How Do They Do It? From Sapphire to LED Infographic

You’ve heard a lot about LEDs, but did you know that a tiny piece of sapphire – the pure, colorless industrial variety, not the blue gemstone – is in more than 80% of LEDs? Sapphire is the foundation for the LED chip, just as silicon is for a computer chip.  Rubicon Technology has put together an infographic that describes the sapphire manufacturing process and where sapphire is found in an LED. The bottom of the infographic features examples of products that feature LEDs for lighting. Click on the infographic below to see it larger.

Infographic for Post

 

 

 

 

 

Link to: http://www.rubicontechnology.com/sites/default/files/From%20Sapphire%20to%20LED%20Infographic.pdf

Larger Wafers, Larger Yield – The Numbers Behind Large Diameter Sapphire Wafers and Yield

rubicon-waferyield-540x720-3Today, more than 80% of LEDs are based on sapphire substrates. For years, two-inch and four-inch diameter sapphire wafers have been the standard for LED production.  Now, LED chip manufacturers are looking to migrate to six-inch diameter wafers to increase the yield or the amount of LED chips they can make out of each wafer.  This is important as new market opportunities like LED-based general lighting take off, demanding more sapphire.

Rubicon put together an infographic, Larger Wafer, Larger Yield, about the yield from large diameter wafers. You can see it here on Rubicon’s new web site:  http://www.rubicontechnology.com/sites/default/files/Rubicon_WaferYield_v3.pdf

Rubicon Technology’s CEO Raja Parvez talked about the benefits of moving to large diameter sapphire wafers in an article, Vertical Integration Streamlines Sapphire Production, in Compound Semiconductor earlier this year.

According to Parvez, LED chip manufacturers look to large diameter sapphire wafers to cut costs.  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.  The outer curvature of the 6 inch wafer is less, enabling greater use of the surface area than a 2 inch wafer resulting in less edge loss. In addition, large wafers provide post-MOCVD efficiencies.  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 compared with two-inch wafers.  These efficiency gains become very compelling when LED chip production ramps up in large volumes to support a high growth market like general lighting.

For Further Reading

Compound Semiconductor, Vertical Integration Streamlines Sapphire Production http://www.compoundsemiconductor.net/csc/features-details.php?cat=features&id=19736275&key=rubicon%20technology&type=

Top 9 Things You Didn’t Know about LEDs

Philips Luxeon LED

Philips Luxeon LED

Recently, the Department of Energy published a list of the Top 8 Things You Didn’t Know about LEDs. We’d like to share the list, and add one more for our Clearlysapphire blog post this week.

9.  Sapphire is the base material for more than 80% of LEDs, just like silicon is the base material for computer chips.

8. A light-emitting diode, or LED, is a type of solid-state lighting that uses a semiconductor to convert electricity into light. Today’s LED bulbs can be six-seven times more energy efficient than conventional incandescent lights and cut energy use by more than 80 percent.

7. Good-quality LED bulbs can have a useful life of 25,000 hours or more — meaning they can last more than 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs. That is a life of more than three years if run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

6. Unlike incandescent bulbs — which release 90 percent of their energy as heat — LEDs use energy far more efficiently with little wasted heat.

5. From traffic lights and vehicle brake lights to TVs and display cases, LEDs are used in a wide range of applications because of their unique characteristics, which include compact size, ease of maintenance, resistance to breakage, and the ability to focus the light in a single direction instead of having it go every which way.

4. LEDs contain no mercury, and a recent Energy Department study determined that LEDs have a much smaller environmental impact than incandescent bulbs. They also have an edge over compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) that’s expected to grow over the next few years as LED technology continues its steady improvement.

3. Since the Energy Department started funding solid-state lighting R&D in 2000, these projects have received 58 patents. Some of the most successful projects include developing new ways to use materials, extract more light, and solve the underlying technical challenges. Most recently, the Energy Department announced five new projects that will focus on cutting costs by improving manufacturing equipment and processes.

2. The first visible-spectrum LED was invented by Nick Holonyak, Jr., while working for GE in 1962. Since then, the technology has rapidly advanced and costs have dropped tremendously, making LEDs a viable lighting solution. Between 2011 and 2012, global sales of LED replacement bulbs increased by 22 percent while the cost of a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb fell by nearly 40 percent. By 2030, it’s estimated that LEDs will account for 75 percent of all lighting sales.

