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

Alternative Substrates for LEDs – Not Ready for Prime Time

Over the past several months, there has been some industry chatter about alternative substrates for the production of LEDs.  In fact, the dialog has been more heat than light until now if you think about it in terms of a filament in an incandescent light bulb.

Large Diameter Sapphire Wafer (source: Rubicon Technology)

Sapphire substrates have been established for quite some time as the base material for LED chips.  Today, more than 80% of LEDs are based on sapphire substrates with the remainder based on SiC and a few other materials.  But the big question is whether an alternative substrate like silicon or GaN can offer the performance and cost advantages of sapphire.

Last week, market research firm Yole Developpement held a webcast, Alternative Substrates for LED Manufacturing, to examine the alternatives, the technical challenges and the conditions for success.  You can access the archive here.

According to Yole analyst Eric Virey, the principal benefit of using Si as an LED substrate would be the ability to leverage larger 8” wafers and use fully depreciated and highly automated CMOS fabs.  But “the jury is still out,” he said, “regarding a massive industry transition from sapphire to silicon.  At the end of the day, this is a cost game; manufacturing yields are a major cost contributor to LED, and they pose specific challenges to the use of silicon.”

These challenges range from a lattice mismatch and thermal expansion coefficient mismatch, to melt back and blue light absorption. Sapphire outperforms silicon on all of these factors, and each is having a negative impact on LED chip yields from silicon.  Virey commented silicon and/or GaN must meet the performance of sapphire to be successful. To date, that hasn’t happened.

In the meantime, the sapphire substrate manufacturers have made great strides to making large diameter substrates that help LED manufacturers drive down costs and increase yields to support the aggressive cost targets of SSL.  For example, Rubicon Technology has shipped more than 230,000 large diameter sapphire wafers with this number growing.

Where are efforts now? Virey mentioned during the webinar that almost all LED manufacturers are exploring alternative substrates, although most are doing so only as a defensive strategy. Toshiba and Bridgelux have been working with silicon as a substrate. In July, the companies announced Toshiba would begin silicon-based LED production in October 2012, but there has been no further word. Plessey Semiconductors and Lattice Power also announced they would enter production in 2012.

LED Magazine reports that silicon-based substrates are “no sure thing” in their latest SSL Technology Update video blog.  Associate editor Nicole Pelletier said, “A number of companies plan to ride the incumbent sapphire technology. At The LED Show back in August, LED market leader Nichia said it had investigated and dismissed the possibility of using silicon.”

At the conclusion of the webcast, Virey agreed.  “If the technology hurdles are cleared, LED on silicon will be adopted by some LED manufacturers, but not necessarily become the standard.”

For Further Reading

LED Magazine, SSL Technology Update: October 22, 2012, http://ledsmagazine.com/features/9/10/11

Yole Developpement Webinar, Alternative Substrates for LED Manufacturing, http://www.i-micronews.com/consult_webcast.asp?uid=97

Solid State Technology, Beyond sapphire: LED substrates from GaN to ZnO, SiC, and Si, http://www.electroiq.com/articles/sst/2012/05/beyond-sapphire-led-substrates-gan-zno-sic-si.html

Solid State Technology, The demise of sapphire wafers? http://www.electroiq.com/articles/sst/print/vol-55/issue-6/columns/leds/the-demise-of-sapphire-wafers.html