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Climate and Business Benefit from Silicon Carbide Use in Enterprise Data Center Infrastructure

Dec 15, 2022
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It is widely known that data centers consume large quantities of energy and emit a huge amount of heat. This has been acutely felt by millions around the globe as climates become increasingly more extreme, such as when Google and Oracle both had failures this past summer. However, there is an opportunity for enterprise data centers to operate more efficiently and have less dependencies when using Silicon Carbide in their designs.

Silicon Carbide is a complex material to create, requiring a controlled environment half the temperature of the sun and a highly specialized crystal structure. It is the second hardest material known to man, and out of 200+ possible crystal formations, only one can be used to make semiconductor devices. However, while there is a great deal of complexity and intellectual property in Wolfspeed Silicon Carbide designs and solutions, what it enables customers to do is simple – make systems more efficient while reducing cost and increasing performance.

Data centers are built on the backbone of silicon semiconductor chips that have been powering technology for decades. But now, there is a clear and dire need for more efficient energy solutions. This is where the more efficient Silicon Carbide becomes necessary. This small change in the base material of the semiconductor can make a huge impact in multiple areas:

  1. Improving the operational performance with less dependency on external temperatures
  2. Increasing the operational cost savings over time as less effort will be deployed to keep them performing correctly
  3. Decreasing data center energy consumption and ultimately lowering carbon emissions

Data centers are projected to account for 14% of global energy consumption by the year 2050. Therefore, it is imperative to adjust the materials used in the design of these industrial applications so that they are performing as sustainably as possible. Companies are currently deploying drastic measures such as submerging their servers in the ocean or covering them with snow in an effort to keep them cool enough to operate. Silicon Carbide technology, such as Wolfspeed SiC MOSFETs and Schottky diodes, offer proven reliability even in the most demanding power supply applications, providing an easier, more cost-effective way to address issues relating to extreme temperature.

Wolfspeed’s Silicon Carbide semiconductors perform with the highest efficiency and provide a greater thermal performance, thanks to our 35-year history of researching and developing the material. Compared to silicon, Silicon Carbide is a superior material that provides high voltage blocking, high current conducting, and fast-switching capabilities. Thermal conductivity is an index of how the semiconductor is able to dissipate the heat it generates. If a semiconductor device is not able to dissipate heat effectively, the maximum temperature that the device can operate under is limited. With a thermal conductivity 2.5x that of silicon, Silicon Carbide is better suited for high power applications under high environment temperatures.

Infographic of 6 hexagons arranged in a circle. Each hexagon lists a reason why choosing SiC is better for your design. Silicon Carbide is cooler, faster, lighter, smaller, tougher, and greener than other options.

This also means that Wolfspeed semiconductors can enable up to a 40% increase in power or a 40% reduction in the overall size of the product. The power density increase is contributed by both the better figure of merit and the thermal conductivity of Silicon Carbide. If every data center on Earth replaced the incumbent silicon with Silicon Carbide, we could power Manhattan with the energy savings for an entire year. While silicon may be cheaper for the initial investment, the lifetime financial investment is higher than SiC due to less energy savings and system space requirements.  

Over the last decade, there has been a rapid evolution of the global regulatory environment surrounding the legislation of external power supply efficiency. Silicon Carbide is the only material that can meet the highest efficiency requirements. By incorporating Silicon Carbide into the composition, data centers will be able to meet standards such as 80+ Titanium, ORV3 standards, and Energy Star efficiency standards at the lowest system cost. Not only will the data centers be easier to maintain, but they will be consuming less energy with fewer carbon emissions while still maximizing computing capability.

Illustrated infographic showing a datacenter on the left hand side. It says datacenters consumed nearly 31TWh of power in 2021. In the middle is an arrow with the point going to the right. Above it reads that 3% of PSU effeciency increase would happen by changing to use Wolfspeed SiC products. On the right are two icons that represent nuclear smoke stacks. Above that it reads "Output of 15 nuclear reactors". Below the icons, two statements have asterisks beside them. They read "PSU consume approximately 43% of datacenter power." and "Assuming 1 nuclear power plant generates 3,9937 MW."

We are experiencing a once in a generation technology shift from silicon to Silicon Carbide. Wolfspeed’s innovative products will help usher in a new era of energy efficiency and enable industrial power applications, including enterprise data centers, to perform as economically and sustainably as possible.

To learn more about our power components enabling efficiencies in data centers visit our website or ask an expert in the Wolfspeed power applications forum.

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