Did You Know? – The Future of EVs Is SiC!

 

The mass phase-out of the internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles is rapidly approaching. As of October 2022, 51 countries are planning to restrict or ban the sale of ICE vehicles by 2050 at the latest. With light-duty private vehicles being targeted first and foremost, the electric vehicle (EV) industry is naturally readying for a huge spike in demand. However, while EVs offer some advantages like zero emissions, lower maintenance, and higher energy efficiency, the industry is still facing a few major challenges. Mainly the limited range, the higher initial cost per vehicle and the longer charging times compared to traditional “fueling” are of concern.  

Some of those difficulties could be solved via the improvement of the microelectronic components’ materials; for example, using compound semiconductors (CS), which are made of two elements, over the standard, mono-element, silicon. One of those CS is silicon carbide, otherwise called by its chemical formula “SiC”, which has attracted increasing attention in the semiconductor sector due to its promising properties.  

 

What is SiC?

Silicon Carbide – a hard, semiconductive material comprised of carbon and silicon atoms neatly arranged into one of 250 existing polymorph crystalline structures of the compound. More commonly referred to as SiC, this incredible compound of cosmic origins was first discovered under its mineral form by French chemist Dr. Ferdinand Henri Moissan, in 1893, while he was examining rock samples from Canyon Diablo crater in Arizona. From these humble Franco-American origins, the compound rose in popularity initially as an industrial-strength abrasive, thanks to its low cost and Mohr level of 9, making it one of the hardest materials in the universe. From there its influence spread to other sectors such as automobile, electric and nuclear industries. Nowadays, SiC is emerging as a disruptive competitor to silicon in the semiconductor industry.

 

Why use Silicon Carbide?

Compared to its older cousin, silicon carbide offers a range of interesting properties. The combination of SiC’s thermal conductivity and wide bandgap, means that components made with it are smaller and suffer less from heat-related efficiency losses. These reasons make it ideal for power electronics, which are responsible for the controlling and processing of electricity within a machine. In EVs, silicon carbide is thus present in the converter, inverter, and on-board charger, all of which make up the drive train of the car, allowing for higher efficiency and smaller sized batteries. Smaller batteries mean fewer resources used for the production, which considering the current ecological and geopolitical situation, allows for both a lower total carbon footprint, higher market security and a decreased EV price.

 

The Challenges

Regardless of silicon carbide’s promising properties, the technology comes with few caveats; mainly the production of SiC based components has proven itself difficult because of the costly and long manufacturing process of the material, the technological challenges, and the particularly high-quality standards of the microelectronics. A way of bringing the production costs down would be increasing the diameter of the wafer, the thin semiconductor (here SiC) disc upon which the electrical circuits can be printed, as an increase of the wafer diameter directly translates to the number of microelectronic components produced. This approach has been adopted within the industry with very slow success for the past 20 years, during which SiC wafer size has seen an eightfold increase from 25 mm to 200 mm wafers, however nowadays, the Physical Vapor Transport (PVT) technology, which is the currently used manufacturing process for SiC, seems to be reaching its limits. For that reason, the pioneers in the sector are searching for other manufacturing processes for SiC substrates like High Temperature Chemical Vapor Deposition (HT-CVD) or Liquid Phase Growth. Another source of innovation in the SiC industry are engineered materials, such as Soitec’s SmartSiCTM, which consists of bonding a very thin layer of high quality SiC to a very low resistivity polySiC wafer. According to them, this helps them turn one SiC wafer into 10 plus SmartSiCTM wafers.

Conclusion

Silicon carbide is a wide bandgap semiconductor which has the potential of revolutionizing the power electronics sector, thus contributing to a huge increase in EV efficiency. However, SiC’s high thermal and chemical stability, as well as its tendency to produce defects during crystal growth, render its bulk production costly and its commercialization challenging. To overcome those issues, the industry is searching for ways to increase the yield of SiC substrates manufacturing processes, via innovative technologies such as Grenoble-based Soitec’s SmartSiCTM. Given they succeed, the future of silicon carbide-based power electronics is bright, but to make that happen they need motivated engineers and materials specialist working on advancing the technology in the sector.

