Silicon Carbide More than Disruptive to the Data Center Industry

Aug 3, 2017
by Josh Anderson

TORONTO, CANADA — A disruptive technology is one that ends the life of a technology in favor of a new life. Many in the industry remember 50-60 years ago, silicon disrupted the utility of vacuum tubes, which are gone from the market today. However, we’re now seeing silicon itself become disrupted with the advent of something called Silicon Carbide.

“If you’re an existing data center and you want to replace some older UPS, you want to look at silicon carbide technology,” says Anthony Pinkey, Business Development Manager for UPS, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc., who provided CapRate with a bit of a primer on this new technology.

Anthony Pinkey, Business Development Manager for UPS, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc

According to Pinkey, silicon carbide is replacing silicon in just about everything we do. “Every place we use silicon, it’s being replaced. Now here’s the thing about silicon and silicon carbide,” he says. “The way that electricity works – how you make electricity – is you move electrons from atom to atom, into a conduction band across these atoms. For the last 50 years, silicon was the best material to move those electrons. But now we’re hearing about what’s called wide band gap material. Wide band material has to do with the empty band between atoms, and how these electrons cross that band.”

Pinkey says that in silicon carbide, the band is wider, and the material is different. “One atom of silicon and one atom of carbide creates a material that is much harder,” says Pinkey. “It can operate at nearly twice the voltage of silicon. It can operate at three times the temperature of silicon. We all know that it’s all about heat, right? So in moving the electrons to create electricity, it’s a semi-conductor that creates the electricity. So we have the semi-conductor creating a wave with this new material.”

In short, this new material is much more efficient than silicon. “We’re looking at UPS’s that have an efficiency at 25% load in excess of 98%. That’s double conversion!” Pinkey exclaims. “And as you go from 25% load to 100% load, it stays above 98%. So we’re looking at a tremendous increase in double conversion and efficiency.”

According to Pinkey, because of the nature of the beast that is silicon carbide, you can do more things with it. “You need less of a control circuitry. The filters get much smaller. The size of the UPS is reduced by 25%. So you have more efficiency, a reduction in size, and how about heat loss?” he asks. “At 100% load, it’s 40% less heat loss than your typical UPS. At 75% load, it’s 50% less loss. So we’re looking at a tremendous innovation that’s here today.”

From the sounds of it, silicon carbide is not just here today – it’s here to stay.

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