Partnership supports switch to energy efficient tech

A test SiC wafer with fabricated Schottky diodes, which are small semiconductor devices or one-way electronic switches.

A $1.3million research collaboration led by Griffith University and Queensland Semiconductor Technology Pty. Ltd. (Questsemi), supported by Semefab Scotland and the Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC) is looking at the manufacture and performance of SiC Schottky diodes, a key element in many power conversion systems.

Silicon carbide (SiC) Schottky diodes are small semiconductor devices or one-way electronic switches.

Fabrication of silicon carbide Schottky diodes in the QMF semiconductor cleanroom by Dr Daniel Haasmann.

Due to their incredible thermal conductivity, high switching performance and efficiency, they are highly sought-after for applications like solar inverters, motor drives, electric vehicle (EV) chargers and uninterruptable power supplies.

Using SiC wafers, researchers at the Queensland Microtechnology Facility (QMF) of Queensland Micro-and Nanotechnology Centre (QMNC) at Griffith University, have developed a new technology that allows for more efficient and low-cost fabrication of SiC diodes.

As part of the research project, a pilot production facility will be set up at QMF to support the commercialisation of the technology. Devices necessary for the initial commercial product supply will be manufactured there.

Professor Sima Dimitrijev, who leads the research team, says the development and pilot manufacture of SiC-based diodes at QMF is a great example of advanced-manufacturing collaboration.

“We are working with local manufacturers, which enables Questsemi not only to fast-track commercialisation but also to design and manufacture semiconductor devices that meet local demand for applications such as EV battery chargers, drones, solar inverters, industrial motor drives, and high-frequency power converters,” Professor Dimitrijev said.

“Manufacturing SiC diodes is complex and generally associated with high capital investment,” David Fletcher, Director at Questsemi, explained.

Dr Philip Tanner working with silicon carbide Schottky diodes in the QMF semiconductor cleanroom.

“Unlike other SiC diode manufacturing processes, the technology developed by Griffith researchers uses steps that are common to standard Si wafer processing and thus dramatically simplifies the manufacturing process and associated costs.”

“With the funding support of IMCRC, we are able to trial production and accelerate the commercialisation of the new SiC technology which is set to improve the overall cost of semiconductor devices used in energy efficient technologies,” he said.

The insights and advancements made throughout the project, will help Questsemi transition to volume manufacture of SiC Schottky diodes — locally and overseas.

IMCRC Innovation Manufacturing Manager, Dr Matthew Young said Questsemi’s collaboration with Griffith University demonstrates what is possible when a business research partnership sets out to push technological boundaries to solve unmet industry needs.

Schottky wafer

“SiC Schottky diodes play an important role in the semiconductor value chain, a sector often described as global engine for technology, economic and social progress,” he said.

“Questsemi and Griffith University’s SiC technology will have a flow-on effect in the design, prototyping and fabrication of other semiconductor devices, creating new business opportunities for Australia.

“With IMCRC activate funding, we are able to fast track the commercial translation of this semiconductor research into next-generation energy efficient technologies.”

Professor Nam-Trung Nguyen

Professor Nam-Trung Nguyen, Director of QMNC at Griffith University, said the project was an example of ongoing translational research activities with direct commercial impact.

“We have a strategic line-up of projects from fundamental research to commercial development that ensures rapid transfer of technologies developed at our centre to industry partners,” he said.

“We have been hosting three projects with IMCRC, which provides an ideal platform to our impact strategy toward end user benefits.”