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HexaTech Awarded ARPA-E Contract For Aluminum Nitride (AlN) High Voltage Power Electronics
CompoundSemi News Staff

December 17, 2012...HexaTech, Inc. of Morrisville, North Carolina USA, has received a $2.2 M award from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) to develop new aluminum nitride (AlN)-based power semiconductor technology for the modernization the electrical power grid. HexaTech's AlN technology leverages very low dislocation density single crystal AlN substrates. The company plans to use the funding to develop novel doping schemes and contact metals for AlN/AlGaN with high Al content.

Dr. Baxter Moody, Director of Engineering stated, “The development will enable a significant step toward producing 20 kV AlN-based Schottky diodes (SBD, JBSD) and transistors (JFET, MOSFET). The ARPA-E contract has opened the door for the material development and research to demonstrate AlN high-voltage, high-efficiency power conversion capability.”

The company asserts that for power systems and grid-scale power conversion applications, high efficiency AlN-based power devices will offer a significant reduction in size, weight, and cooling. Experimental devices based on Silicon Carbide (SiC) technology are currently being developed. However, the company expects aluminum nitride will enable power electronics with a 10X improvement in performance compared to silicon carbide.. HexaTech asserts that based on the wide bandgap material properties of AlN, the critical field is 6X larger, the on resistance will be lower, and the resulting power device area will be smaller for a comparable power level.

Solar Modules Production Costs to Fall as Low as $0.48/W in 2017, Lux Research Predicts
CompoundSemi News Staff

December 17, 2012...Lux Research predicts that solar module production costs will fall as low as $0.48/W in 2017. While supply outstrips demand by two to one currently, Lux Research suggests that the industry needs to drive costs lower to overcome diminished subsidies and regain profitability.

According to Lux Research, module prices have fallen over the past four years to a low of $0.70/W but the cost of goods sold (COGS) for modules has not reached this level, resulting in massive losses for most module manufacturers. “With pressure from competitors, customers, and policy-makers to drop prices even further, manufacturers need to drive costs down to survive and thrive during the coming years of growth in the demand market,” said Ed Cahill, Lux Research Associate.

Copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film modules reportedly have the greatest potential to reduce the COGS. Lux Research predicts that between 2012 and 2017, the cost of CIGS modules will drop from $0.78/W to $0.64/W. However, the company claims that CdTe thin-film modules will remain the cheapest solar option in 2017, at $0.48/W, down from the current $0.67/W.

The company notes that manufacturing location has the greatest potential influence on COGS, but opening a new facilities in low-cost countries is unlikely because of the over capacity. Lux Research asserts that improvements in module efficiency will be the key driver of lowering costs with a difference of up to up to $0.09/W for mc-Si and $0.21/W for CIGS.

Avago Technologies Introduces Vortex Gearbox Family of 28nm CMOS 100G Ethernet/OTN PHYs
CompoundSemi News Staff

December 17, 2012...Avago Technologies of San Jose, California USA, announced its new Vortex Gearbox™ family of Physical Layer Transceiver (PHY) devices supporting Ethernet and Optical Transport Networking (OTN). These devices feature the company's 28nm CMOS SerDes technology that has demonstrated compliance with IEEE CAUI and various Common Electrical Interface (CEI) standards that include CEI-11G-SR, CEI-25G-LR, and CEI-28G-VSR. The Vortex Gearbox devices also incorporate the company's proprietary Decision Feedback Equalization (DFE) architecture for low overall power consumption, low data latency and what the company claims is the best-in-class jitter and crosstalk performance. 

The Vortex Gearbox AVSP-1104 is a single-chip PHY IC designed for high-density 100G Ethernet and OTN applications. The device is ideal for driving both backplane and portside applications. It can withstand up to 32dB of channel loss. It features hole-free operation from 1-28 Gbps and gearbox functionality for full-duplex conversion of four lanes (4x25 Gbps, 4x28 Gbps) to ten lanes (10x10 Gbps, 10x11 Gbps). It has an option for configuration as a retimer function for full-duplex transmission of ten lanes; programmable Tx/Rx equalization of all SerDes interfaces, a Bit Error Rate (BER) of 1e-20, and diagnostic software for remote debugging.

Jag Bolaria, senior analyst at The Linley Group said, “The features included in this first member of Avago’s new Vortex Gearbox family of customer channel products meet or exceed the requirements in both backplane and portside applications.”

First Solar Releases 92.5-Watt Thin-Film PV Module
CompoundSemi News Staff

December 17, 2012...First Solar of Tempe, Arizona USA has released its new FS-392 cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin film module rated at 92.5 Watts. The modules maintain all the existing IEC certifications and UL listings for the Series 3 family, including UL listing for 1000-volt systems.

Tom Kuster, First Solar Vice President of Product Management and System Technology. “This increase in module efficiency, coupled with our thin-film technology’s real-world yield advantage when compared to crystalline silicon PV, results in higher energy density and lower levelized cost of energy (LCOE).”

One of the drivers of First Solar modules’ performance advantage over crystalline silicon solar modules is a lower temperature coefficient, delivering higher energy yields at elevated operating temperatures typical of utility-scale power plants in sunny regions.

