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Friday, November 30, 2012

DOE announces SBIR/STTR funding deadlines for GaN manufacturing projects

The US DOE has sponsored another round of Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer funding opportunities, with subtopics in bulk GaN substrates, epitaxial growth and device redesign.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science has announced that it has sponsored another round of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding opportunities. Included in the opportunities is Topic 11, "Wide bandgap semiconductors for energy efficiency and renewable energy," which are funded at the levels of $150,000 for Phase 1 of the projects and $1 million for Phase II. Parties interested in applying for the grants should note that the deadline for the short letter-of-intent submission is September 4 and if a full application is invited, it is due October 16.
The published subtopics contained in Topic 11 are intentionally broad and general in order to promote maximum participation and innovation, but have performance goals and metrics based on the DOE SSL Multi-Year Program Plan. Within the wide bandgap semiconductors topic, grant applications are being sought in three subtopic areas: bulk GaN substrates and novel architectures; advances in epitaxial growth; and device redesign and passive components.

The first subtopic solicits applications that offer cost-effective, practical, and scalable solutions to the problem of native GaN substrate production (i.e., GaN-on-GaN). A long-term target involves the development of methods that allow scaling of GaN wafers to 150 mm and 200 mm diameter with dislocation density below 104/cm2 at costs that do not exceed 2-3X that of silicon wafers. Additionally, novel technological approaches that rely on nanoscale or other unique architectures are strongly encouraged as long as they illustrate a clear path to commercial-scale device production.

The second subtopic targets the potential to reduce defect densities by an order of magnitude for epitaxial processes involving GaN growth on one or more of silicon, sapphire and SiC, or SiC-on-SiC. Candidate grants should describe the method for reducing defect densities including the novel epitaxial process description and the integration of in situ metrology into the production process. Again, cost should not exceed 2-3X that of a silicon process.

The device redesign subtopic targets end-user applications including microgrids and traction motors at 10-15 kV, electric vehicles at 600-1200V and small-scale commercial operations at 110-480V. Questions can be submitted at

The last time the DOE invited SBIR/STTR applications was in March of this year.

Philips to install 100 solar-powered lighting centers across Africa

By 2015, Philips plans to have installed 100 lighting centers across Africa, which will bring evening sport, education, healthcare and commerce to off-grid areas.
Royal Philips Electronics (NYSE:PHG; AEX:PHI) has launched a new initiative to install 100 light centers, areas of approximately 1000m2 or the size of a small soccer field, with solar-powered LED lighting. The target is rural communities without access to an electricity grid.
Solar-powered lighting center
The first 40 lighting centers are scheduled for installation later this year and will be focused on schools that are closely linked to villages and towns in off-grid or semi-grid areas. They will provide communal areas that can be used for sports and many other activities – healthcare, education, social and commerce.
Over three years, Philips will invest EUR1.2 million (US$1.48 million) in this project. Maintenance is expected to be self-sustaining as local authority/owners can rent out the light or advertising space and generate an income. An announcement on which sites and in which countries the light centers will be installed will follow by October 2012. Philips is seeking partnerships with local authorities in Africa to expand the program.

Soccer field lit by LEDs
Philips has already completed installing light centers in a number of African countries (Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa) during its Cairo to Cape Town road show 2012, which visited 17 cities. Each planned 1000m2 lighting center will use four 8m-tall poles (13 ft), all of which are fitted with LED luminaires that consume less power than a 60W light bulb and provide 20 lux of cold white light.
The new light-center initiative also serves as a commitment to action by Philips in support of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative. This initiative has a primary goal of sustainable energy for all, and three complementary objectives, all to be achieved by 2030. They include ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

“Philips is to be commended for this innovative new initiative,” said Kandeh Yumkella, director-general of the UN Industrial Development Organization and co-chair of the High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All. “Sustainable energy for all is about opportunity -- opportunities to learn and live healthy and productive lives. The private sector plays a key role in the implementation of this initiative, and Philips’ work will help us achieve our goal of sustainable energy for all by 2030.”

