While traditional power management chips are made from silicon, which is also used in the microchips that power computers and phones, Wolfspeed uses a relatively new material called silicon carbide to make its chips. Wolfspeed is considered a leader in this technology and is said to produce more than 60% of the world’s silicon carbide.
Silicon carbide power chips have become popular among electric car manufacturers because they can handle higher voltages and are more energy efficient. Wolfspeed said industry analysts estimate these chips will account for more than 20% of the power semiconductor market by 2027, up from just 5% today.
The plant, which will be completed by 2030, will be the world’s largest silicon carbide materials facility, the company said. The plant’s silicon carbide wafers will initially be used for Wolfspeed’s proprietary chip manufacturing needs.
Earlier this year, Wolfspeed opened the world’s first 200mm silicon carbide manufacturing facility in New York’s Mohawk Valley and is exploring sites for another larger facility, Wolfspeed Chief Technology Officer John Balmore told Reuters. Other chip manufacturers use smaller wafers. In general, the larger the scale, the more advanced the manufacturing technology.
Palmer said the new materials plant is a 40-minute drive from the company’s existing plants in North Carolina. “This will ultimately allow us to increase our capacity to produce silicon carbide wafers by a factor of 13,” he said.
The first phase of the plant, planned for 2024, will have an investment of about $ 2 billion and the total investment will reach $ 5 billion, Palmer said.
He added that Wolfspeed will apply for a federal grant related to the recently passed CHIPS and Science Act.
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