Brian Palmiter, Jr., EIT, LEED Green Associate | 2019 PSPE State Young Engineer of the Year

Brian Palmiter, Jr. EIT

PSPE 2019 Young Engineer of the Year

PSPE is proud to recognize Brian Palmiter, Jr., EIT, as PSPE 2019 Young Engineer of the Year. Criteria for selection as PSPE Young Engineer of the Year includes: Be age 35 or under as of January 1, 2017; be a Registered Professional Engineer or Engineer in Training; PSPE membership preferred but not required; Scholastic achievements; Technical society activities; Technical papers and patents; Professional society activities; Engineering experience and accomplishments; and Civic and humanitarian activities.

Mr. Palmiter is a Civil Designer and Project Manager with Borton-Lawson (BL), an engineering and architecture firm headquartered in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Brian has been with BL for over 5 years, where he has worked in both the Water/Municipal and Land Planning & Design Groups. This has put him in a diverse role to perform design and more recently project management services for a variety of clients, including municipalities, colleges/universities, and other public and private entities. He is well-versed in the land development and municipal sphere, having design experience in stormwater, roadway paving, Best Management Practice (BMP), parks/recreation, and building/parking expansion-related projects.

He is currently the Project Manager for approximately 50 municipal projects, including paving and stormwater projects, subdivision and land development reviews, and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) permitting. Most recently, Brian was a key contributor in obtaining a new client, which has allowed BL to become the Program Manager for a stormwater authority that is implementing a MS4 Pollution Reduction Plan (PRP) across the Authority’s 32-municipality service area. The project also includes collaboration with the client and 7 other engineering firms, BMP project scope and service order execution, design, bidding, and construction services. Some of Brian’s other professional experience includes site layout, Erosion & Sedimentation Pollution Control (E&SPC) design, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting, Highway Occupancy Permits (HOPs), and construction inspection.

Brian is in the Keystone Northeast Chapter of PSPE, where he currently serves as the Secretary of the Chapter. Brian’s role with the Chapter is ever-growing, as he plans and coordinates many of the Chapter events and assists in the development of future engineers through mentoring and networking with the Wilkes University Student Chapter of PSPE. He is the Chair of the Young Engineers Committee and received the Robert P. Eble PE, PLS Memorial Distinguished Service Award in 2015. Within the last few years, he has elevated his involvement with PSPE at the State level, serving on the Membership, Nominating, and Conference Planning Committees. Brian has also been involved with State MATHCOUNTS since 2014, where he has moved up from a volunteer, to Facilities Coordinator, to Assistant Coordinator, and is currently the State Coordinator, which he will be through March 2021.

In 2013, Brian graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Engineering with a minor in Geology from Wilkes University. While at Wilkes, he assisted in the creation of the Wilkes Student Chapter and volunteered with many other University clubs. He still maintains his involvement with his alma mater, as he is on the Wilkes University Alumni Association Board of Directors, of which he was elected to in early 2017. Brian is also a volunteering member with the Wyoming Valley United Way Young Professionals and is a guitarist with the St. Gregory’s Music Ministry in Clarks Summit, PA. In his free time, Brian enjoys spending time with his family, friends, church community, and beautiful puppy “Luna.” He plays in several soccer leagues and is a diehard fan of the Denver Broncos and Boston Red Sox.

The Ring Goes South…

Eric W. Tappert, PE

Last time we learned how a simple ring on the little finger of the working hand gave international recognition to the public oath that was taken. The Canadian tradition, dating back to 1925, of a ritual ceremony where engineering graduates take an oath of ethical behavior and responsibility for the public health, safety, and welfare has emerged as being more important to engineering graduates than getting their diploma. The ring is worn with pride by all who receive it.

In the 1960’s interest in promoting the ethical practice of engineering by having a ring ceremony similar to the Canadian tradition stirred some interest. The very first US ring ceremony was held at the Fenn College of Engineering at Cleveland State University on June 4, 1970. Due to copyright reasons, they could not use the “Ritual Calling of an Engineer” by Rudyard Kipling, but a similar “obligation” and ceremony was used. The Order was incorporated in Ohio in 1972.

There are a few differences between the Order of the Engineer and the Canadian tradition besides the actual ceremony. In the US the ceremony is public, and attendance is not limited to the inductees and ring holders. Instead of “camps” the US version has “Links”, of which there are currently more than 300, many at Universities, but some are at various engineering organizations such as PSPE (Link 230). Some of PSPE’s student chapters also have their own links.

