A method to make virtually perfect crystals of silicon carbide could revolutionize the electronics industry. The technique may pave the way for tougher and more efficient circuits.
Silicon carbide (SiC) is much better than silicon at carrying current in an electronic circuit, so it could potentially reduce the amount of energy wasted in every electronic device in the home or office. It can also operate at much higher temperatures, meaning that silicon carbide-based sensors could even monitor jet engines from the inside.
Scientists have long recognized the potential of silicon carbide to replace silicon chips, but until now it has proved tricky to make sufficiently large crystals without introducing defects that interfere with reliability. These defects are tiny tunnels that run through the centimetre-sized crystals, effectively short-circuiting them and rendering them useless for electronics applications.