Penn State Partners with Morgan Advanced Materials for Advancements in Silicon Carbide Technology

Penn State Partners with Morgan Advanced Materials for Advancements in Silicon Carbide Technology

The Pennsylvania State University and Morgan Advanced Materials have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to catalyze research and development of silicon carbide, known as SiC, a semiconductor material that operates more efficiently at high voltages than competing technologies. This agreement includes a new five-year, multimillion-dollar initiative and a commitment by Morgan to become a founding member of the recently launched Penn State Silicon Carbide Innovation Alliance, as well as to supply the graphite materials and solutions needed for SiC development to Penn State for use by internal and external partners.

The initiative is a coalition of industry leaders, academic institutions and government support led by Joshua Robinson, professor of materials science and engineering and acting associate dean for research in Penn State’s College of Earth and Minerals Sciences.

“We are very excited to have Morgan as a founding member in the initiative as partnerships like this will maximize our impact in next-generation SiC crystal research and workforce development,” Robinson said.  

The MOU outlines how the partners aim to advance carbon research and evaluate how Morgan’s carbon material product impacts SiC wafer fabrication. SiC wafers are a semiconductor material that is increasingly important in the global transition to greener energy infrastructure and surging demand for semiconductors, as demonstrated by the bipartisan support for the CHIPS for America Act. Traditionally, semiconductor devices have been manufactured from silicon. Silicon carbide is made from tightly arranged silicon and carbon atoms that enable superior performance in a wide range of high-voltage applications, such as high-speed charging stations and power converters in electric vehicles.    

Silicon carbide crystals are grown at extreme temperatures - greater than 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit - in a physical vapor transport (PVT) furnace that utilizes a significant amount of carbon to maintain the temperature during the growth process. Similar to insulation in a home, carbon materials made by Morgan act as insulating layers that reduce heat loss and the amount of electricity needed to keep the furnaces running in this week-long process.

Morgan Advanced Materials is a global company that has been innovating and manufacturing carbon and graphite-based materials essential for growing silicon carbide crystals since the 1990s. Morgan established a world-class Carbon Science Centre of Excellence in Innovation Park in 2016 that has fostered several collaborations with Penn State researchers. The partnership combines resources and experience, creating an environment where students, researchers, and industry experts can come together to explore, learn, and innovate.   

“The new agreement with Penn State seamlessly aligns our goal of establishing Morgan as a key player in the silicon carbide market — we are not only advancing our own graphite competencies but also contributing to the development of high-value products in the market,” said Thomas Connolly, chief technology officer at Morgan Advanced Materials.  

A new SiC growth facility in Penn State’s Academic Activities Building at University Park, funded via support from Penn State’s Office for the Senior Vice President for Research and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, is expected to be fully operational by the beginning of 2025. This will house a pilot-scale facility that will emulate the entire SiC bulk crystal growth supply chain.

“To have the opportunity to continue our partnership with Morgan Advanced Materials will further solidify the University’s reputation as a leader in silicon carbide research and position us to create bigger and more impactful innovations in the future,” said Clive Randall, director of Penn State’s Material Research Institute.    

The Corporate Engagement Center played a key role in expanding Morgan’s commitment to Penn State. The center’s leadership has noted that they anticipate that the alliance will attract additional industry partners.

“Partnerships with public and private entities have allowed Penn State to be the first university in decades to house SiC equipment from boule to wafer processing,” said Andrew Read, senior vice president for research at Penn State. We greatly appreciate Morgan’s continued commitment to Penn State and are looking forward to the discoveries we will make together.”  

Affiliate colleges and units in this partnership include the Eberly College of Science, the College of Earth and Minerals Sciences, the College of Engineering, the Materials Research Institute, and the Applied Research Laboratory. Access to the PVT furnace will help researchers from these units and beyond with the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the parameters that impact crystal growth and identify, investigate, and address challenges facing the market, driving innovation and progress.