The fact that PSPE has a link highlights another difference, getting a ring is not limited to engineering graduates. Any engineer with an ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission accredited degree is eligible. In fact, many engineering organizations, including PSPE, hold regular ring ceremonies. The Order has no dues, in fact the only charge is a nominal amount for the stainless steel ring which is placed during the ceremony on the little finger of the working hand to constantly remind the recipient of their obligation.

The formal ceremony starts with a brief history of the Order, followed by the new inductees being presented. The inductees and members of the Order then recite the Obligation together. Each inductee then signs their copy of the Obligation that they have just made (suitable for framing…) and places their working hand through a large ceremonial ring to receive their ring. The ring serves as a constant reminder of your obligation and indicates to the public that you have made a commitment to the honorable and ethical practice of your profession. As the ceremony is formal, no pictures are allowed, but there is always a picture session afterwards.

The Obligation is a creed similar to Hippocrates Oath taken by medical doctors to set forth an ethical code. It is based on the Canon of Ethics of major engineering societies. Inductees accept this Obligation voluntarily, pledging to uphold the standards and dignity of the engineering profession and to serve humanity by making the best use of Earth’s precious wealth. Full details of the ceremony and Obligation are on the Order’s web site (

PSPE holds a ring ceremony every year at the annual conference and has assisted several engineering schools in ring ceremonies, some of which resulted in the formation of new Links. A ceremony will be held at the next annual conference in Bethlehem this September (see details below) and it will use a new ceremonial ring, generously donated by Penn Stainless in Quakertown. It is an ideal opportunity to re-affirm your obligation to uphold the standards of the engineering profession. And just maybe sometime in your travels you’ll be asked if you are Canadian! Better yet, maybe you’ll be recognized for your commitment to the ethical practice of your profession. See you there!

If you would like to join the Order of the Engineer, PSPE is holding a ceremony on Thursday, September 19, 2019, during our annual conference. Register for the full conference, the day, or simply lunch and the ceremony. Indicate your ring size and we’ll see you there. Details can be found here. We look forward to seeing you!

“Sir, are you Canadian?”

By Eric W. Tappert, PE

That was the question from across the dinner table at an IEEE meeting that I was attending.  For those not familiar with the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), it is the largest technical professional organization in the world with more than 423,000 members around the world.  At the table were engineers from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, South Africa, and Australia.  That, in itself, was a very satisfying experience.  But the question directed at me was a bit confusing, so I responded with an admission that I was from the United States and asked what prompted the question.  The answer: “I saw your ring.”

So I explained that it wasn’t the Canadian ring, but rather the Order of the Engineer ring from south of the border.  He held up his hand and with some pride showing and said “My ring is the Canadian version.”  That led to a lively discussion of the ring that fascinated the others at the table.  So, what’s with the ring?

The story of the Canadian engineers’ ring goes back nearly a century.  Professor H. E. T. Hamilton of the University of Toronto convinced another six past president’s of the Engineering Institute of Canada that something needed to be done to generate a ceremony and a standard of ethics for graduating engineers in the country.  The seven past presidents wrote a letter in 1922 to Rudyard Kipling, a famous poet and author, requesting him to write the ceremony and the “obligation” that the students would commit to.  The result was the “Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer”.   It should be noted that Kipling had a few years earlier toured the railways of Canada and was very impressed with engineering.

“The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer has been instituted with the simple end of directing the young engineer towards a consciousness of his profession and its significance, and indicating to the older engineer his responsibilities in receiving, welcoming and supporting the young engineers in their beginnings.”

— Rudyard Kipling, from notes by Dr. J. Jeswiet

The first ceremony at the University of Toronto on May 1, 1925, led by three of the engineers installed at the inaugural ceremony a few days before in Montreal.  The University of Toronto became the first chapter. 

During the ceremony, initiates recite and accept the obligation, which resembles a code of ethics.  The ceremony isn’t a “secret”, but those receiving and having the ring are admonished not to discuss the ceremony.  The ceremony is also limited in attendance to those already having the ring and the initiates, thus it is not a “public” event.  Each initiate receives a ring for the little finger of their working hand to signify they have accepted the obligation and to serve as a constant reminder of their responsibilities.  When they retire from active engineering, they return their ring to the Corporation of the Seven Wardens, which holds the rights and has the duty to carry out the ritual.

The Corporation of the Seven Wardens is divided into 26 regional branches, called Camps.  The term Camp is used to instill as sense of a smaller, close knit community.  The purpose of the obligation is to direct the newly qualified engineer toward a consciousness of the profession and its social significance and indicating to the more experienced engineer their responsibilities in welcoming and supporting the newer engineers when they are ready to enter the profession.

