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Information @ a Glance

General

  • Silicon Carbide is the only chemical compound of carbon and silicon. It was originally produced by a high temperature electro-chemical reaction of sand and carbon.
  • Silicon carbide is an excellent abrasive and has been produced and made into grinding wheels.
  • Silicon carbide is composed of tetrahedra of carbon and silicon atoms with strong bonds in the crystal lattice. This produces a very hard and strong material.
  •  SiC also has a very low coefficient of thermal expansion and experiences no phase transitions that would cause discontinuities in thermal expansion.

Application

  • Silicon carbide dissolved in a basic oxygen furnace used for making steel acts as a fuel and provides energy which increases the scrap to hot metal ratio.
  • Silicon carbide is often used as a layer of the TRISO coating for the nuclear fuel elements of high temperature gas cooled reactors or very high temperature reactors such as the Pebble Bed Reactor.
  • Silicon-infiltrated carbon-carbon composite is used for high performance brake discs as it is able to withstand extreme temperatures. These discs are used on some sports cars, including the Porsche Carrera GT.
  • Silicon carbide is used for blue LEDs, ultrafast, high-voltage Schottky diodes, MOSFETs and high temperature thyristors for high-power switching.

Process

  • Silicon carbide (SiC) is manufactured in a resistance arc furnace charged with a mixture of approximately 60 percent silica sand and 40 percent finely ground petroleum coke.
  • A small amount of sawdust is added to the mix to increase its porosity so that the carbon monoxide gas formed during the process can escape freely. Common salt is added to the mix to promote the carbon-silicon reaction and to remove impurities in the sand and coke.
  • During the heating period, the furnace core reaches approximately 2200C (4000F), at which point a large portion of the load crystallizes.
  • At the end of the run, the furnace contains a core of loosely knit silicon carbide crystals surrounded by unreacted or partially reacted raw materials. The silicon carbide crystals are removed to begin processing into abrasive grains.

Market

  • U.S. silicon carbide production increased about 10% during 2004 to an estimated 35,000 tons, and the value of production increased about 28% to an estimated $21.5 million.
  • The U.S. imported crude silicon carbide from eight countries and imported ground and refined silicon carbide from 21 countries.
  • Imports of crude silicon carbide increased by 18% during the year to 163,000 tons valued at $69.3 million. Imports of silicon carbide in ground or refined form increased 49% to 45,300 tons valued at $49.9 million.
  • China accounted for 57% of the crude silicon carbide imports and 36% of the ground and refined silicon carbide.
     

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