Silicon carbide (SiC) is an interesting material that has found applications in a variety of industries. The two best-known applications of this material are its use as an abrasive material and its more recent use as a wide bandgap semiconductor for high-power, high-temperature electronic devices. The high hardness of this material, known for many years, led to its use in machining tools and in other structural applications.
The usage of SiC in semiconductor devices only became possible in the last twenty years, when commercially available SiC single crystals became available. Thin films and nanoparticles of SiC are still rare, but monolithic SiC and composites containing SiC have been available for much longer.
The most common forms of SiC include powders, fibers, whiskers, coatings, and single crystals. There are several methods to produce SiC depending on the product form desired and its application. The purity of the product imposes certain restrictions on the selection of the method of production.
Silicon carbide powders are produced predominantly via the traditional Acheson method where a reaction mixture of green petroleum coke and sand is heated to 2500°C using two large graphite electrodes.
SiC fibers are produced via the pyrolysis of organosilicon polymers, such as polycarbosilane, and are commercially available.
SiC whiskers, which are nearly single crystals, are produced (grown) using different methods, including the heating of coked rice hulls, the reaction of silanes, the reaction of silica and carbon, and the sublimation of SiC powder.
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