1. In 2012, about 49 million LEDs were installed in the U.S. — saving about $675 million in annual energy costs. Switching entirely to LED lights over the next two decades could save the U.S. $250 billion in energy costs, reduce electricity consumption for lighting by nearly 50 percent and avoid 1,800 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

For Further Reading

Department of Energy, Top 8 Things You Didn’t Know about LEDs, http://energy.gov/articles/top-8-things-you-didn-t-know-about-leds

Opportunities for Sapphire: New Applications & Markets Explained

Rubicon Technology announced the publication of Opportunities for Sapphire, a new white paper that examines markets that leverage the highly versatile material, sapphire.  Based on research from IMS Research, the paper takes an in-depth look at the demand for sapphire in key markets including LED, semiconductor and optical.  You can find the white paper on Rubicon’s new web site at http://rubicontechnology.com/resources/papers, but here’s a look at what you’ll find.

Sapphire has emerged as a versatile material in a range of industries for many varied applications.  Sapphire’s inherent physical attributes for durability, light transmission, chemical inertness and thermal insulation make it desirable for a growing list of applications in a range of markets.  The white paper examines the opportunity for the LED market in general lighting, backlighting and display and uses in industries like automotive.  It also explores sapphire applications for optical-grade sapphire windows, lenses and covers as well as semiconductor applications such as silicon-on-sapphire chips in radio frequency integrated circuits (RFICs) for RF antennas, as digitally tunable capacitors (DTCs) and power amplifiers in smart phones and other consumer devices.

According to white paper author Jamie Fox of IMS Research, high quality sapphire delivers great benefits to LED chip manufacturers gearing up for applications like LED-based general lighting.  “Every LED company we spoke to during the research for this paper purchases sapphire and benefits from the superior yields and quality,” writes Fox.  “Substrate demand in 2012 is estimated at 42 million two-inch equivalent wafers (TIE) and expected to grow to 57 million TIE in 2013 according to market research firm Displaybank.  As the lighting market grows into a more significant segment and larger, thicker wafers are utilized, sapphire demand will accelerate.”

“Opportunities for Sapphire” also discusses the role of sapphire in LED production, the emergence of the market for large diameter sapphire wafers and sapphire demand by application.

LED Sapphire Ingot Demand Forecast

LED Sapphire Demand Graphic WPPR

(source: DisplayBank)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The market has shown growing demand since 2010 with an expansion of the LED/LCD TV market and the growth of applications such as general lighting.

Green line indicates rate of growth per year

Key:  Demand in thousands of millimeters of two-inch equivalent sapphire

Lightfair 2013 – Observations about LEDs from Philadelphia

The LFI Innovation Award went to Philips BoldPlay  for Most Innovative Product of the Year

The Lightfair International trade show and conference was recently held in Philadelphia.  According to the organizers, LIGHTFAIR International (LFI) is the world’s largest annual commercial and architectural lighting trade show and conference.  Sponsored by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD), the 2012 show had more than 24,000 registered attendees from 73 countries. It is clearly a big deal in the lighting industry.

Here’s a round-up of some analysis of LEDs at the show and a quick look at industry awards from LFI.

The engineers from Groom Energy made their annual trek to Lightfair and included an analysis of their trek in their blog.  This year, they noticed a difference in the quality of light from LEDs on display.  The light the LEDs on display put off was the more familiar, warmer light similar to the light put out by an incandescent. LEDs also got smarter with lighting controls evolved from being add-ons to being embedded. Jon Guerster, the author of the blog, speculates that California’s Title 24 that requires lighting controls may be a driver for all of the new smart lighting controls.  Finally, the Groom Energy team found that LED fixtures no longer looked distinct like LED fixtures, but sported the familiar look of incandescent, HID and fluorescent fixtures from the past. Now, you can’t tell that there are LEDs inside.

The LED analyst team from IMS Research traveled from London to Philadelphia and posted an analysis about the show on their LED blog.  IMS Analyst Jamie Fox noted that the show no longer featured that “Wow” moment.  He said this is due to the relative maturity of LED lighting.  The maturity and evolution of the LED market also led to two key observations from IMS.

