Industrial applications of diamonds are widespread including use in power electronics and management. But a new innovation in Industrial diamonds is all set to revolutionize the renewable solar energy space. General Electric (GE) team is using a new material – Silicon Carbide (SiC), a combination of diamonds and Silicon, in chips to build highly efficient inverters that can switch Direct Current (DC) produced by solar cells into Alternating Current (AC).
Danielle Merfeld, Global Technology Director for Electrical Technologies at GE Global Research says “This material stands to revolutionize power electronics”. By combining the best features of diamonds and properties of silicon, which are found in almost all electronics equipment, Silicon Carbide can give a big push to the Solar Energy market.
Size of 1MW inverter, capable of servicing 500 homes, can be reduced by 35% by using SiC. Besides, DC to AC conversion can be made around 1% more efficient, resulting in less power losses, less heat generation and replacing the need of complex water cooling systems by more simpler, reliable and cheaper air cooling systems.
GE has already installed and is using the 1st prototype of the SiC inverter, switching solar energy from DC to AC at its Berlin plant. Though the process of creating SiC is complicated and tedious, technology and IP transfer, valued at USD 100 million, to a consortium that includes GE, New York state, the SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and other industry players, will enable to commercialize the technology. The consortium is building a shared fabrication plant to produce Silicon Carbide power devices on six-inch wafers.
Use of industrial diamonds for Silicon Carbide material is very important in the ever-growing solar energy sector, especially considering the recent development in Germany where solar power was able to meet 100% peak load. Apart from GE, many other players are also focusing on advancement of SiC, given diamonds are the world’s hardest substance. A world’s leading single crystal SiC substrates and CVD grown diamond materials supplier – ‘II-VI Advanced Materials’, recently showcased the world’s first 200 mm diameter SiC wafer at two conferences in Sweden.