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Albeo wins patent for integrating bare LED die directly in fixtures

Albeo's chip-in-fixture approach holds promise of lower manufacturing costs for SSL troffers, although products are a year or more away.
Lighting-fixture maker Albeo Technologies has received US Patent 8,058,659 entitled "LED chip-based lighting products and methods of building" that covers the concept of integrating bare LED die directly into fixtures. The novel approach to solid-state lighting (SSL) could lower costs by eliminating both the LED package and the traditional printed circuit board, but products based on the technology are at least a year away.

About the traditional approach to SSL fixtures, Albeo CEO Jeff Bisberg said, "You have a stack-up of materials that add cost. You have a stack-up of materials that add thermal resistance." Albeo hopes to eliminate both.

Albeo plans to use pick-and-place assembly techniques to install bare die onto a metal substrate that's part of the light fixture with the circuit connections applied through laminate or stencil technology, or even by inkjet printers down the road. Bisberg said, "You turn the fixture into the printed circuit board.

Troffer focus
The company is focused on using small low-to mid-power LEDs such as 0.25-mm chips with a focus squarely on the linear troffer market and the huge installed base of lighting that's in need of replacement in commercial and industrial settings. Already SSL vendors are targeting that application both with purpose-built fixtures and with LED-based T8 retrofit tubes – both offering greater efficiency but struggling to match the cost of fluorescent technology.

Bisberg claims the chip-in-fixture approach will offer lower cost than current approaches. He said that the DOE has estimated that the package in which an LED die is encapsulated is 40% of the cost of the packaged LED component. Moreover, he said the printed circuit board can be 20-30% of the cost of an LED fixture.

One challenge for Albeo will be adapting equipment that can handle bare die to work on the scale of a fixture in terms of size. The equipment used by LED makers to handle bare die is designed to place the die in small packages that max out at the chip-on-board size in the range of a 1-in diameter. The machines used to manufacture larger printed-circuit boards by fixture makers and subcontractors aren't designed to handle bare die.

Assembling bare die
Bisberg said that there are machines that can place bare die on a 1×1-ft substrate today. He said Albeo would likely start with smaller subassemblies, several of which would be integrated into a fixture. And Albeo will likely need a close partner from among the LED manufacturers to accomplish that goal.

The company faces a second challenge in that it intends to use blue LEDs without the phosphor layer applied. The patent covers both direct phosphor application and remote phosphor approaches, although the direct approach would be after the bare die are assembled to a substrate. Bisberg said that inkjet technology can be used to apply phosphor to individual LEDs spread over the scale of a 2x2-ft, or even 4x4-ft substrate.

The concept of working with bare die is likely frightful for anyone that has worked in the traditional semiconductor industry with large ICs that have many connections where packaging is extremely important. But Bisberg says that "LEDs are pretty simple devices with just two terminals." He said the company has built full-size troffers by hand in the lab using the patented techniques.

Bisberg summed up the company's plans saying, "It’s a true fixture play that strips out the cost associated with the traditional supply chain." It's certainly a novel idea, but one that has lots of potential roadblocks.

Epistar to take over Huga Optotech in share swap

LED chipmaker Epistar has plans to completely take over subsidiary Huga Optotech through a share swap.
Taiwan’s largest chip maker, Epistar, has announced it will completely take over subsidiary Huga Optotech through a share swap in which one Epistar share will be exchanged for 4.85 Huga shares. The merger will take effect on December 28, 2012.
In July of 2010, Epistar took a 47.88% stake in Huga Optotech. The new deal will expand Epistar's registered capital to NT9.1 billion (USD303.3 million) from NT8.6 billion currently. Epistar currently holds a 50.85% share in Huga.

Huga has a production capacity of 150,000 units of 2-in equivalent epitaxial wafers a month, and the company is currently running at 70% of its capacity. Meanwhile, Epistar has a capacity of 330,000-340,000 epitaxial wafers per month.

After the merger, Huga's production lines will focus on the production of low-power LED chips, while those of Epistar's will be responsible for high-power LED chips.

Synergistic effects of the merger are likely to take place in the second quarter of 2013, said Epistar.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cree LED fixtures light Newport News public schools

Outdoor SSL products will save the Newport News school district 139,000 kWh annually in energy use and meet district sustainability requirements.
Wall-mount The Edge luminaires
The Newport News Public School District located in Virginia has installed 185 Cree solid-state lighting (SSL) fixtures in an outdoor-lighting application at seven district schools. The LED-based lighting was used to replace 189 high-pressure sodium (HPS) and 150 incandescent fixtures.

