Rubicon Ships 400,000th Large Diameter Sapphire Wafer

Two-inch, Four-inch and Six-inch Sapphire Wafers

Today, Rubicon Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:RBCN) announced that they shipped their 400,000th six-inch large sapphire wafer to the LED manufacturing and SoS/RFIC markets. Most of the world’s LED manufacturing takes place using sapphire – just as computer chip makers like Intel and AMD use silicon to make their microprocessors.

The most flashy, if you’ll pardon the pun, market for sapphire wafers is in LEDs, which are used for energy-efficient general lighting and as the source for backlighting in consumer products such as HDTVs, laptops, smart phones and tablets.  A second and significantly growing market for sapphire is its use in Silicon-on-Sapphire (SoS) Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits (RFICs).  SoS RFIC chips deliver high RF performance with low power consumption, a small form factor, and significantly reduced crosstalk in antenna applications that are pervasive in smart phones and other consumer devices.

Why large diameter wafers? Rubicon began developing large diameter sapphire wafers for SoS RFICs in the 2000s.  But the company soon tapped into the larger opportunity in the LED market, especially with LED-based general lighting. And, it’s all about the math.

The market has been dominated by two-inch wafers for years. The surface area of a six-inch wafer is nine times greater than that of a two-inch wafer, and its outer curvature is less, enabling greater use of the surface area, culminating in a reduction in edge loss.  In addition, use of larger wafers enables operational savings that offset the cost of the larger, thicker substrate and can help drive down the total cost of LEDs.  According to Rubicon, and 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.

What does that mean? Larger diameter wafers will help LED manufacturers reduce costs throughout the manufacturing process in order to make LED-based lighting more affordable for consumers and encourage adoption worldwide.

Further Reading

Rubicon Technology, Rubicon Technology Ships 400,000th Large Diameter Sapphire Wafer; Company Continues Market Leadership Supplying Large Diameter Sapphire Wafers to LED and SoS/RFIC Markets, http://bit.ly/1117AIk

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

 

LEDs In the Spotlight @CES 2013

Switch 3-Way LED Light Bulb

Every January, hundreds of thousands gather in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show.  One of the highlights of the show has been the ongoing competition for the biggest HDTV as manufacturers one-up each other on LED-based flat screen TVs. This year, we’ll take a look at how that competition is going and the other products where LEDs are making a splash.

The First Three-Way LED Light Bulb

The Switch 3-Way LED Light bulb was named one of the best innovations at CES.  It is the first LED light bulb to provide three levels of light and is set to replace a 25/50/75-watt incandescent. Switch says it will be available in April 2013 and may cost as much as $60.

Audi and LED Headlights

Audi leads automotive manufacturers in bringing LEDs to their cars, most notably the A8.  2013 is no different.  This year Audi introduced the Matrix LED high-beam headlight.  The Matrix looks like a regular LED headlight, but it uses a camera to detect other cars and pedestrians, shift default to a brighter high-beam function or break in the lights forward beam so as to not blind oncoming traffic (Yay!).  This dynamic high-beam capability doesn’t come with moving parts (like other competitors), yet can aim the beam around corners (cool).  The new A8 will debut the Matrix LED high-beam.

4K Ultra HDTV

The big news for CES in televisions was 4K Ultra-HDTV (ultra high definition flat screen). The 4K stands for the 4,000 pixels or 4x the resolution of the current 1080p resolution LED TVs currently on the market.  Some of the 4K Ultra-HDTV manufacturers will be using LEDs like Sharp and Sony, others will also have 4K offerings using OLED like Sony and Panasonic.

This is great, but currently there isn’t any 4K definition content available for consumers.  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment also announced that they’ll have 10 “Mastered in 4K” titles available this spring – like The Amazing Spider-Man™, Total Recall, The Karate Kid, Battle: Los Angeles, and The Other Guys.   So with Sony’s OLED-based 84-inch XBR-84X900 4K Ultra HD TV reported to cost $24,999.99 and Westinghouse’s 110 inch behemoth 4K TV topping the scales at $300,000, spending thousands on one right now is kind of … silly.

