In an advance that could lead to lighter spacecraft and smarter cars, researchers have developed a new technique for producing a high-quality semiconductor that’s much more resistant to extreme conditions than the silicon found in most of today’s electronics.Devices built with the rugged material would not require cooling and other protections that add size, weight and cost to traditional silicon electronics in power systems, jet engines, rockets, wireless transmitters and other equipment exposed to harsh environments.
And because the material – silicon carbide – can be made with fewer flaws than ever before, more reliable and more complex electronics can be built with it, according to the Japanese researchers who reported their findings in Thursday’s journal Nature.In fact, the discovery paves the way for commercial adoption of the material that’s stymied engineers for decades, said Roland Madar, a physics professor at the National Polytechnic Institute in Grenoble, France, in a commentary accompanying the research.
“These results are spectacular: The … process is a major innovation in materials science,” he said. “Silicon carbide has become, at last, a contender for silicon’s crown.”Still, the Japanese researchers, led by Daisuke Nakamura of Toyota Central R&D Laboratories Inc., believe practical uses are at least six years away, said Masato Kimura, a spokesman for the lab based in Aichi, Japan.
News source: Forbes