Development of silicon carbide plasma etch processes for next generation power electronics

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: School of Engineering

Abstract

The Research Engineer will develop new processes for plasma etching of Silicon Carbide (SiC) and develop new applications in Power Electronic based on SiC devices.

The market for SiC power devices is set to grow exponentially - driven by the electric vehicles market. The trend in terms of hybrid (HEV) / battery electric vehicle (BEV) powertrains is to push the DC voltage to beyond 600V, utilising high battery capacity systems. The purpose here is to reduce the demanding cabling requirements currently hampering electric vehicle performance. Beyond 600V, the only viable power semiconductor device option that can achieve the required efficiency levels is SiC. SiC power MOSFETs will be used within the main inverter powertrain, including a DC boost converter stage if required. Moreover, these higher voltage electric vehicle sales are set to reach 18 million by 2023. When one considers that this represents 16.2% of total global vehicle sales, the market relevance becomes obviously apparent.

The Research Engineer will develop process technology for SiC devices, plasma dicing and new mask coatings. Robust coatings are required for etch-mask materials to pattern and etch trench structures in SiC wafers. These material coatings could be polymers, dielectrics or metals. These coatings will be deposited using SPTS tools for testing. Mask coating development will include conformal dielectric (SPTS MVD system). These coatings will also be trialled for contact pad and gate structures. Further processes will be developed to fabricate metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) in SiC. Novel SiC trench MOSFET designs will be investigated. SiC trench MOSFETs are seen as the future of SiC power devices, with the reduced device pitch enabling a greater number of devices per unit area and thus, enabling lower cost. The challenge is to minimise sidewall microtrenching and striation through efficient mask coatings and process control.

These SiC Power devices will be tested for high voltage applications such as high-efficiency inverters in DC/AC converters for solar/wind power supplies and electric/hybrid vehicles power conversion.

The Research Engineer will work with the APS SPTS Technologies dielectric etch tool to develop plasma etch recipes to produce vertical side walls. Etch processes will also be investigated further to develop a deep etch process for SiC plasma dicing. Plasma dicing is a signature process for SPTS's silicon etch tools, but dicing technology has not been fully developed for SiC. The future of power electronic devices will require SiC plasma dicing processes to decrease die size and increase fabrication flexibility.

The challenges for this project will be the development of the masking material, which needs to maintain high resolution features and survive the intense plasma etch process. Additionally, developing a high power etch process that can etch through SiC at high rates (1 micrometre /minute) whilst maintaining vertical (and smooth trench walls). This will be important for both the development of power devices and the plasma dicing process.

The outcomes of the proposed research are multiple and include (i) creating new masking materials for high power vacuum etch tools, (ii) developing new plasma processes for deep SiC etching for both trench and plasma dicing application (iii) characterising new power electronic devices for high voltage applications based on SiC materials.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S02252X/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2028
2441670 Studentship EP/S02252X/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Ben Jones