The original rings were made of iron, but that has been supplanted by stainless steel.  Only one Camp still has the iron ring as an option.  There are a couple of interesting legends about the Ritual.  One says that the idea was prompted by the failure, during construction, of the bridge over the Saint Lawrence River at Quebec City in 1907.  There may be some truth to that, but one must take into account that during the first couple decades of the 19th century the Canadians were building their transcontinental railroad system.  Bridges were apparently failing rather often and the Quebec Bridge was merely a very dramatic example as there were a total of 75 lives lost.  It is more likely that it played “the straw that broke the camel’s back” role.  The other legend is that the first rings were made from the iron of the failed bridge at Quebec City.  That bridge failed in 1907 but the first ceremony wasn’t held until 1925.  It truly stretches the imagination that the ruins of the bridge hadn’t been recycled in the intervening 18 years.

Canadian engineering students look forward to getting their rings in the spring term of their senior year.  In fact, many view the ring as more important than their diploma.  Kipling’s ceremony continues to this day, binding together the engineers of Canada.  Getting a ring doesn’t enable legal engineering practice as that is the province of the government authorities.  Participating in Kipling’s ceremony, virtually unchanged in almost a century, does however, lead to a close community of ethical engineers.

Next time: The Ring Goes South

If you would like to join the Order of the Engineer, PSPE is holding a ceremony on Thursday, September 19, 2019, during our annual conference. Register for the full conference, the day, or simply lunch and the ceremony. Indicate your ring size and we’ll see you there. Details can be found here. We look forward to seeing you!

Report of the PSPE Nominating Committee 2019

The 2019 Nominating Committee confirms the following slate of officer nominees for the PSPE 2019-2020 term of office. Michael F. Basta, PE (Lehigh Valley Chapter) will become President according to the PSPE Constitution and Bylaws. 


President Elect | Susan L. Best, PE (Delaware County Chapter)

Secretary | David J. Briskey, PE (Pittsburgh Chapter)

Treasurer | Thomas J. Friese, PE (Philadelphia Chapter)

Vice President Central Region | James M. DiLouie, PE (Lincoln Chapter)

Vice President Southwest Region | Jennifer Nolan-Kremm, PE (Pittsburgh Chapter)

Vice President Northeast Region | Marleen A. Troy, Ph.D., PE, BCEE (Keystone Northeast)

Vice President Southeast Region | Nicole C. Wilson, PE (Bucks County Chapter)

For members wishing to add their name to the ballot, nominations by petition of at least 25 eligible members must be delivered (along with the candidate’s bio and photo) to the Chair of the Nomination Committee by May 6, 2019.

In the event of there being two (2) nominees for an office, an official ballot shall be prepared and delivered to each voting member in the region of the office. The Tellers Committee will tally the votes and determine the final outcome.

In the event of a single nominee in each position and with no petition candidates submitted, the Secretary shall be directed by the President to cast a single ballot for all nominees upon acceptance of the Nominating Committee’s report by the Board at the meeting on May 18, 2019.

The elected officers will be installed at the annual conference September 19-20, 2019.

Respectfully submitted,
Joseph F. Boward, PE, F.NSPE
PSPE 2019-20 Nominating Committee Chair

Ethics: The Principles of Conduct Governing an Individual or a Group

Ethics: The Principles of Conduct Governing an Individual or a Group
Susan K. Sprague, PE, F.NSPE, Chair, NSPE Board of Ethical Review

Every profession has ethics – doctors and lawyers, dance teachers, retailers, and car salesmen – and each discipline of engineers has a similar code of ethics emphasizing protection of the public. The code has evolved over the years to include sustainable development and anti-discrimination principles, and it essentially covers all aspects of professional practice and guides the PE for prioritizing actions when dealing with the public, clients, and employers.

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) established the Board of Ethical Review (BER) in 1954 to further its mission as the authoritative expert in the ethical practice in engineering. The purpose of the BER is to render impartial opinions pertaining to the interpretation of the NSPE Code of Ethics, develop materials, and conduct studies relating to ethics of the engineering profession. The engineering profession’s emphasis on ethics dates to the end of the 19th century. In 1946, NSPE released its Canons of Ethics for Engineers and Rules of Professional Conduct, which evolved into the current Code of Ethics. While these statements of general principles served as a guide, many engineers requested interpretations of how the Canons and Rules would apply to specific circumstances. These requests ultimately led to the creation of the BER. Ethics cases rarely have easy answers, but the BER’s nearly 700 advisory opinions have helped bring clarity to the ethical issues that engineers face daily.

Every year, the BER publishes 12 cases to be used by its members, other engineers, attorneys, and educators as guides for ethical conduct. NSPE members are appointed to serve on the BER and use their expertise to render impartial opinions on questions of ethics.