According to Fox, there’s no clear winning sector in the American LEDs general lighting market.  Fox and his colleagues were told by LED manufacturers that residential, retail, outdoor, hospitality and others all have a “significant” part of the pie but none of them dominates. This was supported by IMS observations of the product mix on the show floor.  As for LED manufacturers, Fox noted that the “big three” — Nichia, Cree and Lumileds — are leaders in the American LED market and while global LED players like Samsung, Seoul Semiconductor, Osram and others play a role in the US, the “big three” are consistently mentioned as clear leaders in the market.

Finally, Fox noted that industry price decreases versus quality was an issue for many at the show.  According to Fox, “there is a significant worry though, both from my own observations of product, and from show floor conversations, that it is becoming too much of a lowest price fight at the moment, and not enough advancement on quality.”  Fox says low price may not ensure that a customer will be happy with the light quality from an LED bulb that doesn’t compare well to an incandescent bulb.

The LFI Innovation Awards program honored lighting vendors for innovation and design. Here are a few of the top winners:

  • PHILIPS (BoldPlay): Most Innovative Product of the Year—the program’s highest award, recognizing the most innovative new product
  • COOLEDGE LIGHTING (Light Sheet): Design Excellence Award—recognizing outstanding achievement in design
  • DOW CORNING CORPORATION (Dow Corning® Brand Moldable Silicones): Technical Innovation Award—recognizing the most forward-thinking advancement in lighting technology
  • PHILIPS (hue personal wireless lighting): Judges’ Citation Award—special recognition of an innovative product at the judges’ discretion

For Further Reading

Groom Energy, LightFair 2013: LED Lighting Is Warm, Smart and Looks Like What You Know, http://blog.groomenergy.com/2013/04/lightfair-2013-led-lighting-is-warm-smart-and-looks-like-what-you-know/

IMS RESEARCH, LED Blog, LEDs Continue to Evolve At LIGHTFAIR, http://www.ledmarketresearch.com/blog/leds_continue_to_evolve_at_lightfair

Commercial Sapphire Spotlight – Vertical Integration in Sapphire

Rubicon Family of Sapphire Boules

Last month, Compound Semiconductor Magazine featured a contributed article about Vertical Integration in sapphire production by Raja M. Parvez, President and CEO of Rubicon Technology.  Rubicon has adopted vertical integration to set itself apart from other sapphire companies.  The article details Rubicon’s approach.

Vertical integration isn’t a new concept. It has been around since the 1800s when US Steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie introduced the vertical integration by owning virtually every part of the steel-making value chain from iron ore through steel mills to physically building the railroads.  Later, in the 1920s, Ford Motor Company decided to make the steel for their cars, popularizing the concept further.

According to Rubicon’s president and CEO Raja Parvez, vertical integration holds the key to Rubicon’s cost structure and reliable supply of high-quality products.  This integrated approach influences every step in the growth of sapphire crystals and their processing into wafers. The company’s end-to-end manufacturing capability, with strong intellectual property at each step of the manufacturing process, produces an advantageous cost structure and provides better control of product quality and delivery schedules. Vertical integration is also central to the company’s ability to grow larger and larger sapphire and be the first to market with large-diameter sapphire wafers for the LED and SoS/RFIC markets.  To date, Rubicon has shipped more than 400,000 6-inch wafers.

To read the full article, visit:   http://content.yudu.com/A2360p/CompSemMar13/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.compoundsemiconductor.net%2Fcsc%2Fmagazine.php

Industrial LED Lighting Gains Momentum

 

LED lighting in an industrial location (source, Greenbiz.com, http://bit.ly/YZFMbE)

IDC Energy Insights reports that the industrial market for LEDs is picking up momentum as companies looking to build new “smart” facilities or retrofit old ones choose energy efficient LED lighting.  Adoption of LEDs for industrial lighting is good news for the commercial sapphire market and others in the LED supply chain. More LED lighting means more demand for sapphire.

