Two new products from semi equipment manufacturer Altatech: one for ultra-thin film deposition, and one for searching out nano-defects. Altatech is a division of Soitec, best known in the advanced substrates community for its leadership in SOI wafers. This part of the company, however, develops highly efficient, cost-effective inspection and chemical vapor deposition (CVD) technologies used for R&D and manufacturing of semiconductors, LEDs, MEMS and photovoltaic devices.
The company’s newest inspection system, the Orion Lightspeed™, is capable of pinpointing the size and location of nano-scale defects inside compound semiconductor materials and transparent substrates (see press release here). The new system helps to ensure the quality control of high-value engineered substrates used in several fast growing markets including high-brightness LEDs, power semiconductors and 3D ICs. Inspection is based on Altatech’s patented synchronous Doppler detection™ technology, which determines the exact size and position of defects by making direct physical measurements with resolution below 100 nm. This provides true defect sizing, as opposed to other types of inspection equipment on the market that make indirect measurements using diffracted light to calculate approximate defect sizes. It handles 200mm or 300mm substrates, with throughput of 85 and 80 wafers per hour, respectively. Beta systems have already been installed at customers’ facilities and are demonstrating excellent performance. Shipments of production units are scheduled to begin in April 2015.
The new AltaCVD 3D Memory Cell™ is the latest member of Altatech’s AltaCVD line, designed to deposit ultra-thin semiconductor films that enable the manufacturing of high-density, low-power memory ICs used throughout mobile electronics (see press release here). The new system performs atomic-layer deposition 10 times faster than conventional atomic-layer deposition (ALD) systems, helping to meet global market demands for both high-volume production and cost efficiency in fabricating advanced memories. The system is currently demonstrating its unique capabilities and performance at one of Altatech’s key customers. Production units are available.
Altatech, a subsidiary of Soitec, has received an order for its Orion LedMax wafer inspection and metrology system from OSRAM Opto Semiconductors GmbH, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of opto electronic components (read press release here). OSRAM will use the tool to improve the performance, cost efficiency and yield of its LED-processing operations. The leading-edge inspection system, suitable for both volume manufacturing and R&D applications, will perform production control and new product qualification of OSRAM’s epitaxial wafers used in fabricating LEDs.
Best known to many as the world leader in SOI wafer manufacturing, Soitec’s other divisions are also leaders in their areas, with wafer manufacturing equipment and products related to LEDs and solar (CPV) technology.
An agreement between Soitec and GT Advanced Technologies is aiming to lower the cost of LED production and accelerate adoption in commercial and residential lighting. GT is developing an HVPE (high productivity hydride vapor phase epitaxy) system incorporating Soitec Phoenix Labs’ (a subsidiary of Soitec) unique and proprietary HVPE technology. This includes Soitec’s novel and advanced source delivery system that is expected to lower the costs of precursors delivered to the HVPE reactor. The HVPE system will enable the production of GaN template sapphire substrates at scale. The expected target date for the commercial availability of the HVPE system is the second half of 2014.
Soitec‘s Smart Cut™ technology, best known for its role as the leading technology for producing SOI wafers, is now being leveraged to produce GaN substrates for high-performance LED lighting applications. Following a successful pilot line announced last year, Sumitomo Electric will now industrialize the product and invest in Smart Cut technology. Yoshiki Miura, general manager of the Compound Semiconductor Materials Division at Sumitomo Electric, said, “By combining the two innovative technologies – Soitec’s Smart Cut technology and our high-quality, large-diameter, free-standing GaN substrates – we are able to offer a high-value proposition to our LED customers. Soitec’s unique material-transfer technology enables the reuse of GaN wafers several times, achieving a substantial reduction in the cost of high-quality GaN materials to serve high-volume applications.”
World-leading advanced substrate maker Soitec and compound materials leader Sumitomo Electric are launching pilot production of 4” and 6” GaN wafers for the LED and power markets. Soitec applies its Smart CutTM layer-transfer process to Sumitomo’s bulk GaN wafers to generate engineered wafers with the same thermal expansion (CTE) as standard GaN wafers but at lower costs.
GaN-on-Si is moving towards becoming a cost-effective enabler for next-generation LED and power devices.
During the past decade gallium nitride (GaN) has become an important compound semiconductor as it enables numerous key applications in optoelectronics and in power electronics.
GaN LED technology could well be the Holy Grail in terms of providing the next generation of lighting. LEDs in general present many advantages over incandescent light sources, including a higher luminous efficacy in combination with a longer lifetime.
Within the LED family, GaN is the only material that enables fabrication of efficient blue and white LEDs. Today, InGaN/GaN based blue, green and white devices are already available on the LED market – which is a multi-billion euro high-volume market.
In power electronics, the GaN materials system enables the fabrication of power components that offer a competitive advantage to traditional silicon MOSFET power devices. GaN intrinsically possess an electrical breakdown field that is 10 times larger than silicon, while offering excellent transport properties: key enablers for very effective reductions of both conduction and switching losses at high voltages or for high-power/high-frequency operation. Due to its wide band gap (3.4eV), operation at high temperatures is no longer an obstacle.
All these characteristics make the material especially suited for fabricating the next-generation of switching components to be used in electric motors, power invertors or DC/DC convertors, for example. And although GaN technology for these applications is still in its infancy, the market for such switching components is destined to grow considerably, because of the drive to use more hybrid electrical vehicles in transport, more solar installations, more wind farms, and the smart grids to connect it all.
But today, GaN technology is still very expensive. Lower costs and greater productivity consistency are prerequisite for a further widespread acceptance by industry.
One way to address this concern is to bring GaN LED and power manufacturing processes towards a production platform that uses a CMOS-like process on 8-inch silicon wafers. Today, GaN processes are typically performed on smaller size substrates, such as the very expensive silicon carbide (SiC – for power and RF electronics) and sapphire (for LEDs) substrates, predominantly available in diameters of 2, 3 or 4 inches.
At imec, we are convinced of the tremendous advantages of using 8-inch silicon substrates in an 8-inch silicon facility: up-scaling the wafer size increases the productivity and hence the cost-efficiency, as more chips become available for an equal amount of fabrication steps. But we can also benefit from the many years of high-volume silicon manufacturing know how.
For example, for LED manufacturing, the availability of process and particle control, in-situ metrology and accelerated lifetime testing facilitates the production of highly reliable devices with long lifetime that are highly uniform in terms of light intensity and wavelength. In other words, we will achieve lower cost by leveraging the ‘economies of scale’ of silicon.
At imec, we tackle these challenges in our industrial affiliation program (IIAP) on GaN power and LED devices, together with our program partners. This IIAP builds on imec’s excellent track record in GaN epi-layer growth, new device concepts (e.g. HEMTs, double HEMTs, e-mode devices) and CMOS device integration. We are on track in making these GaN processes silicon compatible and, meanwhile, we are developing GaN epitaxy on 8 inch in a new epi reactor – important steps towards the fabrication of cost-effective next-generation GaN devices.