21 February 2013
Soitec and Sumitomo Electric sign Smart Cut licensing agreement
Soitec of Bernin, France, which makes engineered substrates including silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafers (as well as III-V epiwafers through its Picogiga International division), has signed a licensing and technology-transfer agreement under which compound semiconductor materials provider Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd of Osaka, Japan will use its proprietary Smart Cut technology to manufacture engineered gallium nitride (GaN) substrates.
The firms says that the announcement is a key step in the ongoing strategic alliance, launched in December 2010 to leverage Sumitomo Electric’s expertise in materials technology and Soitec’s unique Smart Cut layer-transfer technology, to develop the global market for GaN substrates used in light-emitting diode (LED) lighting applications.
The joint development program between Soitec and Sumitomo Electric has already demonstrated the capability to produce 4- and 6-inch engineered GaN substrates in a pilot production environment. High-quality, ultra-thin layers of GaN have been repeatedly transferred from a single-source wafer onto multiple substrates developed by Sumitomo Electric. The engineered wafers have exhibited high functionality at a low production cost, say the firms. Having proven the effectiveness of the technology- transfer process, Sumitomo Electric will now industrialize the product and invest in Smart Cut technology.
“Today’s announcement represents a very important step in the material roadmap for the compound semiconductor market, and a first step in our strategy,” believes Frédéric Dupont, VP of Soitec’s Specialty Electronics business unit. “This is the first licensing agreement of our Smart Cut technology to leverage a reusable, expensive base material to bring an economically viable process to this field. Sumitomo Electric’s proven track record in innovative materials development and their in-house manufacturing expertise are key assets in developing the most cost-effective substrate material for high-quality LEDs,” he adds.
“By combining the two innovative technologies – Soitec’s Smart Cut technology and our high-quality, large-diameter, free-standing GaN substrates – we are able to offer a high-value proposition to our LED customers,” says Yoshiki Miura, general manager of Sumitomo Electric’s Compound Semiconductor Materials Division. “Soitec’s unique material-transfer technology enables the reuse of GaN wafers several times, achieving a substantial reduction in the cost of high-quality GaN materials to serve high-volume applications.”
Soitec’s Smart Cut technology has been developed in collaboration with microelectronics research laboratories CEA-Leti of Grenoble, France. It uses both implantation of light ions and wafer bonding to respectively define and transfer ultra-thin, single-crystal layers from one substrate to another. It works like an atomic scalpel, allowing active layers to be managed independently from the supporting mechanical substrate. The technology enables the development of new families of standard and custom-engineered wafers. It was made viable for high-volume commercial production by Soitec, and is now protected by more than 3000 Soitec-owned or controlled patents worldwide. Soitec currently leverages Smart Cut technology to manufacture engineered wafers for leading chipmakers, and holds exclusive rights to use and license the technology to third-party materials and process suppliers.