First, let’s start with some background.  Warehouses are particularly fertile ground for LED lighting since instant-on LED lights provide virtually no cycle time compared to traditional industrial lighting sources like HID (high-intensity discharge lamps) along with lower lifetime costs (including maintenance), higher efficacy and local utility incentives among others.

For those who watched the recent Super Bowl in New Orleans, the HID lights may be familiar.   After the electricity loss during the second half, the lengthy delay in the game – more than 20 minutes — was partially due to the cycle time of the HID lighting for the interior of the stadium.  In a warehouse situation, HID cycle time becomes a big issue as no one wants to wait for the lights to cycle and as a result, many warehouses just keep the lights on, running up energy costs.

IDC Energy Insights research analyst Casey Talon commented in her clean energy blog that LED lighting and “smart building” will be the disruptive technology for energy efficiency over the next three years.

Talon highlighted two big announcements in early January 2013 that demonstrate the momentum of smart building with LED lighting.  First, lighting leader Acuity Brands acquired Adura Technologies.  Adura’s Zigbee wireless mesh architecture enables individual fixture controls for cost and energy savings.  Secondly, Digital Lumens, a leader in the industrial lighting solutions market, announced new growth numbers and funding, that demonstrates the viability of the emerging smart building technology segment.  The company secured a new round of $10 million in financing and reported a footprint of 500 ‘large-scale’ installations representing 150% growth.

She notes in the blog that “fundamentally this news demonstrates that end users are increasingly aware of the benefits of energy efficiency to both their bottom lines and corporate goals.  The activity in these markets illustrates a growing acceptance of upfront costs to achieve longer term benefits.”

LED lighting combined with lighting control and management software offers the ability to track and manage the benefits of LED lighting.  Wireless controls and analytics help building managers understand when to have lighting on or off when employees are present, measure “free” ambient light from outside to cut down reliance on lighting, and know when and where to adjust brightness in areas when high precision work is needed.

Using analytics already is paying off.  According to one case study from Digital Lumens, Vector Aerospace Helicopter Services North America, a worldwide leader in helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul for Sikorsky, Eurocopter, AgustaWestland and Boeing helicopters, saved more than 72% on their annual energy costs with a Digital Lumens retrofit.

According to Talon, “If these early announcements are a signal, then 2013 may mark a tipping point in the smart buildings marketplace as customer awareness and investment begin to converge for broader adoption of intelligent energy management solutions.”

Further Reading

IDC Energy Insights, Illuminating the Smart Building, https://idc-insights-community.com/energy/clean-energy/illuminatingthesmartbuilding

Greenbiz.com, LED lighting gaining traction in commercial retrofits, http://www.greenbiz.com/news/2013/02/05/led-lighting-gaining-traction-commercial-retrofits

The LED Revolution in 2013 – Advances in LED Light

NY Times Square New Year’s Ball 2013, http://timessquareball.net/new-years-eve-ball-history/

The BBC recently put together a video about the LED Lighting Revolution that was jam packed with lots of information about the latest advances in LED lighting for 2013.  It also brings great video of LED upgrades to the Times Square New Year’s Ball in New York and the new LED lighting at New York’s Empire State Building that you might not have seen yet.

The New Year’s Celebration at New York’s Times Square is known worldwide for the crystal ball that has been dropped at midnight since 1907.  The ball, made by Philips and Waterford, got a makeover in 2007 when they changed the light source from incandescent bulbs to LEDs. But each year the LED-based ball gets a little bit better. The BBC video details how Philips and Waterford joined together to ensure that the legendary sparkle of the ball wasn’t lost with LED’s directional light.  The ball designers used special reflectors and baffles (seen in the video) to make sure the light refracts correctly with the crystal.

The 2013 Ball features 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles bolted to 672 LED modules attached to an aluminum frame.  The Ball is illuminated by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs. Each LED module contains 48 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs – 12 red, 12 blue, 12 green and 12 white to a total of 8,064 of each color. The Ball is capable of creating a palette of more than 16 million colors.

Not only does the ball look better, but the new ball brought energy savings 90% with double brightness by going LED in 2007. One year later, improvements saved 30 percent more energy.  The improvements have been so great that they keep the ball lit all year, every day.

