Substrate Update: It’s All About Patterning & Large Diameter Wafers

yole_developpement_logoMarket research firm Yole Developpement recently published a new report on front-end manufacturing trends for LEDs. Their latest report gives us some very good news about the sapphire market. Semiconductor Today reported on Yole’s analysis. Here are some big take-aways:

  • There is increased demand for larger-diameter sapphire wafers, with big players (such as LG, Sharp or Osram) moving to 6” wafers and Taiwanese players moving to 4” wafers.
  • LED chip makers demand more patterned sapphire substrates (PSS). PSS are now mainstream in the market with an 87% share as of Q1 2014.
  • While some companies (such as Soraa and Toshiba) have begun mass production of gallium nitride-on-silicon (GaN-on-Si) and GaN-on-GaN LEDs, market penetration of these alternative substrates will depend on future improvements in terms of performance and cost.  Without these improvements, alternative substrates will not be able to fully compete with sapphire-based LEDs.

What does this mean for sapphire makers? LED chip manufacturers are looking to gain production efficiencies, lower costs, and increase performance for their LEDs.  As the adoption for LED lighting increases, they need to make more and better performing LEDs. Large diameter sapphire wafers enable more throughput for each run of the MOCVD reactor, making better use of the reactor “real estate” and decreasing the cost per unit of area processed. Depending on the type of MOCVD reactor used, LED chip manufacturers using six-inch wafer platforms may achieve up to 48% greater usable area per reactor run as compared to two-inch wafers.

What does PSS offer? First, PSS helps improve epitaxial growth by promoting growth of the GaN in parallel to the substrate surface. This helps reduce the number of dislocations, called the dislocation density, which can degrade performance of an LED.  Secondly, patterning can help extract as much as 30 percent more light from an LED.  This is particularly advantageous for high brightness LEDs (HB LEDs) that are used in LED lighting applications.

LED chip manufacturers have been buying smaller 2-inch and 4-inch PSS from outside suppliers for years.  The next step in the evolution in the market is the migration to large diameter PSS. Already a pioneer in the development of large diameter sapphire substrates, Rubicon Technology has developed capabilities for large diameter PSS making it possible to manufacture 6-inch and even 8-inch PSS. Rubicon is already gaining traction in the PSS market.  The company recently reported in their Q1 2014 earnings call that they received their first order for PSS and have samples out to more than a dozen LED chip manufacturers.

For more information about the report from Yole, visit http://www.i-micronews.com/reports/LED-Front-End-Manufacturing-Trends-report/14/433

For Further Reading

Semiconductor Today, Substrates shaping trends in LED front-end manufacturing, http://www.semiconductor-today.com/news_items/2014/APR/YOLE_300414.shtml

Clearlysapphire.com, Larger Wafers, Larger Yield – The Numbers Behind Large Diameter Sapphire Wafers and Yield, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=435

Clearlysapphire.com, Large Diameter Patterned Sapphire Substrates Explained, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=582

Clearlysapphire.com, Sapphire Substrates for LED: The Big Move Toward 6″ Has Already Started, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=37

General Lighting Brightens Up with LEDs

Clearlysapphire.com continues to follow the growth of LED lighting as well as sapphire and alternative substrates. This week, we’ll focus on a new report from Yole Developpement, a research firm that covers LEDs and the semiconductor industry.  Yole recently reported that the packaged LED market will grow from $13.9 billion in 2013 to $16 billion by 2018, driven mainly by general lighting and completed by display applications.  The report, Status of the LED Industry, details how LED-based general lighting has surpassed all other applications, representing nearly 39 percent of total revenue of packaged LEDs In 2012.

2013 packaged LED revenue by application.  The total market size is nearly $13B. (Source: Status of the LED Industry report, Yole Developpement, September 2013)

2013 packaged LED revenue by application. The total market size is nearly $13B. (Source: Status of the LED Industry report, Yole Developpement, September 2013)

Costs need to continue to drop to keep LED-based lighting’s momentum in the general lighting market according to the report’s author, Pars Mukish, market and technology analyst, LED for Yole Developpement.  He commented, “Cost represents the main barrier LEDs must overcome to fully compete with incumbent technologies.  Since 2010, the price of packaged LEDs have sharply decreased, which has had the consequence of decreasing the price of LED-based lighting products.”

