For all its fine qualities, silicon carbide has been a difficult material to master. One of the biggest hurdles to its widespread use in power electronics has been in wafer manufacturing. When engineers first started working with the material in the 1970s, they struggled to grow large single crystals of the stuff—the silicon and carbon atoms had a habit of combining with one another to form a hodgepodge of different crystalline structures.
Over the years, researchers succeeded in creating larger and larger single-crystal wafers. And in 1991, a few years after the company was founded, Cree released the first commercially available SiC wafers. They were just an inch across and used mostly for research, but it was a start. Since then Cree and other manufacturers, including Dow Corning, SiCrystal, TankeBlue, and II-VI, have made steady progress in boosting the size of the wafers; these days 4-inch SiC wafers are common, and 6-inch wafers are on the horizon. A larger wafer size means that more devices can be built on each wafer, which drives down device costs.
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