Silicon Carbide – All About This Serendipitous Discovery

So many important discoveries that we know of today were serendipitous discoveries, which means they were all discovered accidentally. For example, discovery of microwave, X-rays, pacemakers, cereals and so on. We can all agree we are all thankful for those accidents. Some of these discoveries have made life easier or have properties that proved to be beneficial for us. One such discovery is Silicon Carbide (SiC). It’s a compound of Silicon and Carbon.

This compound has been used for almost hundred years. It is an important substance for sandpapers, cutting tools etc. It has other applications that have increased in recent times. For example, SiC is used in – light emitting diodes, industrial furnaces, even rocket engines and so on. Let us know more about this compound.
History of the Compound:

American inventor Edward G. Acheson in 1891 discovered Silicon Carbide by accident. He was attempting to produce artificial diamonds. He heated a mixture of clay and powdered coke in an iron bowl, where the bowl and a carbon arc served as electrodes. There were bright green crystals found attached to the carbon electrode. The new compound was as hard as a diamond and was named Carborundum. The name of the production process was thus named Acheson process.


It was an amazing and important discovery. Acheson was able to form a substance that was hard enough to cut glass. This compound was initially used to polish the gems. This new product was obtained easily from raw materials that were available at a cheap price. Therefore, these could be produced in large quantities. Soon, it became an important industrial abrasive (an abrasive is used for the purpose polishing or cleaning hard surfaces). Who thought an accident would provide the world with an important discovery?

Properties of Silicon Carbide:

– It has low density and high strength.

– High temperature resistant.

– Thermal shock resistant.

– Wear and tear resistant.

– Exceptional chemical resistance.

– Low thermal expansion.

– High thermal conductivity.

Applications of Silicon Carbide:

– It is used in abrasive and cutting tools. It is a very popular abrasive and it is formed by low-cost materials, is highly durable.

– It is used in the production of the structural material. For example, kiln furniture and accessories, trauma plates in ballistic vests etc.

– Used in automobile parts like ceramic brake discs.

– Used in electrical systems.

– Power Electronic devices is another application of SiC. As SiC exhibits the properties of a semiconductor, it is used in high voltage devices.

– The LEDs that are based on the phenomenon of electroluminescence, were based on SiC.

– SiC is a desirable mirror material in Astronomical Telescope.

– Used in heating elements.

– Used as a heterogeneous catalyst support.

– SiC has application in nuclear fuel particles. It is an important material in TRISO coated fuel particles.

– Used for production of Graphene.

– Acts as a fuel for making steel.

These above-mentioned applications are some of the ways in which Silicon Carbide can be used. Though Acheson accidentally discovered SiC, it proved to be a very useful compound for the industrial sector as well as in the field of science. What do you think?