In more realistic news, LG Electronics announced that all of its LCD TVs will be LED-based from now on.  Sharp showcased their 6, 7, and 8 series of Aquos LED TVs in 60-. 70-, and 80-inch after having displayed a 90 inch last year.

For Further Reading

CES Innovation Awards , http://www.cesweb.org/Awards/CES-Innovations-Awards.aspx

Car and Driver, Audi at CES: Driverless Auto Parking, Matrix LED Headlamps, Next-Gen Infotainment, 3D Audio [2013 CES], http://blog.caranddriver.com/audi-at-ces-driverless-auto-parking-matrix-led-headlamps-next-gen-infotainment-3d-audio-2013-ces/

PC World, OLED and 4K at CES 2013: The fantasy and the reality (video),

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2024911/oled-and-4k-at-ces-2013-the-fantasy-and-the-reality-video-.html

 

LED Lighting Update: 100W Incandescent Bulbs Gain LED Competition

SYLVANIA ULTRA LED omnidirectional A21 bulb

SYLVANIA ULTRA LED omnidirectional A21 bulb

While Congress took the teeth out of the ban on incandescent 100W bulbs, the lighting industry and retailers have been making steady progress in the adoption of LED lighting.  In 2007, US legislators imposed strict energy efficient guidelines impacting 100W incandescent light bulbs.  The first set of regulations began in 2012, in effect “banning” traditional 100W light bulbs. The intent of the ban was to help spur LED lighting adoption. But, the 100W light bulb got a reprieve in December 2011 from Congress when the enforcement provisions for the ban were removed.  The phase-out of other incandescent bulbs like the 75W incandescent also lacks enforcement. But, that may not matter as the market is making progress on its own.

While the government did little, the industry has begun to bring LED replacement bulbs comparable to 100W bulbs to market. The first is the new SYLVANIA ULTRA LED omnidirectional A21 bulb. According to Osram Sylvania, it consumes only 20-watts of electricity, saving consumers about $220* over its life compared to an incandescent bulb.

At retailers, there is steady progress in giving customers LED-based more affordable options for LED lighting.  Home store icon IKEA announced in 2012 that they will phase out the sale of non-LED products by 2016.  Home Depot has been offering LED-based lighting products since 2009 and now offers 104 LED lighting options in-store and online according to Bill Hamilton of Home Depot.  Hamilton, speaking at a July 2012 DOE Solid-State Lighting Market Introduction Workshop, said that they’ve seen customer interest in LEDs grow as pricing drops.  Some of their LED products have decreased in price as much as 37 percent.

The adoption of LED-based lighting has been gaining ground steadily.  Strategies Unlimited analyst Vrinda Bhandarkar noted that the LED lighting market has grown 3.5 times over the past three years at the 2012 conference Strategies in Light.  She also reported LED Lighting revenue of $9.4 billion in 2011 and projected an industry-wide CAGR of 20% through 2016.

For Further Reading

New York Times, A New Bid for the 100-Watt Light Bulb Market, http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/a-new-bid-for-the-100-watt-light-bulb-market/

OSRAM SYLVANIA, OSRAM SYLVANIA First to Offer LED Replacement of 100-Watt Incandescent Bulb, http://www.sylvania.com/en-us/newsroom/press-releases/Pages/OSRAM-SYLVANIA-First-to-Offer-LED-Replacement.aspx

Clearlysapphire, Tipping Point: Earth Day, 100W Light Bulb Reprieve and Alexander Hamilton, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=169

Home Depot, Bill Hamilton, July 2012 DOE Solid-State Lighting Market Introduction Workshop, http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/publications/pdfs/ssl/hamilton_trends_pittsburgh2012.pdf