EPE Paper – Looking beyond energy efficiency – Environmental aspects and impacts of WBG devices and applications over their life cycle

The environmental aspects and impacts of wide bandgap (WBG) materials such as Silicon Carbide (SiC) and Gallium Nitride (GaN) in specific end-use electronic applications and products have not yet been fully investigated. The design trade-offs and comparison of WBG with classic Silicon based technology for the same applications, with a life cycle thinking perspective, are only starting to emerge. In general, policy-makers are unaware of the impacts and benefits of WBG semiconductor devices, and governments normally have limited access to independent and well-founded expertise in this field. Therefore, it is challenging for policymakers to foresee and evaluate the future impacts and benefits of this technology. With increased knowledge and evidence it will be possible to consider appropriate policy responses. This PECTA research is following a life cycle thinking perspective, which covers three relevant life cycle stages of WBG technology 1) the raw material supply and manufacturing of WBG components; 2) the design effects of WBG on applications and their use, and 3) the End of life (EoL) of WBG semiconductor devices, specially looking at fate, and availability (or criticality) of SiC and GaN. The different elements of the research methodology and selected results, especially considering the energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), are discussed along these three relevant life cycle stages. Some additional information on impacts e.g., in the distribution phase are also included. Supporting the development towards a circular economy, recommendations for policy-makers are presented.