The LED retrofit of the Empire State Building (ESB) was completed earlier this year, but the people at the BBC show the retrofit developed by Philips Color Kinetics in detail.  The new programmable LED light system brings 16 million colors. The old lighting system for the ESB meant 9-10 men manually changing large colored gel disks in a process that took all day. Now, the managers can update the new color palette – which can be daily — at a touch of a button.

Recently, we detailed the new 3-Way SWITCH LED Light Bulb at CES. The BBC video details how some SWITCH bulbs are made with a new liquid cooling system.  While most LED bulbs are air cooled, the people at SWITCH have developed a special liquid cooled LED bulb.  SWITCH’s advanced LQD Cooling System™ divides the bulb into two parts where half the bulb is a glass globe filled with silicon-based liquid to act as a cooling element.  The LQD Cooling System also includes a patented driver that is both reliable and highly efficient. SWITCH claims that their bulbs offer up to 40% better thermal performance than air-cooled LED bulbs.

The BBC video ends with a look at how 2013 will be different for personal, customizable LED lighting that can be controlled by a tablet or smart phone. Using an onscreen color palate or personal photo on a tablet, users can change the light from the LED lamp.

For Further Viewing

BBC, The LED Lighting Revolution, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/9782116.stm

 

LED-Related Companies Show Well in Deloitte Tech Fast 500

This November, Deloitte released their latest The Deloitte Technology Fast 500 list for technology companies based in the US and Canada.  For the 18th year, Deloitte ranked the 500 fastest growing technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and clean technology companies in North America.   LED sector companies including those specializing in sapphire did well.

The Deloitte Technology Fast 500 is awarded to companies that demonstrate technological innovation, entrepreneurship and rapid growth.  Fast 500 companies can be any size – large, small, public, and private – and span a variety of industry sectors including clean technology.   The clean technology sector made up 7 percent of the companies on the list.

Tesla Motors, Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) clinched the overall top spot with fiscal year 2011 revenue of $204.24 million and a growth rate of 279,684 percent from 2007 to 2011.  Tesla also topped the clean tech category, but there was another big trend inside the clean tech category itself.  LED-related companies showed strength on the list including Rubicon Technology, Lighting Science Group Corporation, GT Advanced Technology, Cree, and Bridgelux.

Deloitte Technology Fast 500 award winners for 2012 were determined based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth from 2007 to 2011.  In order to be eligible for Technology Fast 500™ recognition, companies must own proprietary intellectual property or technology that is sold to customers in products that contribute to a majority of the company’s operating revenues.

 

LED Light as Art

SHY Light Bronze by Bec Brittain

SHY Light Bronze by Bec Brittain

Now that we have looked into the technology and markets for LED-based tube lighting, let’s take a few moments to admire the creative side of LED lighting – a very artistic approach to using LED tubes as a medium.  The collection of LED lighting from New York City-based Bec Brittain, The SHY Light, uses thin LED tubes to redefine LED lighting that’s very different from your standard T-12 fixture.

Inspired by crystalline structures and the way they grow, the LED light fixtures can take on the shape of a pyramid or polyhedron and are configured in modules so that they can be reconfigured in a myriad of different ways depending on the space from retail to high-end homes.  The SHY LED lighting has been featured in LUX, Dwell and Interior Design.

After first working with fluorescent tubes, Brittain told the blog “You have been here sometime” that she turned to LEDs due to simpler wiring, but also for advances in the quality of light.  Her first priority is to design things that can be passed on to future generations.

The New York Times Magazine recently focused on Brittain and her new role as LED lighting designer.  With degrees in architecture and philosophy, she worked in lighting design with lighting design specialist Lindsey Adelman while at the same time designing braided leather jewelry and bug sculptures. “I’d like to explore the possibility of bringing the materiality and femininity of my other projects into my design work,” Brittain said. “You can only do so many things at once.”

For Further Reading

Times Magazine (The New York Times), Seeing the Light, http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/31/seeing-the-light-2/

You Have Been Here Sometime, A Conversation with Bec Brittain, http://youhavebeenheresometime.blogspot.com/2012/01/conversation-with-bec-brittain.html

Clearlysapphire.com, Deep Dive: LED Tubes Gain Traction, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=247