Silicon carbide (SiC), also known as carborundum /kɑrbəˈrʌndəm/, is a compound of silicon and carbon with chemical formula SiC. It occurs in nature as the extremely rare mineral moissanite. Silicon carbide powder has been mass-produced since 1893 for use as an abrasive. Grains of silicon carbide can be bonded together by sintering to form very hard ceramics that are widely used in applications requiring high endurance, such as car brakes, car clutches and ceramic plates in bulletproof vests. Electronic applications of silicon carbide as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and detectors in early radios were first demonstrated around 1907, and today SiC is used in semiconductor electronics applications that are high-temperature, or high-voltage, or both. Large single crystals of silicon carbide can be grown by the Lely method; they can be cut into gems known as synthetic moissanite. Silicon carbide with high surface area can be produced from SiO2 contained in plant material.
Silicon carbide exists in about 250 crystalline forms. The polymorphism of SiC is characterized by a large family of similar crystalline structures called polytypes. They are variations of the same chemical compound that are identical in two dimensions and differ in the third. Thus, they can be viewed as layers stacked in a certain sequence.
Alpha silicon carbide (α-SiC) is the most commonly encountered polymorph; it is formed at temperatures greater than 1700 °C and has a hexagonal crystal structure (similar to Wurtzite). The beta modification (β-SiC), with a zinc blende crystal structure (similar to diamond), is formed at temperatures below 1700 °C. Until recently, the beta form has had relatively few commercial uses, although there is now increasing interest in its use as a support for heterogeneous catalysts, owing to its higher surface area compared to the alpha form.
Pure SiC is colorless. The brown to black color of industrial product results from iron impurities. The rainbow-like luster of the crystals is caused by a passivation layer of silicon dioxide that forms on the surface.
The high sublimation temperature of SiC (approximately 2700 °C) makes it useful for bearings and furnace parts. Silicon carbide does not melt at any known pressure. It is also highly inert chemically. There is currently much interest in its use as a semiconductor material in electronics, where its high thermal conductivity, high electric field breakdown strength and high maximum current density make it more promising than silicon for high-powered devices. SiC also has a very low coefficient of thermal expansion (4.0 × 10−6/K) and experiences no phase transitions that would cause discontinuities in thermal expansion.
Download Matarial Data Sheet: SiC Material Data Sheet
Photogallery of SiC