onsemi and Penn State announced the signing of an $8 million memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a strategic collaboration that includes the creation of the Onsemi Silicon Carbide Crystal Center (SiC3) at Penn State's Materials Research Institute (MRI). onsemi will fund SiC3 800 thousand USD per year over the next 10 years.
Silicon carbide (SiC) is vital to the efficiency of electric vehicles (EVs), EV charging and energy infrastructure, and contributes to the decarbonisation of the global economy. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, research on SiC made significant progress, but has since declined in the US. This deal will put SiC crystal research in America back on the map.
In addition to conducting SiC-to-SiC3 research, Penn State and onsemi will raise awareness of the growing demand for technical jobs in the semiconductor industry. This is part of their efforts to increase their share of semiconductor manufacturing in the US. They will also partner in workforce development initiatives such as internship and co-op programs, and incorporate research into SiC and wide-gap crystals into the Penn State curriculum. The partnership with Penn State is part of onsemi's commitment to advancing STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education, from helping K-12 students in underserved communities to university collaborations that support workforce development today and tomorrow.
Laura Weiss, Penn State's senior vice president for research, said the Penn State-Onsemi collaboration is a perfect match given the strengths of each organization.
"Onsemi is a proven innovator that provides a complete portfolio of intelligent power and sensing technologies to enable and accelerate sustainable solutions across multiple markets," said Weiss. “At the same time, Penn State ranks first in materials science and second in materials science, according to the National Science Foundation's research spending rankings. We have world-class nanofabrics and characterization equipment that support research on thin films, silicon carbide and other materials used in semiconductors and other technologies. These complementary opportunities between onsemi and Penn State will have a strong impact on research and development, economic growth and workforce development.”
Penn State's capabilities make them an ideal academic partner for onsemi to advance advanced technologies in silicon crystal growth.
"Pennsylvania is uniquely positioned to rapidly establish a research program to grow silicon carbide crystals," Pawel said. Freundlich, Chief Technical Officer, Power Solutions Group, onsemi. "The university offers a wide range of capabilities based on ongoing materials research, wafer processing capabilities at its nanofabrication facility and a comprehensive suite of world-class metrology equipment."
The relationship developed over a period of due diligence, during which it became clear that their joint efforts would allow Penn State and onsemi to become leaders in SiC research.
"Over the next decade, this collaboration will position Penn State as a leading national resource for semiconductor science and workforce development," said Justin Schwartz, Penn State's executive vice president and provost. "This would not have been possible without the relationship-building efforts of Priya Babu, senior director of corporate and industry engagement, and the technical expertise of Joshua Robinson, professor of materials science and engineering, and their colleagues at onsemi."
Scott Allen, Vice President of University Relations, onsemi, added that "expanding Penn State's curriculum to offer specific courses in SiC and broadband gap technology will play a key role in achieving onsemi's strategic workforce development goals and will help achieve the American Semiconductor Workforce Goals outlined in the recently signed CHIPS and Science Act.”