On December 5 and 6, I had the unique privilege of chairing the six-member NSPE Board of Ethical Review at NSPE headquarters in Alexandria, VA in the face-to-face discussions of 12 cases involving engineering ethics. The BER is seven professional engineers from across the country (PA, NH, FL, NM, WA, IN, and SD). Two members are ethics professors, three are in private practices, and two are in government positions. Being the Chair is an honor, and it comes with very few perks. We received the cases a few weeks prior to the meeting and we had homework to do to prepare. Some cases are real (submitted by members), but most are hypothetical. Each of us was assigned two cases to lead in our meeting.

The review of the cases is a methodical process conducted “old school” by the case leader reading the case facts and conclusion out loud to the group. It’s amazing how hearing the facts and listening to it being read can offer you a different perspective on the case.

We all take turns offering our opinions and we discuss the merits and ethical conflicts in each case. Do we agree with the conclusion? Were Engineer A’s actions ethical? What were Engineer A’s ethical obligations under the circumstances? Are the cited references from the Code of Ethics applicable to the case? Sometimes we finish discussing a case and reach consensus in 25 minutes, and a few have taken over 90 minutes to reach consensus.

You may ask how someone can find an opinion on an issue. The cases are cross-referenced by topic and the portions of the Code cited. For example, if you are interested in cases pertaining to reviewing another engineer’s work, changing employment, autonomous vehicles, etc., you can search under those topics. All published cases recognize the committee members, so my name is recorded on 24 cases and will be noted as Chair on this year’s 12 cases.

It’s a great experience to participate in something important to the profession and provide useful guidance to others. Sadly, both professors on our committee have observed their engineering students cheating on their school exams in ethics (they have video proof), so we still have much work to do to teach the next generation of engineers about ethics.

Test your individual knowledge of the language in the NSPE Code of Ethics by taking a quiz – a series of true/false questions.

Take the 2019 Milton F. Lunch Ethics Contest Challenge!

All current NSPE individual members through their NSPE state societies and NSPE chapters (including student chapters) are invited to participate in the 2019 NSPE Milton F. Lunch Ethics Contest.

This year the winning entry will receive an award of $2,000 to the author provided by NSPE, a certificate, and recognition in PE magazine.

How to Participate

NSPE’s Board of Ethical Review is furnishing you with two different fact situations to choose from regarding the ethics of engineers, or you can submit your own case! Please choose either of the two situations (or use your own case) and develop an essay, video, photo essay, poster, or PowerPoint presentation, which could include embedded videos/sound, etc., to demonstrate your understanding of the facts and the NSPE Code of Ethics. Contestants are asked to read the facts of the case, then develop a discussion and conclusion to respond to the included question(s). Contestants should also provide references, citing specific sections of the NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers. A copy of the NSPE Code is linked for your reference. Contestants may also want to check the NSPE Board of Ethical Review’s website for additional cases decided by the BER.

Contest Rules

All entries must be received by Monday, April 15, 2019. E-mail or mail entries to:

2019 NSPE Milton F. Lunch Ethics Contest
NSPE Legal Department
1420 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Download the full contest flyer (PDF)

Risky Business – Entity Protection

Rebecca A. Bowman, Esq., P.E.

I’ve been running into a problem lately into which I should not have been running. (Don’t you love the sometime-weirdness of correct grammar?)  I want to make sure that you are not contributing to this problem. By the way, nothing in the column is intended to provide legal advice. I am merely repeating the requirements of the Commonwealth Department of State.

Whatever entity form you have chosen, if you are presenting yourself as anything other than a sole proprietorship using your own name, you have to register/file with the Commonwealth AND you have to keep your registration/certification/filing current AND you have to provide a decennial (before you go look that up, that every ten years) update.

Just to be clear, let’s look at some of the alternatives. I’ll use my name, just for the fun of it. If I do business as a sole proprietorship using my name (i.e. Rebecca Bowman, P.E.), I’m fine and I can skip down to the last three paragraphs.

If I do business as a sole proprietorship but use a name other than my name (i.e. Brilliant Design Engineering), I have to register “Brilliant Design Engineering” as a fictitious name. This is true even if I am using “Bowman Engineering.” Understand, too, that I may not have the right to use my own name in this modified fashion if someone else has registered the name first, especially if I had a common name (i.e. John Smith).1 If I change, cancel, or withdraw my use of the fictitious name, I must also file the corresponding form.2

If I do business as a general partnership (i.e. Bowman Associates),3 I must register my partnership with the Commonwealth and disclose the names and addresses of EACH of the partners. As you might anticipate, I must keep that information current with the Commonwealth. Anyone may legitimately sue a party identified as a partner with the Commonwealth, but may have difficulty suing someone he KNOWS is a partner but is not on file with the Commonwealth.

