Impact of silicon carbide semiconductor technology in Photovoltaic Energy System

Bejoy N. Pushpakaran, Anitha Sarah Subburaj, Stephen B. Bayne, John Mookken

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The increased awareness of the significance of solar energy has led to intensified research in the areas of solar energy harvesting. To increase the cost effectiveness of the generation of solar power, silicon carbide (SiC) power devices are playing a major role in the power electronics technology due to its superior material properties compared to Silicon (Si). The photovoltaic (PV) inverter is a major component in the solar energy conversion system whose performance relies on the efficient design of power electronics. In order to obtain maximum power from the solar panels, the power loss in the energy conversion system must be minimized by proper selection of semiconductor devices and thereby minimizing the number of power electronic components used. The necessity to reduce the overall switch mass and volume have led to the development of advanced high-power, high-temperature semiconductor materials such as SiC. The performance improvements are based on superior material properties of SiC, such as: bandgap of 3.26 eV, critical breakdown field of 2-4 MV/cm, thermal conductivity of 4.9 W/(cm K), and a saturated drift velocity of 2×107 cm/s. The aforementioned properties of SiC highlight the importance of silicon carbide semiconductor technology. Some of the limitations of the technology include higher device cost due to emerging technology, and need for high-temperature packaging techniques. Future research includes methods to reduce manufacturing cost, packaging issues, and also face challenges to increase the performance and reliability of SiC devices. The focus of the paper is to discuss the role of SiC semiconductor based power electronics technology in PV energy conversion system. The comparisons and analysis of various PV inverter system prototypes imply that the application of SiC power semiconductor devices in a PV energy system can help eliminate several issues which are at present due to the material limitations of silicon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)971-989
Number of pages19
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Inverter efficiency
  • PV inverter
  • Power density
  • Power semiconductor devices
  • Silicon carbide
  • Silicon inverter
  • Solar energy


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