Increasing consumer power demand creates numerous challenges for ensuring reliable, stable power for all customers. Many energy generation technologies, particularly renewables, generate direct-current power that must be converted to alternating current before use.

High-frequency silicon carbide thyristors are expected to revolutionize grid infrastructure.

Power switches, known as thyristors, perform this conversion and are crucial to a reliable electricity grid. Current switches have been inefficient and require cooling efforts to ensure proper function.

New silicon carbide (SiC) thyristors developed by Sandia and GeneSiC offer 10× higher voltage, 100× faster switching frequencies, and much higher temperature operation when compared to conventional silicon-based thyristors—increasing power system efficiency and reliability. These packaged power devices are the world’s first commercially available high-voltage, -frequency, -current, and -temperature, single-chip SiC-based thyristors. They reduce the size and weight of existing next-generation smart-grid power electronics systems, leading to improved system efficiency for both economic and environmental benefits.

While creating the SiC-based thyristors, the Sandia team developed, implemented, and integrated

  • new design and fabrication techniques to support increased voltage ratings,
  • novel gate-anode designs for high-current devices, and
  • improved SiC fabrication processes.

Accurately characterizing devices with ultra-high operating ratings required that Sandia researchers establish advanced measurement techniques, circuits, and components and create a new soldering technology to allow wire-bondless packaging.

The world’s first commercially available high-voltage SiC-based power device is targeted for grid-tied solar inverters, wind-power inverters, and trigger control for pulsed-power weapon systems.

Read more about the Sandia; DOE Energy Storage Program; GeneSiC Semiconductor; and U.S. Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) partnership.