Silicon Carbide (SiC), often recognized as carborundum, is an exceedingly hard compound made up of silicon and carbon. This compound presents itself as an ideal solution for a myriad of applications due to its extreme resistance to wear, chemicals, and corrosion. Its superior properties, including low density, low thermal expansion, excellent chemical resistance, high thermal shock resistance, high wear and hardness resistance, high strength, high-temperature resistance, and high-temperature strength, make it an excellent choice for a diverse range of industries.
Silicon Carbide: A Brief Historical Overview
Silicon carbide has a rich history dating back to the 19th century. Edward Acheson, an American inventor, is credited for the commercial development of man-made silicon carbide in 1890. He formulated a process, now known as the Acheson process, which continues to be the primary method for producing silicon carbide today.
The Silicon Carbide Manufacturing Process
The process of manufacturing silicon carbide can be divided into two main steps. The first step involves the production of SiC crude, which generally includes SiC lumps with a diameter of 3/8 inch or more. Following this, the silicon carbide crude is crushed and graded into finished sizes of grains and powders for sale to customers.
Silicon Carbide in Nature
Interestingly, silicon carbide is also found in nature. However, its natural occurrence is extremely rare and is found in minute quantities in certain types of meteorite, corundum deposits, and kimberlite. The silicon carbide found in space and in meteorites is almost exclusively the beta-polymorph.
Breakthrough in Silicon Carbide Manufacturing
The breakthrough in silicon carbide manufacturing came when the Carborundum Company, which was acquired by Washington Mills in 1986, started the manufacture of silicon carbide. This acquisition included a silicon carbide processing plant in Niagara Falls, New York.
Properties of Silicon Carbide
Silicon carbide is an extremely hard compound, rating 9.1 on the Mohs scale, and has a high thermal conductivity rating of 100 W/m-K. It is harder than aluminum oxide and has a blocky grain, which breaks down into sharp splinters.
Wide-scale Production of Silicon Carbide
One of the major contributors to the wide-scale production of silicon carbide was the invention of the electric batch furnace by Edward Goodrich Acheson. The furnace was used to manufacture bulk SiC, initially for use as an abrasive.
Applications of Silicon Carbide
Silicon carbide powder has a multitude of uses. Its hardness and heat resistance make it an ideal material for use in abrasive machining processes such as grinding, honing, water-jet cutting, and sandblasting. Silicon carbide is also used in structural applications, such as in composite armor and in ceramic plates in bulletproof vests.
Silicon Carbide in Electronics
Silicon carbide has been a game-changer in the world of electronics. It is used in semiconductor electronics devices that operate at high temperatures or high voltages, or both. Silicon carbide powder was the first commercially important semiconductor material and continues to be used in power electronics.
Future Possibilities with Silicon Carbide
The future of silicon carbide looks promising. With continuous research and development, silicon carbide is finding new applications and possibilities. As our need for high-powered devices grows, the importance of silicon carbide in our day-to-day life is only set to increase.