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Face to Face: Crystal-growth method bodes electric payoff

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10:05am, August 25, 2004

Like a runner with an Olympian's strength but flawed technique, the rugged semiconductor silicon carbide has crystal defects that have kept it from being crowned as a champ among electrical materials. Even so, the compound dominates a niche of transistors and other electrical components that operate at high power, temperature, and frequency.

Now, Daisuke Nakamura and his colleagues at Toyota Central R&D Laboratories in Nagakute, Japan, have grown silicon-carbide crystals by a new process that reduces those defects to negligible levels. They describe their method in the Aug. 26 Nature.

By eliminating dislocations, which are linear defects in the crystal structure, the novel approach could lead to improved high-power switches and other components. Such devices, in turn, could spawn such payoffs as electric-transmission grids less vulnerable to power loss and blackouts, military radar with longer ranges and higher precision, and electric vehicles with improved

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