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Silicon Carbide News

Because of the rarity of natural moissanite, most silicon carbide is synthetic. It is used as an abrasive, and more recently as a semiconductor and diamond simulant of gem quality. The simplest manufacturing process is to combine silica sand and carbon in an Acheson graphite electric resistance furnace at a high temperature, between 1,600   C (2,910   F) and 2,500   C (4,530   F). Fine SiO2 particles in plant material (e.g. rice husks) can be converted to SiC by heating in the excess carbon from the organic material.[15] The silica fume, which is a byproduct of producing silicon metal and ferrosilicon alloys, also can be converted to SiC by heating with graphite at 1,500   C (2,730   F).[16]

Synthetic SiC crystals ~3 mm in diameter

Synthetic SiC Lely crystals

The material formed in the Acheson furnace varies in purity, according to its distance from thegraphite resistor heat source. Colorless, pale yellow and green crystals have the highest purity and are found closest to the resistor. The color changes to blue and black at greater distance from the resistor, and these darker crystals are less pure. Nitrogen and aluminium are common impurities, and they affect the electrical conductivity of SiC.[17]

Pure silicon carbide can be made by the so-called Lely process,[18] in which SiC powder is sublimated into high-temperature species of silicon, carbon, silicon dicarbide (SiC2), and disilicon carbide (Si2C) in an argon gas ambient at 2500   C and redeposited into flake-like single crystals,[19] sized up to 2  2 cm, at a slightly colder substrate. This process yields high-quality single crystals, mostly of 6H-SiC phase (because of high growth temperature). A modified Lely process involving induction heating in graphite crucibles yields even larger single crystals of 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter, having a section 81 times larger compared to the conventional Lely process.[20] Cubic SiC is usually grown by the more expensive process of chemical vapor deposition (CVD).[17][21]Homoepitaxial and heteroepitaxial SiC layers can be grown employing both gas and liquid phase approaches.[22] Pure silicon carbide can also be prepared by the thermal decomposition of a polymer, poly(methylsilyne), under an inert atmosphere at low temperatures. Relative to the CVD process, the pyrolysis method is advantageous because the polymer can be formed into various shapes prior to thermalization into the ceramic.[23][24][25]


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