 

Sources

[1] Power electronics in the context of electric plug-in and hybrid vehicles, by Office of ENERGY EFFICIENCY & RENEWABLE ENERGY (USA) ; https://www.energy.gov/eere/vehicles/power-electronics-research-and-development

[2] State-of-the-art of PEC configurations in electric vehicle technologies, by Pandav Kiran Maroti et al. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2772370421000018

[3] Power Electronics Technology that supports Smart Grids, by Shinsuke Nii et Masaki Kato https://www.fujielectric.com/company/tech/pdf/57-04/FER-57-4-140-2011.pdf

[4] Soitec on track to enlarge Silicon Carbide product portfolio with first 200mm SmartSiC™ engineered substrate, https://www.soitec.com/en/press-releases/soitec-on-track-to-enlarge-silicon-carbide-product-portfolio-with-first-200mm-smartsic–engineered-substrate?__geom=%E2%9C%AA

[5] SiC based microelectronics’ advantages: https://www.sglcarbon.com/en/newsroom/stories/why-silicon-carbide-semiconductors-have-a-bright-future/

[6] Bulk Growth of Large Area SiC Crystals, by Adrian R. Powell et al. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303506822_Bulk_Growth_of_Large_Area_SiC_Crystals

[7] Soitec aims for big EV win with Smart Cut SiC wafers, by Adele Hars for the OJO – YOSHIDA REPORT https://www.i-micronews.com/soitec-aims-for-big-ev-win-with-smart-cut-sic-wafers/

Mobile Casinos: Advantages for players

You must transfer funds during your online gaming session to be able to win real money at a mobile casinos. Of course there are many other ways to move money, but you must select the method you like the most. There are two choices: Debit and Credit cards. These methods were chosen based on personal experience as the most efficient methods to transfer Continuer la lecture de « Mobile Casinos: Advantages for players »

Interview of a foreign student

There is a large number of foreign students in Polytech Grenoble. These foreign students have all left their home country to study in France, and all have different reasons to do so, and all have encountered a certain number of difficulties, from the language barrier to the change of scenery, or else struggling with solitude or difficulties to integrate a group.
Moreover, each one of them as a different view about France, that they can compare to their respective home countries. It may then be interesting to know about their point of view about life in France, about what convinced them to study in France, and about the difficulties they have encountered on their journey.
Hakim is a third year student from Alger, the capital of Algeria. Before entering Polytech Grenoble, Hakim studied dentistry in Algeria during 2 years, he then came to France to pursue his studies but failed the PACES contest. Having learnt about a gateway between PACES and the second year of integrated preparatory class Polytech, he then tried his luck and got accepted in Polytech Lyon.

His opinion about France, the difficulties he encountered and his arrival at Polytech Grenoble

Hakim spent his first year in France with his aunt in Lyon. With French being the second official language of his home country, neither the change of country nor the language caused him any problems. However, he encountered some difficulties with the administrative procedures he had to complete, which are too numerous according to him, and the challenging pace required to succeed the PACES’s contest.
After his second year of preparatory class, he attended the open days of Polytech Grenoble and informed himself about the program of the computer science cursus. Hakim, being seduced by the school and the city of Grenoble, decided to pursue his studies in the engineering cycle in Polytech Grenoble. He appreciates the city, which he describes as calm and “neither too small nor too big”.
Overall, Hakim likes France, and wishes to remain here after graduating.

Why computer science and what are his projects for the future

Hakim chose computer science by passion and because the specialty offers a very high hiring rate. According to a 2020 survey, 96% of the graduates find a job in the 6 months after their graduation, including 91% of open-ended contracts. Hakim is still hesitating about what job he want s to do in the future. For now, his short terms ambitions are to graduate and to find a job.

A look back at the IESE Alumni Day (Journée des Anciens IESE)

JDA IESE 22

What is it?