If I do business as an LP (Limited Partnership), (i.e. Bowman Engineering, L.P.) I must file a Certificate of Limited Partnership and all general partners must be identified.4 There are a wide variety of forms required to update the public record to reflect internal (and some external) changes to the organization.

There is even an LLP (Limited Liability Partnership), (i.e. Bowman Engineering, L.L.P.) for which I must file a Statement of Registration, spelling out whether or not the entity is a general partnership (with all partners having equal powers to act and to bind the entity) or a limited partnership.5 Interestingly and surprisingly, if you elect a limited partnership, the managing partner does not have to be identified.

For either a general or a limited liability partnership, every partner is legally presumed to have full authority to act on behalf of and bind the entity unless a Certificate of Partnership Authority is filed.6 This certificate puts the public on notice that only the identified parties and no one else has authority to act on behalf of and bind the entity.

If I do business as an LLC (Limited Liability Company), (i.e. Bowman Engineer, L.L.C.) I must file a Certificate of Organization.7 There are wide variety of forms required to update the public record to reflect internal (and some external) changes to the organization.

If I do business as a C-corp, (i.e. Bowman Engineering, Inc.) I must file articles of incorporation.8 (The rules are the same for an S-corporation; I just file an additional form with the IRS electing S-corp status.) There are a wide variety of forms required for changes in officers, changes in address, change in status, mergers, dissolution, etc. My entity name does not have to be difference in any way to indicate that I have elected S-corp status. Election of S-corp status is primarily related to taxation benefits, but that benefit carries with it restrictions on the nature of corporate shareholders.

If I do business as a P.C. (Professional Corporation), (i.e. Bowman Engineering, P.C.), I must meet all the requirements of a corporation, may elect S-corporation status, and must meet the requirements of Pennsylvania’s professional corporation statute.9 There is an inherent prestige build into the P.C. designation, but the price of that prestige is restrictions on the qualification of corporation shareholders. The real challenge arises if I want to operate in multiple states. Many states have differing requirements for professional corporations and many are fairly-openly hostile to foreign (i.e. out-of-state) professional corporations.

By the way, just in case you were wondering, no, I do not know why the convention is to use the periods associate with an abbreviation for P.C., and often for L.P., but not for LLP or LLC.

Now that we’ve run through all that, why do I bring that up? The birth of an entity is exciting and full of promise. The death of an entity is sometimes ugly, often dismal, and tempting to minimize. However, if you do not modify or terminate your entity correctly, the entity continues to linger on in a vegetative state. Here is the key, though: If you do not wrap things up properly, the liability associated with the entity does not cease.

I’m in the middle of a case now, involving a construction company set up as a corporation. I don’t know whether it’s a C-corporation or an S-corporation and, for the moment, I don’t care. The corporation ceased to operate several years ago, BUT NEVER WRAPPED UP. Hence, it still remains in existence and I can still sue it. A properly-wrapped up entity has to report any anticipated liabilities and address them before the Commonwealth will permit the entity to be terminated/dissolved. Once properly terminated/dissolved, there is no longer an entity to sue.

Many of us are solos and small businesses, established and continued on the basis of our personal reputations. Structural engineers, especially, have long tails (yes, that’s the correct word) of statutory liability. We tend to assume that when we stop practicing, our entities stop, too. However, ending an entity is not a passive event, but requires a series of affirmative acts.

If you don’t wrap up properly you may – without even realizing it – continue to be in a Risky Business.










Rebecca A. Bowman, Esq., P.E. is the principal of a woman-owned business, certified in estate planning, civil engineering, dispute resolution, real estate, legal services, strategic development, and training by Allegheny County, PennDOT, PADGS, PAT, Massachusetts, New York State and New Jersey Transit. She is experienced in engineering design and forensic analysis, construction/project management, dispute resolution, real estate and boundary law, small business start-up, employment law, and nonprofit support. She is a registered professional engineer and a certified arbitrator, mediator, and Christian conciliator. Mrs. Bowman is a frequent CPE lecturer for a variety of providers.  She received her B.S. degree in civil engineering, from the University of North Dakota, her M.B.A. degree from Oklahoma University and her J.D. degree from Duquesne University. Mrs. Bowman is involved with the American Arbitration Association, and the Bar Association. She volunteers with the Senior Action Coalition, Legal Aid, Children and Youth Services, City Mission, Habitat for Humanity, Family Promise of Southwestern Pennsylvania, MATHCOUNTS, and National History Day. 

PSPE 2018 Awards Program

The Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers recognizes performance and accomplishments of chapters, individuals, projects, and other professional organizations whose efforts have enhanced the integrity of our professional engineering society or the stature of our engineering profession.

