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

Cars Update – A Smarter LED Headlight, For Europe and the All-LED Mercedes

Mercedes new 2014 S-class features all LEDs

There has been a lot of activity surrounding autos and LEDs this May.  While manufacturers have been working on specific functionality like headlights, one manufacturer has totally eliminated incandescent from one of their models in favor of LEDs.

Europe is making strides with smarter headlights.  Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (FMER) just announced a new research project with Osram, Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration, Infineon, HELLA KGaA Hueck & Co. and Daimler.  The adaptive forward lighting system (AFS) project focuses on camera-controlled headlights that react to changing conditions such as objects like oncoming traffic, sidewalks, pedestrians and cyclists.  The project will integrate microelectronics and optoelectronics to develop a framework for a new class of energy-efficient LED headlights for traffic safety.

For example, the headlights in an AFS will feature high and low beams that can adapt to the speed of the vehicle. At high speeds, the range of light will automatically increase. In city conditions, the light will focus more broadly on sidewalks, pedestrians and cyclists. The AFS is completely electronic and will not rely on mechanical actuators.

Whether this type of technology will arrive in the US is already in question. Audi’s “matrix beam lighting” for headlights made its premier in 2011 in a concept car that included a camera that automatically detects nearby cars and pedestrians and reacts by dimming some of the bulbs for the high beam. But Audi already encountered a stop sign in the US.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulation, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108, states that headlights are not allowed to shine in a dynamic way.  Audi has since appealed to the NHTSA for an interpretation of the standard.  In the meantime, Audi offers a “high beam assistant” that just dims high beams for oncoming traffic for the US market.

Meanwhile, Mercedes Benz just announced that the new 2014 S-class models will feature all-LEDs for lighting – without an incandescent in sight. This makes Mercedes the first car manufacturer to go all-LED.  According to Mercedes, each car will use nearly 500 LEDs for the exterior and interior lighting.

For Further Reading

Automotive News, Audi’s next-gen LED headlights hit Washington speed bump, http://www.autonews.com/article/20130205/BLOG06/130209935#ixzz2TZxQREqr

LEDs Magazine, Osram leads research on LED-based adaptive headlamps for autos, http://ledsmagazine.com/news/10/5/7

Technabob.com, Mercedes S-Class Is the First Car without any Incandescent Light Bulbs, http://technabob.com/blog/2013/05/16/mercedes-s-class-no-light-bulbs/

LA Times, Mercedes-Benz unveils all-new 2014 S-Class, http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-autos-mercedes-2014-sclass-debut-20130515,0,3823865.story

Image Source: Mercedes 2014 S-class, Forbes, http://www.forbes.com/pictures/egdh45kiid/all-wheel-drive/

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

How Large Can You Go? Sapphire Windows Grow Up and Across

 

Dr. Jonathan Levine, Director of Technical Business Development, Rubicon Technology, at SPIE Defense, Security and Sensing 2013

SPIE Defense, Security and Sensing 2013 was held last week in Baltimore, MD.  There was a very interesting paper on large sapphire optical windows.  Rubicon Technology’s Dr.  Jonathan Levine, Director of Technical Business Development, talked about recent advances in making very large sapphire optical windows from his paper, “Synthesis and Characterization of Large Optical-Grade Sapphire Windows Produced from a Horizontal Growth Process,” that he presented at the conference.

As sensor technology and applications, in defense and aerospace in particular, have evolved, the size requirements for sapphire sensor windows have grown substantially. Dr. Levine 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 weighing up to 50 kg with plans to expand the process to larger 100 kg sapphire crystals.

Based on a different technique than Rubicon’s ES-2 method, Levine’s team used the LANCE method because it produces plates or slabs of sapphire instead of cylindrical boules.  Using LANCE is advantageous since the near-net shape dramatically reduces machining and associated fabrication costs.  Further, since the melt is horizontal, capillary forces play a minimal role during growth and the crystal is not limited in size or thickness as compared to edge‐defined film-fed growth (EFG) crystals.

According to Levine, Rubicon has been able to synthesize several prototypes up to 1.75 inches thick, 14 inches wide and 20 inches long. The research sets the standard for high quality monolithic sapphire sheets large enough for use as seamless integrated optical windows in both military and civilian applications.

Sapphire is very good for defense and aerospace applications due to its excellent transmission in the UV through IR spectrum, high impact durability, and corrosion resistance in harsh environments.  Sapphire applications include missile domes, transparent armor systems, FLIR and enhanced vision systems for aircraft, and shaped optics for land, air and sea vehicles.

For Further Reading

Rubicon Technology, Rubicon Technology Develops New Sapphire Crystal Growth Platform to Manufacture Large Optical-Grade Windows for Military and Industrial Applications, http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=215281&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1724966&highlight=

SPIE Defense, Sensing and Security 2013, http://spie.org/x6765.xml?WT.svl=mddce7