NASA Glenn Onsite SiC Research
NASA Glenn (known as NASA Lewis prior to 1999) has long been a leading driver of SiC technology, as it was one of the first U.S. Government agencies to fund and carry out SiC research work. The core SiC research team was founded around 1980 by NASA Glenn Hall of Fame inductee J. Anthony Powell. Over the years, NASA Glenn research team has contributed a number of significant discoveries to the emerging high-technology silicon carbide field. These discoveries include:
- First large-area epitaxial growth of silicon carbide on silicon wafers (1982).
- First kilovolt (1991) and multi-kilovolt (1993) SiC rectifier devices.
- Site competition effect widely utilized for SiC dopant control (1993).
- Identification of micropipes as crystal defects that limit the performance of SiC power devices (1993).
- First semiconductor logic gate operation at 600 °C (1996)
- First SiC ohmic contacts stable for 1000 hours at 600 °C in air (2000).
- First Semiconductor Integrated Circuits to Operate for Thousands of Hours at 500 °C (2007).
- First Electronics to Function for Weeks in Venus Surface Atmospheric Conditions (2016).
- First Semiconductor Integrated Circuits to Operate Above 900 °C (2017).
- First Medium-Scale Integrated Circuits to Operate Over a Year at 500 °C (2018).
Sponsored Offsite SiC Research
NASA Glenn sponsored research (through contracts to industry and grants to universities) has also resulted in a number of pioneering advancements in silicon carbide technology. For example, NASA Glenn (named NASA Lewis at the time) sponsored the early stages of SiC power MOSFET development at Cree in the early 1990’s under NASA Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. Cree/Wolfspeed is now recognized as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of SiC power MOSFETs that are enabling higher-efficiency power conversion and management circuits.
Today, the Smart Sensors and Electronics Systems Branch remains in a unique position to make crucial advancements to silicon carbide technology. The continuing importance and relevance of NASA Glenn SiC research is reflected in the strong support of our research customers and collaborators. The NASA Glenn SiC team is also collaborating with the NASA Glenn Chemical Species Gas Sensors team towards developing hostile-environment SiC-based gas sensors.