 » Journée des anciens IESE  » (IESE Alumni Day), took place on Thursday, April 28. The event, which has been organized for several years by students and personnel of Polytech Grenoble, aims to bring together former and future graduates of the IESE/3I department. In case you missed it, IESE is the acronym for “Informatique et Electronique des Systèmes Embarqués”, which translates to “Computer Science and Electronics for Embedded Systems”. It was previously called 3I before being changed to IESE, and has been a Polytech Grenoble Department for 34 years.

The event started with a speech from David Eon, head of the IESE department, in which he congratulated the personnel and students for a well-deserved return to the Polytech building after a long absence marked by the COVID crisis and the relocation caused by DCM pollution (dichloromethane) in the building. He also gave an overall presentation of what the day would consist of; the main events were two lectures given by former IESE alumni and a presentation of the projects carried out by the fourth-year students.

A look into AI and its evolution

The first lecture was given by Christophe Reynier, class of 2002 alumni and CTO at TKM Innovation (a company based in Voiron, near Grenoble). The main theme of the lecture was “Artificial Intelligence”, how it’s used, and how it will be used for future IESE graduates.

AI has been present since 1956 and has been on a trajectory that can be deemed satisfying. It did go through two negative periods dubbed “AI Winters” (1974-1980 and 1987-1993) during which concrete scientific breakthroughs carried by AI were nowhere to be seen, which caused doubts to rise among investors and the public opinion. AI is used very widely in everyday life (for example with apps/sites like Waze, Tinder and Deepl) and covers a variety of topics- that we will not be diving further into today- such as machine learning, neural networks and real-life infrastructures.

The lecture lasted 45 minutes and was very insightful as it showed us all the different sectors that a future IESE graduate can work in (backed by M. Reynier’s various experiences for the last twenty years) while also showcasing the importance and omnipresence of AI in today’s scientific world. It also covered the different team settings that an engineer might find himself in as well as the many individual skills that can help build a team once they’re brought together.

Connected Objects, a threat to our personal data?

The other lecture was given by Yannick Gradel, alumni from the class of 1996 and manager at Kaizen Solutions, an IT engineering services company specialized in industrial IOT (Internet of Things) and headquartered in Grenoble. The main theme was “Connected Objects” and the contrast between their development and the protection of our data.

What’s a connected object? It’s an object capable of communicating various information to another object or to the Internet. It can capture, transmit (via different types of connectivity) and sometimes process data to help decision-making or initiate action. The topic of connected objects is heavily linked with our personal data and its protection given the evolution of the former. But by considering connected objects as entry points for data collection, we end up with products that feed Big Data (large, hard-to-manage volumes of data that inundate businesses) daily and exponentially. Therefore, two methods can be used to minimize the risks of our data being unprotected: the accountability principle (determine the risks, mitigate them and measure their effectiveness) and the privacy by design (basically, protect personal data right from the design stage of the connected object and keep protecting it through every other stage from start to finish)

Like the first lecture, the second lasted 45 minutes and M. Gradel answered all questions and gave very useful insight regarding the various sectors of work for IESE students and the current state of the world of connected objects.

The IESE4 projects

Lastly, the projects carried by IESE4 students- in teams of 3 or 4- were showcased in a big room. Each team had its stand with their project and a poster detailing how it works. The teams answered some questions and presented their projects to the IESE3 students and the former graduates that came to their stand. As a IESE3 myself, I’ve found a number of projects to be quite interesting and/or original (A robot that solves a Rubik’s cube, a project that uses a Minitel interface, a wood tracker that helps prevents wood thefts from trucks, etc.)

The projects lasted all semester and the teams used theoretical knowledge acquired from their two years curriculum to deliver a working result that can be used for real-life purposes. For example, the Woodtrack -developed by three IESE4 students, Anas, Alex and Sarah- consists of a strap connected around the wood in the truck and a sensor that lets the sawmill employees know when and where the strap was opened thanks to a GPS and a Bluetooth module. This helps prevents wood theft from trucks and the results can be seen on an Android app that was developed for the project.

A great event, and we hope it won’t be the last!

After the three main attractions, students, professors and alumni had thirty minutes to discuss topics or ask questions, followed by a nice aperitif-meal to end the day in the best of ways.

