For the past couple decades, scientists at an R&D lab in Bay County have been vaporizing silicon carbide inside of furnaces at twice the temperature of lava to make chunks of crystal as durable as diamonds.
Only recently have those crystals been understood by many to be the future of EV semiconductors.
That's why SK Siltron CSS, a subsidiary of South Korean conglomerate SK Group, is investing more than $300 million to quadruple its real estate footprint in Michigan with a 250,000-square-foot plant near Bay City, Mich.
The company bet big with its $450 million purchase of DuPont's silicon carbide business in 2020. In the two years after the acquisition, the EV industry has increasingly pivoted away from traditional silicon for high power applications to silicon carbide, which transfers electricity more efficiently and improves range — the top concern of most EV makers.
The industry shift means SK Siltron CSS is sitting on a potential gold mine of silicon carbide and cannot build capacity quickly enough, said CEO Jianwei Dong, who worked for DuPont before the acquisition and helped facilitate the deal.
"We are sitting on top of a once-in-a-century paradigm change," Dong said on a media tour of the plant in Auburn and the site under construction eight miles to the east. "It took us more than 20 years to get to where we are today."
The company hosted a visit Wednesday with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and South Korea Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and show off its new 250,000-square-foot plant, expected to be operational next month.