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The NASA Glenn Sensors and Electronics Branch is developing silicon carbide (SiC) as a material for advanced semiconductor electronic device applications. SiC-based electronics and sensors can operate in hostile environments (600 C = 1112 F GLOWING RED HOT!) where conventional silicon-based electronics (limited to 350 C) cannot function. Silicon carbide's ability to function in high temperature, high power, and high radiation conditions will enable large performance enhancements to a wide variety of systems and applications.

The circular heating element and 5 x 5 mm square SiC chip are both glowing red-hot. The diode being tested electrolumenesces blue light when forward biased. SiC devices have repeatedly demonstrated proper operation at temperatures as high as 650 C. Silicon-based semiconductor electronics cannot function at these temperatures.
Clean Room
SiC Research at NASA Glenn

To meet the needs of the applications mentioned above, the High Temperature Integrated Electronics and Sensors Program at the Glenn Research Center is developing SiC as a high temperature semiconductor material. Research in NASA's world-class SiC laboratory is focused on developing the base crystal growth and device fabrication technologies necessary to produce a family of SiC electronic devices and circuits.
The SiC Advantage

The large performance gains made possible by SiC's high-temperature high-power capabilities offer economically large performance benefits to the aircraft, automotive, communications, power, and spacecraft industries.The tremendous advantages of SiC electronics in these specific applications are slowly becoming a reality. SiC's immature crystal growth and device fabrication technologies are being developed, but they are not yet sufficiently developed to the degree required for reliable system incorporation. Developing and maturing SiC technology to the point that it is ready for widespread system insertion is the focus of increasingly intense research efforts at laboratories around the world.