All thanks go to the organizing team and the students and professors who attended, as well as the alumni and our main guest speakers who gave students generous advice, answered their questions, and allowed them to establish contacts to expand their professional network.

It was a great event, but also a special one as it was finally possible to make it happen at Polytech after two years of restrictions. It certainly won’t be the last edition thanks to the large number of spectators and participants among the IESE students and alumni.

10 Essential tips for visiting Tunisia

During the February vacation, I went to Tunisia with a friend for five days and it was an amazing experience that we’ve thoroughly enjoyed. The trip was quite unique and we learned a number of things while we were there that I’ve decided to share with you for when you’re eventually planning to visit.

So if you’re hoping to blend in in the country and make the most of your experience, read on for more!

#1 : Bring a Passport. Or better yet, have one

This may sound very basic and obvious, but traveling outside of Europe requires a passport and not everyone is aware of that. We learned that the hard way the night before the flight when we found out that Arthur -who had originally bought his tickets when we did- couldn’t come with us, as we never went over the topic of him not having a passport because it was such an obvious thing for Anwar and I. So do have a passport, and bring it with you !

#2 : Check where you book your hotel / Consider Airbnbs

This may also seem like an obvious tip, but check closely in which area of the city your hotel is located, because we didn’t. You may end up in a part of the city you won’t necessarily like, or even in the suburb which can sometimes be quite far.

You can also try to book an Airbnb instead. From experience, the best rated ones are well located, well equipped and they’re very much worth the price (€10 per night for one person in Sousse and €15 in Tunis).

#3: Keep an eye on the taxi counter

Some taximen may try to rip you off very hard, especially when you’re a tourist. So always keep an eye on the taximeter displaying the passenger fare so they don’t change it at the end. It did happen to us, so if you’re ever doubting a fare that’s been given to you, chances are you’re being ripped off and you should probably check the internet or call a local (if you know one) to clear your doubts.

Moving in taxis is quite cheap in Tunisia, but louages (which means “rentals” in French) are way cheaper minibuses that can sometimes be a more favorable option if you don’t mind sharing the ride with other people. They’re not like taxis because they travel across stations in the city (and even between cities) and depart only when filled with passengers.

#4: Always bargain

You should always bargain the price before you pay in local markets -or souks. In fact, haggling is such a fundamental part of buying in many countries like Tunisia that even the salesperson expects you to bargain, so don’t shy from doing it. Eventually, you’ll get used to it and master the art.

Be sure to always start by knocking 50 to 60% off the starting price, and see where the negotiations take you.

#5 : Say you’re a foreigner to enter any nightclub

if you want to experience the nightlife, saying you’re a foreigner staying in town for a few days will get you in almost any night club, even the ones that are quite selective. They’ll assume you’re a tourist who’s gonna contribute rather well to their proceeds from the night, even when you’re not.

The next three tips will highlight the places to visit in the country

#6: Explore Tunis and its surroundings

Most flights come to Tunisia through the Carthage International Airport located in the capital Tunis, so it’s probable that it’s the first city you’ll be in when visiting the country.

The Medina (Arabic for City) is the first part of the city that we discovered. The Medina is the old town in Tunis, home to cobblestone streets and narrow alleys, where you’ll get a mix of colorful doors and old buildings. There, you can visit the souk des chéchias- the local traditional market- where you can find all sorts of clothes from traditional to modern, but also spices and utensils for everyday use.

Il fait beau, voici trois endroits incontournables à la médina de Tunis

You can also take a day trip to Sidi Bou Said, a neighborhood on the Mediterranean coast. You’ll be bewitched by the white and blue colors everywhere, and the location gives off similar vibes to some Greek and Italian seaside neighborhoods. Not far from Sidi Bou Said are the ruins of Carthage, ancient city from the time of the Phoenicians. The ruins don’t take kilometers of space, but they’re well preserved and have become quite the tourist attraction in the area.

Hôtels 4 étoiles à Sidi Bou Saïd – Hotels.com

That’s surely not all there is to Tunis, where you can also visit other areas like the Ville Nouvelle (New City) and La Goulette (the Port suburb).

