental in the manufacture OPVs. However, to reveal these unique electrical properties, silicon must be doped with pentavalent or trivalent atoms.

Due to its semiconducting nature, silicon is the ideal base material for an extensive range of alloys in the electronics industry. For refractory and mechanical applications, its resistivity can be increased to basically eradicate its electrical conductance. This enables the usage of Si3N4 alloys in the production of complex components such as wind turbines, motors, and bearings in electrical generation units.

This enhanced resistance to electrical current lessens the possibility for any faults due to the propagation of stray electrical transfer through the material.

What is Electrical Conductivity/Resistance?

Electrical resistance is stated in Ohms (Ω cm), a value that controls how readily an electrical current can flow through a material. Ohns law is what this measurement is based on and it states that a voltage (V) will flow in an electrical current (I) between two connected points except if it is limited by factors such as the nature of the propagating material. Therefore, when under distinct temperature conditions, resistance is equal to the charge resisted across a material of known length.


Image Credit: International Syalons

Si3N4 is an exceptional insulator of electricity, providing support for comprehensive resistance to electrical charge propagation across short lengths and material cross-sections. International Syalons boasts a high electrical resistance of 1012 Ω cm across each of the Si3N4 grades available, with the exception of Syalon 501.

Syalon 501 was intentionally engineered to allow electrical conductivity, allowing this innovative Si3N4 product to be suitable for electro-discharge machining (EDM). This signifies a low electrical resistivity (7.2 x 10-4 Ω cm), preventing its use in some electronics applications. However, it does enable the production of intricate components from high corrosion-resistant materials, which supports the production of molds for metal and plastic forming.

Whether it is conceived as an insulator or conductor, the electrical resistivity of Si3N4 is an important principle in its mechanical and thermal performance.

Si3N4 from International Syalons

The first company to engineer a proprietary Si3N4 product for commercial applications was International Syalons. In years since then, they have expanded their product range and have included innovative solutions for challenging applications.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by International Syalons.

For more information on this source, please visit International Syalons.


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