Silicon carbide enhances energy efficiency
Nanowerk News, February 18, 2015
The objective of the new cooperation project “MMPSiC” is to significantly enhance the efficiency of power supplies for industrial processes and, hence, to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emission. Under this project, researchers of the Light Technology Institute (LTI) of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), in cooperation with their industrial partners TRUMPF Hüttinger and IXYS Semiconductor, study the use of high power silicon carbide semiconductor switches. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Research with EUR 800,000.
From the production of semiconductor to coating of displays to processes in automobile manufacturing: Many industrial processes consume large amounts of electrical energy. Among them are also processes playing an important role for the transformation of the German energy system, such as floating zone melting processes to produce highly pure crystalline materials like silicon. By this process, the basic material is molten electrically within a very small zone. By moving the melting zone, the material crystallizes purer than before. Amongst others, this is used for the production of highly pure monocrystalline silicon for solar cells.
So far, power supplies of floating zone systems are tube-based amplifiers with a maximum electrical efficiency of 65%. If they were replaced by power semiconductors made of silicon carbide, efficiency of power supplies would be increased to well over 80%. So power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced significantly. For example, a single large-scale floating zone reactor, consisting of twenty 50 kW process power supplies with an annual operating time of 4800 hours, would lead to a reduction of electrical energy by more than 200,000 kWh and produce 109 tons of CO2 less (Federal Environmental Agency Germany, July 2013).