Challenging the 12-inch Wafer Barrier

Rubicon Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq: RBCN) recently announced the production of 12 inch, c-plane sapphire wafers to round out the company’s portfolio of high quality sapphire substrates including 2-, 3- and 4-inch core, and 6-, 8- and 12-inch wafers. Why so big? Rubicon is already supplying samples of larger diameter wafers to chip companies and working with MOCVD reactor manufacturers.

Companies like Rubicon Technology are working to bring bigger, better wafers to market that yield greater numbers of chips to make LEDs. Rubicon perfected an end-to-end process to make high quality large diameter wafers of ranging in size from 2- to 12-inches.

Rubicon Technology scientist displays a 12" large diameter sapphire wafer

The larger diameter wafers have more real estate to cut chips and this cuts costs per chip making the manufacturing of the LED more affordable too. Already companies like Philips Lumiled and Lextar Electronics have announced the move to 6-inch for LED production.

Many question whether the market is ready for large diameter sapphire. Rubicon has found that they are ready and signed a US $71 million agreement for six-inch polished substrate wafers in 2010. The company found that many LED companies come from a heritage in optoelectronics or semiconductor industries and these companies have 8- and 12-inch equipment ready for larger diameter wafers.

For Further Reading:
Industry reference: Rubicon Technology Transcends LED Industry with Innovative 12-Inch Sapphire Wafers

Interview with Raja in Efficien’Si Magazine: Rubicon Strives to Fill the Capacity Gap

Ringing in 2011 Brighter than Ever

2010 was great for LED Light Bulbs. In just a decade, the Times Square Ball went from state-of-the-art halogen lighting in 2000 to completely solid state lighting on the ball’s 100th anniversary with a mere 9,576 LEDs in 2007. 2010 concluded with the 2011 Times Square Ball shining bright with 32,256 LEDs. That’s a lot of progress for LED or solid state lighting.

The year 2010 also was filled with a lot of high profile advances in display lighting such as the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, home of Super Bowl XLV, sporting a record breaking, four screen, high definition LED display over the football field. Each screen uses more than 2.695 million LED pixels to impress fans during events like the 2011 Super Bowl. The new Yankee Stadium features a new Diamond Vision Screen with more than 8.6 million LEDs in the display.

General lighting for the consumer saw advances too as LED light bulbs become more affordable. Powerhouse retailer Home Depot committed to selling LED light bulbs for around $20. According to Home Depot, it now offers a proprietary brand of LEDs under the EcoSmart name, including a bulb that retails for $19.97 and is a 40W equivalent, offering 429 lumen with a 50,000 hour expected lifetime. This makes it the most affordable bulb of its kind in the market to date. Just two years ago, a 60-watt equivalent cost $90 and a 100-watt dimmable bulb went for $360. That’s a lot of progress on the affordability front.

Demystifying Sapphire – Clear Thinking on Sapphire

It seems like LEDs are in everything these days – backlighting everything from your mobile phone, Apple iPad and flat screen HDTV to traffic lights, light bulbs and even the kitchen sink. But, making LEDs is a complex process that begins with the creation of sapphire. Not the pretty blue gemstone, but large commercial crystals that can weigh as much as 400 lbs. Once these large sapphire crystals are grown into boules and cooled, they’re cut into cores, cut further into flat circular wafers, polished and then used to grow LEDs. About 85 percent of HB-LEDs (high brightness) are grown on sapphire.

There’s not that much information out there about the process. This blog is meant to shed some light (excuse the pun) on sapphire, LEDs and the industry that is devoted to making our lives just a little brighter.

In the months ahead, we’ll tackle some topics that will help you understand a little more about sapphire and LED industry. Here’s a sample of what we’ll cover in the coming months:

• Growing sapphire
• For a wafer, size matters
• Quality – When sapphire wafers go bad
• LED light bulbs
• Market & myths
• Interviews with industry shining stars
• Reports from industry events
• Current events in perspective

Please join us each week to learn more about sapphire and the LED market. We look forward to seeing you.