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Silicon Carbide (SiC)

Silicon carbide (SiC), or carborundum, is a standout in technical ceramics for its lightweight, exceptionally hard, and strong nature. Initially utilized in the late 19th century for abrasives like sandpapers and grinding wheels, its applications have broadened significantly. Today, SiC is integral to refractory linings, wear-resistant parts in pumps and rocket engines, and as a semiconductor base for LEDs, demonstrating its versatility across both traditional and modern technological applications. This expansion highlights SiC's adaptability and sustained importance in evolving industrial uses, from mechanical engineering to electronics.

The distinctive properties of SiC, such as high strength, thermal shock resistance, and wear resistance, benefit greatly from manufacturing techniques like Pressureless Sintered Silicon Carbide and Reaction Bonded Silicon Carbide. These processes not only enhance SiC's inherent qualities, including chemical resistance and thermal conductivity, but also customize it for specific high-demand applications. Whether ensuring durability in harsh environments or providing mechanical strength, these advanced techniques keep silicon carbide at the forefront of materials needed for high-performance applications in aerospace, semiconductor manufacturing, and beyond, affirming its pivotal role in technological and industrial progress.

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Silicon Carbide Structures

Silicon Carbide (SiC) boasts an extensive array of crystalline forms, with over 250 known polymorphs that illustrate the compound's structural versatility and complexity. These polymorphs share a similar two-dimensional crystal structure yet exhibit variations in their three-dimensional arrangements. This diversity can be visualized as layers meticulously stacked in distinctive sequences, leading to variations in physical properties and, consequently, in their application potential. The ability of SiC to exist in such a multitude of forms underscores its adaptability and the intricate interplay of conditions under which it can be synthesized.

Among the plethora of SiC polymorphs, alpha silicon carbide (α-SiC) and beta silicon carbide (β-SiC) stand out due to their prevalence and significance in industrial applications. α-SiC, recognizable by its hexagonal crystal structure akin to wurtzite, forms at temperatures above 1700°C and is prized for its stability and strength at high temperatures, making it suitable for high-stress applications in harsh environments. On the other hand, β-SiC, with its cubic zinc blende crystal structure, forms at temperatures below 1700°C and is noted for its finer grain size, offering advantages in applications requiring precise detail and high-quality surface finishes. The transition between these polymorphs, influenced by temperature and possibly the presence of catalysts, plays a critical role in tailoring the material's properties for specific uses, ranging from abrasive materials to components in high-power electronic devices.

Silicon Carbide Specification

Compound Formula SiC
Molecular Weight 40.1
Appearance Black
Melting Point 2,730° C (4,946° F) (decomposes)
Density 3.0 to 3.2 g/cm3
Electrical Resistivity 1 to 4 10x Ω-m
Poisson's Ratio 0.15 to 0.21
Specific Heat 670 to 1180 J/kg-K

Silicon Carbide Types

Material Recrystallization Silicon Carbide Silicon nitride-bonded Silicon Carbide
Properties Units RSiC NSiC
Color - Black Gray
Permeability - - -
Density g/cm3 2.7 2.8
Straightness - 1‰ 1‰
Hardness Mohs Scale 9.5 9
Water Absorption - 0 0
Flexural Strength(Typical 20℃) Mpa 90 180
Compressive Strength
(Typical 20℃)
Mpa 600 650
Coefficient of Thermal Expansion
(25℃ to 800℃)
0-6/℃ 4.7 5
Long-term Operating Temperature 1650 1450
Thermal Conductivity (25℃) W/m·K 23 15

Read more: Silicon Carbide: Reaction Sintering vs. Pressureless Sintering

Silicon Carbide Applications

Silicon Carbide (SiC) is a versatile material with a wide range of applications across various industries, thanks to its exceptional properties of high hardness, thermal conductivity, and thermal shock resistance, among others. Here's an overview of some of the key applications of SiC:

Electronics and Semiconductors

SiC is used in semiconductor electronics that operate at high temperatures or high voltages, or both. With its excellent thermal conductivity and ability to maintain electrical stability under high temperatures, SiC semiconductors are ideal for high-power applications such as power supplies, hybrid vehicles, and high-frequency radio equipment.

Read more: Why is Silicon Carbide Used in Semiconductors

Abrasive and Cutting Tools

Due to its extraordinary hardness, SiC serves as an abrasive in grinding and cutting tools. It is used in the manufacture of grinding wheels, sandpaper, and other abrasive tools, capable of machining metals and materials that would wear down other types of abrasives.

Read more: An Introduction to Silicon Carbide Abrasives

Industrial Furnaces and Heating Elements

The material's high thermal conductivity and resistance to thermal shock make it suitable for use in industrial furnaces and as heating elements. SiC can withstand extreme temperatures and is used in furnaces for sintering, glass production, steelmaking, and other high-temperature processes.