Toshiba to Begin Selling GaN-on-Silicon White LEDs
LIGHTimes News Staff

December 14, 2012...Toshiba Corporation of Japan announced that the company will start sales of gallium nitride-based white LED packages. Mass production will start this month. While conventional white LEDs use 2- to 4-inch sapphire wafers, Toshiba in collaboration with Bridgelux, Inc. developed a process for manufacturing gallium nitride LEDs on 200mm silicon wafers. Toshiba has brought the process to a new production line at Kaga Toshiba Electronics Corporation, a discrete products manufacturing facility in northern Japan. Mass production of packages using the new line's output starts this month.

Toshiba says that the gallium nitride-on-silicon (GaN-on-Si) technology that it developed with Bridgelux has enabled the production of the white LED chips on a much more cost-competitive silicon substrate.The first GaN-on-silicon white LED package that Toshiba will produce will be the 1 watt TL1F1. The TL1F1 series produces 112 lm at 350mA. The package measures 6.4mm x 5.0 mm x 1.35 mm. Toshiba plans to produce 10 million of the LED packages per month. Toshiba ended its news release indicating that the company intends to promote product development and global sales toward securing a 10% share of the world market in FY2016.

Imec Develops IGZO-based Schottky Diode for Potentially Inexpensive UHF RFID Tags
CompoundSemi News Staff

December 12, 2012...RF ID so far is too expensive for large scale use in stores, which would allow all items pricing an entire cart of products at a time. Imec, a nano electronics research center in Leuven, Belgium, hopes to solve that. Imec developed the first UHF indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) Schottky diode.

Imec's aims to leverage IGZO thin films instead of silicon to dramatically reduce the cost of RFID by combining it with ultra high frequency (UHF) operation. UHF RFID tags have a reading range (5 to 10 meters) and employ small, printed antennas. Imec says that IGZO-based technology could be fabricated using a cheaper, low-temperature process that allows the fabrication of thin-film chips direct on a plastic foils. The diode is the main component of passive/battery-less tags. It rectifies the carrier wave captured by the antenna and feeds the power supply on the tag.

IGZO gap states impede the formation of a stable Schottky barrier, irrespective of the metal used. However, Imec reportedly developed specific plasma and anneal treatments that alter the chemistry of the Schottky interface to achieve a stable Schottky barrier for IGZO Schottky diodes that have a rectification ratio of up to nine orders of magnitude (at +1V and -1V), current densities of up to 800A/cm2 at forward bias of 1V, and a cut-off frequency of 1.8 GHz. When in a single stage rectifier, the cut-off frequency is 1.1GHz. The rectifiers operate at 868MHz with low losses.

MIT Researchers Fabricate Smallest Compoound Semiconductor-based Transistor
CompoundSemi News Staff

December 10, 2012...MIT Researchers have created the smallest compound semiconductor-based transistor. The metal oxide field effect transistor (MOSFET), measuring just 22nm, was produced using indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs).

Jesús del Alamo, the Donner Professor of Science in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), fabriated the transistor along with EECS graduate student Jianqian Lin and Dimitri Antoniadis, the Ray and Maria Stata Professor of Electrical Engineering. Compound semiconductor-based transistors have the potential to produce higher current even when only at the nanometer scale, possibly allowing Moore's Law to continue, del Alamo indicated.

Instead of requiring incredible precision to align the three electrodes required for the tiny transistor, the researchers allowed the gate to “self-align” between the other two electrodes. Then they used molecular beam epitaxy to first grow a thin layer of the InGaAs. On top they deposited a layer of molybdenum as the source and drain contact metal. Then they produced a fine pattern on this substrate using electron beam lithography. Unwanted areas of material were then etched away, and the gate oxide was deposited onto the tiny gap. Finally, evaporated molybdenum was fired at the surface to form the gate, between the two other electrodes.

In fiber optic communications, space is less of an issue, “But when you are talking about integrating billions of tiny transistors onto a chip, then we need to completely reformulate the fabrication technology of compound semiconductor transistors to look much more like that of silicon transistors,” del Alamo said.

Sharp Corporation Achieves 37.7 Percent Conversion Efficiency with Non-Concentrated Triple Junction Solar Cell
CompoundSemi News Staff

December 10, 2012...Sharp Corporation has achieved what the company claims is the world's highest (non concentrated) solar cell conversion efficiency of 37.7% using a triple-junction compound solar cell in which three photo-absorption layers are stacked together. Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) promoted the research and development that lead to Sharp's achievement. Measurement of the value of 37.7% conversion efficiency was confirmed at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

This latest triple-junction compound solar cell uses proprietary Sharp technology that enables efficient stacking of the three photo-absorption layers. Indium gallium phosphide (InGaP) makes up the top layer, gallium arsenide (GaAs) forms the middle layer, and indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) makes up the bottom layer. In between the layers is a semiconductor junction layer through which electricity flows as if through metal.

Sharp's design efficiently absorbs light from different ranges of wavelengths in sunlight and converts it into electricity. Sharp says that its design also leveraged optimal processing of the cell edges to increase the active area for converting light into electricity. These improvements combined, led to higher maximum output levels for the solar cell and record conversion efficiency.

Sharp plans to apply this latest achievement to concentrator photovoltaic power systems that use lenses to collect and convert sunlight into electricity. The company also foresees other practical applications for the cells, such as on space satellites and vehicles.

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