Substrate Update: It’s All About Patterning & Large Diameter Wafers

yole_developpement_logoMarket research firm Yole Developpement recently published a new report on front-end manufacturing trends for LEDs. Their latest report gives us some very good news about the sapphire market. Semiconductor Today reported on Yole’s analysis. Here are some big take-aways:

  • There is increased demand for larger-diameter sapphire wafers, with big players (such as LG, Sharp or Osram) moving to 6” wafers and Taiwanese players moving to 4” wafers.
  • LED chip makers demand more patterned sapphire substrates (PSS). PSS are now mainstream in the market with an 87% share as of Q1 2014.
  • While some companies (such as Soraa and Toshiba) have begun mass production of gallium nitride-on-silicon (GaN-on-Si) and GaN-on-GaN LEDs, market penetration of these alternative substrates will depend on future improvements in terms of performance and cost.  Without these improvements, alternative substrates will not be able to fully compete with sapphire-based LEDs.

What does this mean for sapphire makers? LED chip manufacturers are looking to gain production efficiencies, lower costs, and increase performance for their LEDs.  As the adoption for LED lighting increases, they need to make more and better performing LEDs. 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. 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 as compared to two-inch wafers.

What does PSS offer? First, PSS helps improve epitaxial growth by promoting growth of the GaN in parallel to the substrate surface. This helps reduce the number of dislocations, called the dislocation density, which can degrade performance of an LED.  Secondly, patterning can help extract as much as 30 percent more light from an LED.  This is particularly advantageous for high brightness LEDs (HB LEDs) that are used in LED lighting applications.

LED chip manufacturers have been buying smaller 2-inch and 4-inch PSS from outside suppliers for years.  The next step in the evolution in the market is the migration to large diameter PSS. Already a pioneer in the development of large diameter sapphire substrates, Rubicon Technology has developed capabilities for large diameter PSS making it possible to manufacture 6-inch and even 8-inch PSS. Rubicon is already gaining traction in the PSS market.  The company recently reported in their Q1 2014 earnings call that they received their first order for PSS and have samples out to more than a dozen LED chip manufacturers.

For more information about the report from Yole, visit http://www.i-micronews.com/reports/LED-Front-End-Manufacturing-Trends-report/14/433

For Further Reading

Semiconductor Today, Substrates shaping trends in LED front-end manufacturing, http://www.semiconductor-today.com/news_items/2014/APR/YOLE_300414.shtml

Clearlysapphire.com, Larger Wafers, Larger Yield – The Numbers Behind Large Diameter Sapphire Wafers and Yield, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=435

Clearlysapphire.com, Large Diameter Patterned Sapphire Substrates Explained, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=582

Clearlysapphire.com, Sapphire Substrates for LED: The Big Move Toward 6″ Has Already Started, http://blog.clearlysapphire.com/?p=37

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