Automotive Applications

SiC is utilized in various automotive applications, including as a material for brakes, clutches, and ceramic parts within the engine. Its durability and resistance to heat make it ideal for high performance and efficiency in automotive components.

Aerospace and Defense

In aerospace and defense, SiC is used in the manufacturing of armor plating and ballistic protective gear due to its high hardness and low density. It provides effective protection against high-velocity projectiles.


In the energy sector, SiC is used in solar inverters and as a semiconductor in LED lights. Its ability to efficiently convert energy with minimal loss makes it valuable in renewable energy technologies.

Ceramic Matrix Composites

SiC is often used as a reinforcement material in ceramic matrix composites (CMCs). These composites are used in high-temperature applications where conventional metals and alloys would not suffice, such as in jet engines and turbine blades.

Nuclear Applications

Due to its high neutron absorption capability, SiC is considered for use in nuclear reactor fuel pellets and as a material for nuclear waste containment. Its radiation resistance and thermal conductivity are advantageous in managing the heat and radiation levels within nuclear reactors.

Read more: What Are the Uses of Silicon Carbide?

ACM Ceramic Product Categories

Your Silicon Carbide Ceramics Supplier

Advanced Ceramic Materials (ACM) is a leading supplier of silicon carbide ceramic products of the highest quality for a wide range of applications. We are happy to provide advice on materials, design, and application. Feel free to contact us with any questions about SiC or other ceramic materials that are not listed on the website. 

Read more: An Overview of Silicon Carbide Ceramic Materials

What Is Silicon Carbide Ceramic?
Silicon carbide ceramic (SiC) is an advanced ceramic material containing silicon and carbon. It occurs in nature as the extremely rare mineral moissanite. Synthetic SiC powder has been mass-produced since 1893 for use as an abrasive. Grains of silicon carbide can be bonded together by sintering to form very hard ceramics.
Where Is Silicon Carbide Used?
(1) As an abrasive, it can be used as a grinding tool, such as a grinding wheel, oil stone, grinding head, sand tile, etc. (2) As a metallurgical deoxidizer and high-temperature resistant material. (3) A high-purity single crystal that can be used for manufacturing semiconductors and manufacturing silicon carbide fibers. Further Reading: Applications of Silicon Carbide Ceramics in These 4 Industries
Is Silicon Carbide a Good Abrasive?
Silicon carbide has been used as an abrasive material since its discovery in 1891. The material is lightweight, has excellent thermal conductivity, and has low thermal expansion. It has very high abrasion resistance and is relatively cheaper when we talk about production. For these reasons, silicon carbide material is often applied as a loose or solid abrasive material in several applications. Silicon carbide abrasives are available in several forms (such as powder, sandpaper, grinding wheel, and etc.) depending on the applications they’re meant for.
Why Is Silicon Carbide Used in Semiconductors?
Silicon carbide is not only the lightest, but also the hardest ceramic material and has excellent thermal conductivity, low thermal expansion and is very resistant to acids and lyes. Silicon Carbide (SiC) devices belong to the so-called wide band gap semiconductor group. They offer a number of attractive characteristics for high voltage power semiconductors when compared to commonly used silicon (Si). Silicon carbide behaves almost like a diamond. It is toxicologically safe and can be used in the food industry. In particular, the much higher breakdown field strength and thermal conductivity of SiC allow creating devices which outperform by far the corresponding Si ones.
What Are the Different Commercial Forms of Silicon Carbide?
In commercial engineering applications, silicon carbide is produced in different forms. Sintered silicon carbide (SSC) Nitride bonded silicon carbide (NBSC) Reaction bonded silicon carbide (RBSC) Clay-bonded silicon carbide SiAlON bonded silicon carbide, also known as silicon nitride bonded silicon carbide (NBSC). Chemical-vapor-deposited silicon carbide (CVD) Silicon Carbide. CVD is an extremely pure form of silicon carbide compound.
What Are The Key Properties of Silicon Carbide?
SiC stands out for its high hardness (comparable to diamonds), excellent thermal conductivity, resistance to thermal shock, chemical inertness, and ability to function under high temperature and high power conditions.
Can Silicon Carbide Be Used in Body Armor?
Yes, due to its high hardness and low density, SiC is used in composite armor (e.g., body armor and vehicle armor) for enhanced ballistic protection, effectively stopping high-velocity projectiles.
Is Silicon Carbide Environmentally Friendly?
SiC is considered environmentally friendly due to its durability and the efficiency it brings to energy applications. Its use in power electronics, for example, reduces energy loss and, consequently, emissions in various applications.
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