Mukish notes that in order to maintain growth, the industry needs to continue reducing pricing.  He pointed out that while LED still has some potential for cost reduction, widespread adoption will require manufacturers to reduce costs on all components of the system such as drivers, heat sink, and PCB.

Yole also updates their reporting on the use of alternative substrates in the LED market.  This situation hasn’t changed since we last covered alternatives in these posts:  Clearlysapphire.com, Alternative Substrates – Dimming the Hype, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=496 and Clearlysapphire.com, Alternative Substrates for LEDs, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=293.

According to Yole, companies working on alternatives such as silicon and GaN still face major obstacles.  Mukish says the benefit of GaN-on-silicon LEDs depends on decreasing manufacturing cost by using cheaper 8 inch silicon substrates that can leverage fully depreciated and highly automated CMOS fabs. However, he maintains that GaN-on-silicon LEDs still suffer from low manufacturing yields and full compatibility with CMOS fab still needs to be achieved.  He added that GaN-on-GaN LEDs benefit from a lower defect density in the epitaxial layers, allowing the device to be driven at higher current levels and to use a lower number of LED devices per system.   However, he said that GaN-on-GaN LEDs suffer from low GaN substrate availability and high costs.

For Further Reading

iMicronews, Sample, State of LED Industry, SLI report,  http://www.i-micronews.com/upload/Rapports/SLI%20Sample.pdf

Compound Semiconductor, Yole: Inexpensive LED Solutions Pushing Adoption In General Lighting, http://www.compoundsemiconductor.net/csc/detail-news/id/19736834/name/Yole:-Inexpensive-LED-solutions-pushing-adoption-in-general-lighting.html

Novus Light Today, Yole Releases Status of LED Industry Report, http://www.novuslight.com/yole-releases-status-of-led-industry-report_N1675.html

 

New Applications for Sapphire: Aerospace & Defense, Part 1 of 3

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Range of sapphire products available from Rubicon Technology including large optical windows and other shapes for aerospace and defense.

Sapphire’s unique properties make it a perfect material for high-performance applications due to its optical transparency, physical strength, resistance to abrasion and corrosion, temperature durability, chemical inertness, and bio-compatibility. As a result, it is perfectly suited for extreme environments where material durability is just as important as optical clarity.

One extreme use case is in the aerospace and defense industry where there’s a need for rugged windows for targeting pods and missile domes, most notably for the US F-35 fighter jet, that may come in contact with harsh conditions from the harsh, gritty desert with extremely high temperatures to high altitudes with extreme low temperatures.

Market research firm Yole Developpement determined that non-substrate applications for sapphire in the defense, semiconductor and other applications represent 25% of the sapphire industry revenue in a new study.  The market represents a solid growth opportunity for sapphire makers.

While there is opportunity, innovation is needed.  Sapphire traditionally has been limited to smaller shapes and sizes using traditional growth methods.  As sensor technology and applications, in defense and aerospace in particular, have evolved, the size requirements for sapphire windows have grown substantially.  One company that is innovating sapphire crystal growth is Rubicon Technology.

In a recent paper, Rubicon’s Dr. Jonathan Levine, Director of Technical Business Development, detailed how Rubicon successfully produced very large sapphire blanks using a highly modified horizontal directional solidification process. This new method, named the Large‐Area Netshape Crystal Extraction (LANCE) system is currently able to produce crystals of several different orientations. The company plans to produce sapphire windows as large as 36 x 18 x 0.8 inches.

For Further Reading

Clearlysapphire.com Blog, Opportunities for Sapphire: New Applications & Markets Explained, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=426

Clearlysapphire.com Blog, How Large Can You Go? Sapphire Windows Grow Up and Across, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=409

Rubicon Technology, Synthesis and characterization of large optical-grade sapphire windows produced from a horizontal growth process, http://www.rubicontechnology.com/sites/default/files/Synthesis%20and%20Characterization%20of%20Large%20Optical%20Grade%20Sapphire%20Windows.pdf