Driving Innovation with SOCRATES: Introducing SiC and GaN trench processing technologies

This thought piece explores DER-IC partner CSconnected's SOCRATES project (Silicon Carbide transistor trench process) and the work undertaken through the project to introduce silicon carbide (SiC) and Gallium Nitride (GaN) trench processing technologies to the UK.

This has helped to establish a critical capability into the Power Electronics, Machines and Drives (PEMD) supply chain for power transistors.

This project was funded by UKRI Driving the Electric Revolution through the Catalysing Green Innovation competition and is a partnership between:

  • CSconnected

  • SPTS Technologies (now KLA)

  • Swansea University

  • Newport Wafer Fab

  • The Compound Semiconductor Centre

What is silicon technology?

You may be familiar with Silicon Valley, a household name that refers to the valley's semiconductor industry in California, home to many of the world's largest innovators and manufacturers specialising in silicon-based devices. In fact, silicon technology has been the backbone of the electronics revolution from the 1960s and has been used in just about everything’s that’s digitised our lives over the last few decades.

However, silicon based chips are reaching performance limitations and modern applications need advanced manufacturing technology that can’t be achieved with silicon alone.

Introducing Compound Semiconductors

Compound semiconductors have superior properties to silicon by delivering performance improvements in power, speed, latency and signal quality and are already at the heart of novel technologies like 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), creating new offerings for the consumer market and industries by bringing everyone and everything together.

Wales is home to the first compound semiconductor community centred around a strong industrial base of global semiconductor businesses including IQE and Microchip, backed by world-class academic expertise at Cardiff and Swansea Universities and at the heart of many devices.

Power Electronics, Machines and Drives (PEMD) is a perfect example of the many applications in which compound semiconductors are set to become ubiquitous with the increasing demand for high-performance devices, from power and energy through to communications and quantum technologies. CSconnected is part of exciting projects that supports the UK in becoming globally recognised as a centre of excellence in PEMD manufacturing processes.

SOCRATES: Aims and Objectives

The SOCRATES project demonstrates how collaborative effort from CSconnected, the world’s first semiconductor community, has enabled new cutting-edge, high-volume opportunities to be developed.

The project partners are working collaboratively to introduce advanced trench processing technologies to the UK, establishing a critical capability into the PEMD supply chain for power transistors. The project is defining the critical semiconductor manufacturing processing steps required for introducing a disruptive SiC power MOSFET supply chain for automotive power electronics to the UK. A MOSFET is a metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor with an insulated trench gate, where the voltage determines the conductivity of the device. It is used for switching or amplifying signals.

The project has reached milestones to establish an industrial trench etch process for SiC and GaN power devices, putting the UK on equal footing with the EU, Japan and the USA.

Find out more
  • Read the SOCRATES flyer

  • Download the Poster: Introducing Foundry-Compatible SiC and GaN Trench Processing Technologies for Reliable Automotive Application

Introducing Foundry-Compatible SiC and GaN Trench Processing Technologies for Reliable Aut
Download • 754KB

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