These official PSPE awards recognize exceptional engineers. These individuals, through their efforts, are the epitome of the Professional Engineer. The PSPE Engineer of the Year Award recognizes an outstanding, distinguished engineer not necessarily only for their work for, or in, PSPE, but for their overall activities and achievements. Occupational and professional achievements, civic, political, and engineering affairs, and education represent the primary selection criteria for the Engineer of the Year award.

The Young Engineer of the Year award recognizes an outstanding engineer no older than 35 as of January 1, 2018. The evaluation criteria include collegiate achievements, professional and technical society activities, engineering experience, publications/patents, major engineering project achievements, and additional activities, such as civic, fraternal, or humanitarian endeavors.

Awards may be nominated through each PSPE chapter awards committee or President. Chapter awards nominations included in the State Awards Program Handbook available through PSPE, are due to the PSPE Awards Committee by July 27, 2018. Nominations should be submitted to PSPE Headquarters, 908 N. Second Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102 via email

Award recipients will be recognized at the PSPE State Engineers Conference. I encourage all PSPE chapters to submit a nominee. Questions can be directed to David K. Williams, PE, PSPE Awards Committee Chair, at cell phone (412) 855-4540, or via e-mail.

Click here to obtain an application for PSPE Engineer of the Year and PSPE Young Engineer of the Year Awards.


Silicon-Carbide (SiC) Based Semiconductor Technology – The Disruptive Technology Innovation for the 21st Century

Abstract (Click here to see abstract with grids.)
Matthew A. Balmer, P.E.

In the field of power electronics, there is an ongoing search for an ideal solid-state power switch which has a low on-state resistance, low switching losses, high operation frequency, and good thermal capabilities. Silicon-Carbide (SiC) technology is a proven forerunner in the quest for the ideal solid-state power switch.

SiC technology represents a disruptive technological innovation for the 21st century that will establish new trajectories for electronic innovations obsoleting the silicon technology of the 20th century.  SiC technology has found a niche in small device applications and is a nascent technology being commercialized into power electronics.  Testing of SiC power electronics has demonstrated improved efficiencies, reduced size and reduced weight when compared to conventional Si based technology.

This paper explores

  • SiC Technology Introduction,
  • SiC Technology Power Electronics Advantages, and
  • SiC Technology Commercialization.

Sic technology introduction

The challenge in the semiconductor industry is to maximize efficiency, reduce size, increase power quality and reduce costs.  Researchers have learned that using Wide Bandgap (WBG) materials, such as Silicon Carbide (SiC), allows semiconductor components to be smaller, faster, more reliable and more efficient than the existing Silicon (Si) technology [1].

 Characteristics SiC Technology

Silicon carbide morphology is a binary combination of two group IV binary elements having an equal number of silicon and carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice structure. This atomic structure makes SiC one of the hardest and most thermally stable materials known [1].  Additional, features such as increased avalanche breakdown voltage, high thermal conductivity, and decreased thermal leakage current have created great interest in SiC technology for use in high power applications.  Microscopic studies of the stability and rupture of molecular junctions under a high voltage bias discovered that semiconductors having a SiC backbone have higher probabilities of sustaining higher voltages [2].

 Wide Bandgap (WBG) Technology

Bandgaps determines how a material’s electrons behave. Electrons are negatively charged particles that surround a nucleus at different energy levels.  When electrons move together in the same direction they form an electric current.  Electrons in an atom exist in various states which includes their energy level, momentum and spin.  Furthermore, quantum mechanics states two electrons cannot exist in the same state at the same time; therefore, one variable must differ.

These sets of possible states form regions called bands. Sets of states that are not possible form regions between the bands called bandgaps.  Bands closest to the nucleus of an atom are called core level and the band containing electrons furthest from the nucleus are called the valence band.  Beyond the valence band is the conduction band where the electrons can move freely, figure 1.

Examining various materials (Figure 2), metals have an overlapping valence and conductions bands and electrical current easily flows through them. On the opposite end are insulators, which have a wide gap between the valence band and conduction band reducing the probability to move an electron from the valence band to the conduction band.  The third and most interesting materials are semiconductors which can have properties like a metal, an insulator, or properties in between.

When semiconductors were first discovered, they were considered useless because of their erratic unpredictable behavior. Once bandgap properties were understood, physicists and engineers were able to harness bandgaps to innovate new technologies.  It was also discovered that valence electrons became exited by heat, light, or an electric field and will jump the bandgap (figure 1) provided the bandgap’s width allows the electrons to jump to the conduction band.  Consequently, different electronic devices require materials with different bandgaps which is relative to the energy supplied by the energy source.  Table 1 lists common semiconductor materials with their bandgap energy levels and application.

