St Petersburg Electrotechnical University (LETI)LETI takes a radical approach to extreme electronics

LETI takes a radical approach to extreme electronics

The micro and nanoelectronics department at Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University is leading the way in the development of technology for use in extreme environments

Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University (LETI) is known as a centre for research and education in the fields of electronics and photonics. Experts working in the university’s department of micro and nanoelectronics are focusing on silicon carbide and diamond-based electronics as key areas of innovation and development.

The increasing demand for electric vehicles, nuclear power and solar energy, as well as developments in navigation, aviation and communication technologies, have placed growing demands on the performance of power devices. This has fuelled the need for silicon carbide, a diamond-like material used in electronic components operating in extreme and unusual conditions. Silicon carbide can function in environments with high temperatures and high levels of radiation, meaning it plays an important role in the development of aircraft, spacecraft and energy generation.

Professor Viktor Luchinin, head of the department of micro and nanoelectronics, explains that the silicon carbide market is still developing, and the field is relatively new to the university. Nonetheless, it has become one of the priority research and development areas for his department. “We are implementing, with government support, a pilot project to create electronic components based primarily on silicon carbide within the framework of private-public partnerships,” Luchinin says.

The department has intensified its collaboration with a number of industry partners, including New Diamond Technology and electronics company Svetlana, to solve the problems surrounding silicon carbide devices. As part of its work on extreme electronics, LETI also has strong ties with universities and academies such as the Ioffe Institute, the Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the National Research University of Electronic Technology.

The university’s pioneering research into silicon carbide electronics dates back to 1974, when former professor and doctor of technical sciences Yuri Mikhailovich Tairov developed a technology for the growth of silicon carbide single crystals, known as the LETI method. This method made it possible to develop an industrial technology for creating devices using silicon carbide, which is superior to other materials used in electronics and photonics thanks to its combination of electrical and thermophysical properties, as well as its resistance to external influences and its manufacturability.

“We recently celebrated the 45th anniversary of this method,” Luchinin says. “To this day, as an extreme electronic material, silicon carbide has only one real rival: diamond-based electronics, provided they are produced or grown in large sizes with acceptable structural perfection...However, currently, the cost of one square centimetre of diamond exceeds $2,000 in the US.”

Luchinin concludes: “Our students receive a body of knowledge from teachers who are directly involved in this work. We have virtually the entire technological chain for the creation of extreme electronic devices from crystal growth to the assembly of functional modules.” It is this holistic understanding of the field that makes the university’s electronics department so innovative.

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