AZZURRO Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Erwin WOLF visited Taiwan and announced a variety of new advances in the GaN on Si. programs run by the company. On his trip AZZURRO's VP of Operations Dr. Markus SICKMOELLER and VP Marketing and Sales Erwin YSEWIJN joined him to elaborate on the company progress.
With their patented large-diameter GaN-on-Si technology, AZZURRO Semiconductors is showing off their production capabilities on their new manufacturing side in Dresden, Germany, officially moving into mass production stage. "We are the only company in the market that can provide GaN-on-Si wafers for both LED and power semiconductor manufacturing", Erwin Wolf, CEO of AZZURRO Semiconductors, stressed. "Compared with other competitors that only target either market, AZZURRO will be able to reach economic scale more quickly and drive the successful commercial applications of GaN-on-Si technology."
Since 2003, AZZURRO is the owner of all GaN-on-Si technology IP from Magdeburg University in Germany. "We showed the first crack free 150mm GaN-on-Si wafer in 2005, and proofed the equal LED brightness to sapphire in 2009", Wolf introduced the development progress of AZZURRO. "After receiving venture funds of 15M Euro in Oct. 2010, we started to setup our new production capacities and now move to volume productions, achieving an important milestone for the company."
AZZURRO has MOCVD reactors, with capacities reaching < 1,000 150mm wafers per month. The company plans to keep expanding capacity to 10 x in 2013 and 20 x in 2015.
Targeting both LED and power semiconductors
AZZURRO's large-diameter GaN-on-Si wafers can be used for both LED and power semiconductors, enabling breakthrough for lower cost and better performance compared with existing sapphire substrate and silicon wafers. According to Wolf, LEDs are now majorly made based on 50mm or 100mm sapphire substrate. Large-area GaN-on-Si technology can leverage the existing silicon ecosystem to reduce costs significantly.
Regarding power semiconductors, the breakdown voltage and low leakage current characteristics of GaN are superior to silicon and can fully support the performance required for high voltage applications. Meanwhile, GaN-on-Si will shift the switching speed upwards by more than 10-fold than silicon, which can help realize more compact designs.
In addition, with lower Rds. (on), GaN can provide better efficiency for the same surface then existing silicon. Its better conductivity will create less power loss in the switches and therefore getting less hot; easing the cooling provisions, thus meeting all requirements for next generation eco-friendly, green power designs.
Better thickness uniformity through patented technology
Though GaN-on-Si has significant advantages, the technical challenges have made it difficult to be widely adopted. "The main issue is the wafer bow problems caused by the lattice mismatch between two different materials and thickness homogeneity", Wolf explained. Wafer bow not only might cause cracks in post-production process, but together with poor homogeneity also will have different peak wavelengths on the same wafer, which will increase the binning efforts afterwards for LED manufacturing The homogeneity is equally important for High Voltage devices which require a narrow of parameter distribution such as break-down voltage, leakage current etc…
AZZURRO's patented GaN-on-Si technology is to grow GaN-based buffer layers on silicon substrate first, and then to grow different GaN films on top of the template for LED or power semiconductors manufacturing.
With the patented stress management technology, AZZURRO can effectively solve the bow and thickness uniformity challenges for GaN-on-Si to achieve better manufacturability. Particularly, for LED applications, customers can use the same GaN structure on AZZURRO's GaN-on-Si wafers with less than 0,5 µm growth needed for the MQW structure. This plug & play approach can easy design migration to silicon and result is reduced cycle time and better utilization.
Building experienced team to grab market opportunities
AZZURRO's 50mm, 100mm and 150mm GaN-on-Si wafers for LED and power semiconductors have been designed in by global customers, including one Asian LED makers seriously considering the adaptation of its 150mm technology. The company plans to complete 200mm wafer sampling in 1H12.
"It takes as long as 12~15 months to complete the qualification and new process migration for LED manufacturing, and the design cycle for power semiconductors may be longer", Wolf said. "So, it is expected that we have to wait until second half next year or first half 2013 to see customer moving into mass production." Despite the downturn for LED market, he didn't see customers stop investing in research efforts, saying that the design-in progress for LED and power semiconductors are not impacted at all.
Wolf stressed that AZZURRO is the company that takes the lead to bring GaN-on-Si technology into commercialization. As the capacity is established, AZZURRO will be able to offer quantity wafers to meet customers' demand. "It's a big step for us to be ready to move from R&D to high volume production. With more learning curves accumulated, I believe the manufacturability and yield of this technology can be further improved."
GaN-on-Si is an emerging technology targeting at the high growth markets of LED and power semiconductors. There are also several companies jumping on this bandwagon to grab more business opportunities. "I am glad to see more companies investing in this field, which shows the feasibility and commercial values of GaN-on-Si technology", Wolf noted.
Though AZZURRO is still in early development stage, Wolf said the company already built a professional and international management team of in-depth experiences in semiconductors. In addition, eyeing on the great potential in Asia market and Taiwan's strong semiconductor industry, AZZURRO set up branch office in Taipei in August 2011, in an effort to provide better support service to customers in this region and to aggressively expand the market.
Erwin Wolf, CEO of AZZURRO Semiconductors AG
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