SiC: Power Electronics Advantages

Power Semiconductor Construction

Power semiconductors are unique when compared to that of low power signal semiconductors. Low power semiconductor devices are required to carry a few amperes under forward biased conditions and block small voltages under reverse biased conditions.  However, power semiconductor devices are required to carry hundreds of amperes in forward biased condition and block several hundred to thousand volts in the reverse biased condition.  These extreme operating conditions require a structural change affecting the operating characteristics.  These operating conditions create an inherent contradictory condition for power semiconductors, in that, increased doping reduces the forward losses and also reduces the reverse breakdown voltage, with the converse being true.  This contradiction is eliminated by the addition of a lightly doped epitaxial layer (drift region) whose doping density is 1014cm-3 between the heavily doped p and n regions whose doping density is 1019cm-3.

Figure 3 depicts the construction differences between low power and high power semiconductor devices.

This epitaxial layer creates a uniform electric field between the p and n junction that reduces the forward voltage drop and increases reverse blocking voltage.

Reduced Power Loss

Reduced power losses create increased savings for the consumer. SiC wide bandgap has a critical field for avalanche breakdown that is 10 times greater than Si.  This reduces the width of the epitaxial layer by one-tenth that of Si.  The result is SiC has a specific forward conduction resistance 400 times lower than Si thus reducing power losses [2].

 High Temperature Operation

SiC intrinsic characteristics allow SiC based semiconductors to operate at higher junction temperatures. The intrinsic characteristics include:

  • SiC based semiconductors have a melting point of approximately 2,700oC, whereas Si based semiconductors have a melting point of approximately 1,400oC.
  • Thermal leakage current is proportional to a compound’s intrinsic carrier concentration.  SiC has an intrinsic carrier concentration that is in order of magnitudes less (10-18) than Si [2].
  • SiC has a bandgap three times that of Si prohibiting excessive thermal leakage current.

The combination of these intrinsic features allows SiC devices to operate at junction temperatures reaching 600oC compared to Si which has a junction temperature limit of 150oC.

 High-speed Switching Operation

SiC wide bandgap has a high dielectric breakdown voltage which reduces power losses during switching operation. Figure 4 depicts the forward recovery time for an SiC Schottky Barrier Diode.  The Si overshoot represents an accumulation of charge carriers in the epitaxial layer that must diffuse prior to re-switching.  In addition, the Si overshoot is also indicative of heat generation in the device created by the simultaneous current and voltage overshoot.  SiC has an epitaxial region one-tenth the size of Si which results in a reduction of overshoot, a faster forward recovery time and reduced power loss.

Heat Dissipation

SiC intrinsic thermal conductivity, the ability to remove heat, is twice that of Si [1]. SiC has a thermal conductivity of 3.3W/cmoK contrasted to Si which has a thermal conductivity of 1.5W/cmoK. SiC’s increased heat dissipation means SiC devices can operate with a reduced temperature drop across the device making it ideal for power applications.


 SiC: A Disruptive Technology

The Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEEE) states silicon carbide may be to the 21st century what silicon was to the 20th century [3].  Furthermore, the US Department of Energy considers WBG semiconductors to be a foundational technology that will transform multiple markets and industries, resulting in billions of dollars of savings for businesses and consumers when use becomes widespread [4].  WBG semiconductors permit devices to operate at much higher temperatures, voltages, and frequencies making the power electronic modules using these materials significantly more power and energy efficient than those made from conventional semiconductor materials [4].

SiC technology is a disruptive technology that has change the trajectory of future semiconductor innovations. Topologies of technological change are divided into two distinct categories:  Sustained or Disruptive [5].

A sustained technological change maintains the industry’s rate of product performance trajectory; these are process innovation and less product innovation. An example of sustained technology change was in the early use of computer memory disk drive industry.  Computer memory disk drives were introduced circa 1976 and with a recording density of 1 million bits/square inch.  These disk drives used particulate oxide disk technology and ferrite head technology (oxide/ferrite) [5].  From 1976 to 1985, oxide/ferrite recording density grew linearly to 10 million bits/square inch.  The recording density growth was related to incremental advances in manufacturing techniques such as grinding the ferrite heads, more precise dimensions, and using smaller more finely dispersed oxide particles on the disk’s surface [5].

In 1985, the oxide/ferrite storage technology reached its maturity and the recording density began to level-off. The maturity of the oxide/ferrite technology created a search for a new technology which introduced an incremental advance to thin film and head technology starting a new trajectory.