#7: Dive deep into the South

The south of Tunisia is part of the Sahara Desert, the largest hot desert in the world. That’s why if you have a sense of adventure, or aiming to awaken one, then diving into the south of Tunisia is the tip for you.

Among exciting things to do are hiking through empty canyons, cruising on a quad or motorbike through sand dunes, and riding on a camel to a desert camp.

The south has an influence on modern culture as it inspires artists and movie directors from around the world. For exemple, Tatooine, the Skywalkers’ home planet in Star Wars, has the exact same architecture and a similar name to Tataouine, a town in the south.

Les Touristes Marchant Entre Les Maisons De La Planète Tatooine Pour Le Film Star Wars | Photo Premium

It’s also historically significant; the Jewish community in Djerba is one of the oldest in the world, while the Berber villages such as Chenini and Tamazret are home to the original inhabitants of North Africa. These Berber and Bedouin villages still live in a very traditional manner and the locals are very hospitable.

#8 : Don’t sleep on Sousse

During your trip to Tunisia, do not miss to visit Sousse, the coastal city of eastern Tunisia and magnificent capital of the Sahel region.

For the tourism amateurs, the private beaches of Sousse offer an excellent refuge. From Boujafar to the bay of Kantaoui, the luxurious beaches stretch as far as the eye can see.

The Grand Mosque in Sousse is one of the biggest monuments in the city. It dates back to the Aghlabid era and is located at the entrance to the medina. It’s emblematic of the city of Sousse and its architecture is based on arches and columns. 

La grande mosquée (Sousse, Tunisie) | La grande mosquée a ét… | Flickr

Another impressive landmark is The Amphitheater of El Jem. It’s located in El Jem, a small town 30 minutes away from Sousse. The Amphitheater is the largest colosseum in North Africa and could hold up to 35,000 spectators. You can visit the impressive ruins of this 3rd-century monument which illustrates the grandeur and extent of Imperial Rome, and is a part of UNESCO’s world heritage center.

Pénétrez dans l'amphithéâtre tunisien d'El Jem, ce joyau hérité de la Rome antique

#9: Eat as much local food as you can

This also goes without saying, but a trip to any country is incomplete without tasting its local cuisine, so try to consume as much Tunisian food as you can. The culinary culture is so vast and diverse that you can often skip on your universal meals while you’re there.

Tunisian cuisine shares many similarities with its North African neighbors, but it’s spicier. This is due to the use of Harissa, a mixture of ground chili peppers, garlic, and spices. It’s the most important ingredient in many sauces and gravies and is the most commonly used condiment in Tunisian cuisine. It has also started to become more known in France lately.

Couscous, the staple North African dish, is a must try. You probably already know what it is, but in case you don’t, it refers to small granules of rolled durum wheat semolina cooked in a special double boiler, served with meat (lamb, beef, fish) and vegetables.

Tunisian Couscous - Traditional Tunisian Recipe | 196 flavors

Brik is another popular dish that can be made with a variety of  fillings like tuna, anchovies, chicken, raw egg, or ground meat. The fillings are wrapped in a thin pastry dough before being deep-fried.

Recette - Bricks au thon rapides en vidéo

Other must try foods include Fricassé (Balls of dough, traditionally of oval shape, first fried then split in two and stuffed with potato, harissa, tuna, black olives, hard-boiled egg, and slata méchouia. ), Mloukhiya (beef or lamb stew that is cooked in a very rich sauce made from dried Jew’s mallow powder with olive oil or sunflower oil), Lablabi (dish based on chick peas in a thin garlic and cumin-flavored broth, served over small pieces of stale crusty bread) and Tunisian salad (made essentially of tuna, eggs, cucumber, tomato, onions and olives with harissa).

#10: Travel on your own speed

Lastly, Travel for yourself: take cliche pictures if you like, buy souvenirs from gift shops and traditional clothing from the local market if that’s what you want. If you’re not interested in doing some popular activities that people do when they go to Tunisia, then don’t. People are different and so are their tastes.

So go with the flow and experience things that truly interest you and spark happiness within your being. After all, that is the essence of travel.