A disruptive technological change is governed by an innovation discontinuity which redefines the performance trajectory leading to creative destruction overturning the established industry structures [5].  Furthermore, discontinuous innovations are competency destroying, obsoleting existing know-how because mastery of the old technology does not imply mastery of the new [5].  In the 20th century, the disruptive technology was the introduction of silicon based electronics which replaced vacuum tubes and sparked the evolution electronics that revolutionized the world.

In the 21st century, the integration of WBG technology will set a new course for all industries.  The Department of Energy (DOE) has indicated WBG semiconductors will pave the way for exciting innovations in power electronics, solid-state lighting and other diverse applications across multiple industrial and clean energy sectors [4].

Commercially Available SiC Power Devices

Mitsubishi Electric has commercialized SiC technology into fundamental power semiconductor devices that include Schottky Barrier Diodes (SBD) and Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor (MOSFET). More important, Mitsubishi has commercialized SiC technology into both full and hybrid Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors (IGBT) and Intelligent Power Modules (IPM).  These full and hybrid SiC IGBT products offer the following advantages over the existing Si technology:

  • Reduced switching losses;
  • Increased system efficiency;
  • High temperature operation;
  • Increased operating frequency;
  • Reduced cooling requirements;
  • Low inductance for increased switching speed; and
  • Reduced system size = increased power density.

The full SiC IGBT modules have attained a 70% reduction in inverter power losses and the hybrid SiC IGBT modules have attained a 45% reduction in inverter power losses. Both products have found applications in a plurality of industries which include:

  • High power inverters for traction drives, Uninterruptible Power Supplies, and renewable energy applications.
  • Small inverters for household appliances and HVAC equipment.
  • High frequency inverters for medical equipment and welding.

 SiC Power Application: Mitsubishi Ginza Subway Line Retrofit

SiC technology development has focused on small device technology. However, Mitsubishi Electric introduced SiC technology into power electronics through the development and testing of SiC inverters for Japan’s Ginza subway line [6].  Mitsubishi’s test results are summarized as follows:

  • The SiC based inverter was 40% smaller and lighter than the conventional inverter;
  • Energy savings was 38.6% compared to the conventional system; and
  • Increased regenerated power to 51% compared to 22.7% for the conventional system [6].

These favorable results have prompted Mitsubishi Electric to commercialize the technology and have received 127 orders for the SiC-based inverters [6].


SiC technology is a disruptive technology that will establish a new trajectory for small device and power electronics. Tests have demonstrated that SiC based power electronics is smaller, lighter, and more efficient than the existing Si based technology.


  1. Ren, F., Zolper, J.C. Wide Energy Band Electronic Devices.  World      Scientific Publishing, 2003
  2. Li, Haixing, Su, Timothy, Zhang, Vivian, etal.  Electric Field    Breakdown in Single Molecule Junctions.  Journal of the American    Chemical Society, 2015, pp 5028 – 5033.
  3. IEEE Spectrum, Vol 52, no.5 (INT) May 2015, Front Cover.
  4. Wide Bandgap Semiconductors: Pursuing the Promise.  US Department of   Energy, Advanced Manufacturing Office.
  5. Tushman, M. L. & Anderson, P. Managing Strategic Innovation and Change.  Second edition, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  6. IEEE Spectrum article retrieved from  ready-to-run-the-rails

Take the 2018 Milton F. Lunch Ethics Contest Challenge!

Take the 2018 Milton F. Lunch Ethics Contest Challenge!

Download the full contest flyer (PDF)

All current NSPE individual members through their NSPE state societies and NSPE chapters (including student chapters) are invited to participate in the 2018 NSPE Milton F. Lunch Ethics Contest. Match your wits and knowledge of engineering ethics with experienced professional engineers and engineering students throughout the country.

This year the winning entry will receive an award of $2,000 to the author provided by NSPE, a certificate, and recognition in PE magazine.

How to Participate

NSPE’s Board of Ethical Review is furnishing you with two different fact situations to choose from regarding the ethics of engineers or, new this year, you can submit your own case! Please choose any one out of the two situations (or use your own case) and develop an essay, video, photo essay, poster, or PowerPoint presentation which could include embedded videos/sound, etc. to demonstrate your understanding of the facts and the NSPE Code of Ethics. Contestants are asked to read the facts of the case, then develop a discussion and conclusion to respond to the included question(s). Contestants should also provide references, citing specific sections of the NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers. A copy of the NSPE Code is attached for your reference. Contestants may also want to check the NSPE Board of Ethical Review’s Web site for additional cases decided by the BER.

Contest Rules

All entries must be received by Friday, April 27, 2018. E-mail or mail entries to:

2018 NSPE Milton F. Lunch Ethics Contest
NSPE Legal Department
1420 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

The contest is named for NSPE’s former general counsel, who played a key role in the founding of the NSPE Board of Ethical Review.