The school district projects 65% savings in annual energy costs associated with lighting at the seven schools. The energy reduction is projected at 139,000 kWh annually equating to a reduction of 191,000 pounds of carbon emissions.

District officials expect payback on the project to come in three years with operational savings continuing for many more years. "These energy-efficient lights virtually eliminate maintenance, provide the district with dramatic energy savings and also reflect the community’s commitment to sustainability," said Keith Webb, executive director of plant services for the Newport News Public School District. "The LED lighting furthers our goal of enhancing and bettering the learning environment, while saving money for the schools and tax payers."

Corridor LED lighting at Booker T. Washington school
The district selected Cree's The Edge SSL luminaire family for the project. The Edge series includes products for security, parking, and area lighting in a variety of styles and form factors.

Schools that received the retrofits include General Stanford Elementary, Greenwood Elementary, Lee Hall Elementary, Palmer Elementary, Crittenden Middle, Booker T. Washington Middle, and Denbigh High. The new lighting provides enhanced uniformity and color quality in exterior corridors, walkways, and entryways.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Color mixing enables high CRI and high LED efficacy

When amber LEDs are combined with phosphor-converted blue LEDs, warm white light with both high CRI and high efficacy can be attained simultaneously.
Marc Dyble, product marketing manager of SSL products at Osram Opto Semiconductors discussed the potential of mixing monochromatic LEDs with phosphor-converted LEDs (PC-LEDs) to achieve high CRI and high efficacy at the same time. He presented this approach at the LED Show in Las Vegas last week.
High CRI image with color mixing.
Dyble stated that color mixing, marketed as Brilliant Mix by Osram Opto, provides an alternative method of achieving high CRI for applications such as high-end retail. He explained that typical approach today to attaining warm/neutral white light with LEDs and high CRI (>90) comes with a penalty of luminaire efficacy in the 75 lm/W range. Instead, if a combination of monochromatic LEDs (amber) are placed alongside phosphor-converted blue LEDs either in a multichip chip-on-board or multichip array, luminaire efficacy in the 90 lm/W range (up to 110 lm/W at the LED level) can be attained at 2700K.
Color rending components
Dyble noted that there are some caveats to taking this approach. For instance, an optical mixing chamber may be required to obtain the necessary color consistency. In addition, the correlated color temperature (CCT) over temperature may vary. To improve stability, light and temperature sensors can be installed and compensation circuitry can be implemented.
However, Dyble contends that a color mixing approach should definitely prove better than methods that overdrive the LEDs and lead to early luminaire failure. In addition, from a user standpoint a tradeoff can be made between efficiency and color rendering by adjusting the monochromatic to PC-LED driving ratio. “One of the reasons we’ve been able to do this is because we’ve been able to linearize the efficiency of monochromatic LEDs,” said Dyble.

He added that Osram Opto and Cree have cross-licensing agreements in the area of color mixing.

Cree and Rubicon announce financials, deliver positive news for the LED segment

Cree reports 26% year-over-year increase in quarterly revenue while at LED sapphire substrate manufacturer Rubicon Technology, quarter-over-quarter revenue grew from $10.2 to $17 million.
LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) manufacturer Cree announced revenue of $306.8 million for its fiscal 2012 4th quarter that ended June 24. Rubicon Technology expects quarterly revenue to grow from $17 million to the $18-$21 million range.

Cree financials improve
Cree's quarterly revenue was 26% up from the $243 million reported in the same quarter last year. Moreover it represented an 8% increase over the prior quarter this year. Annual 2012 revenue was $1.16 billion, up from $988 million the prior year.

"We finished the year strong in our fiscal fourth quarter with record revenue and non-GAAP earnings per share on the high end of our target range," stated Chuck Swoboda, Cree Chairman and CEO. "Overall, LED lighting adoption continues to increase and we remain focused on being the leader in innovation to grow our business by enabling our customers to realize the tremendous benefits of LED technology. While we are encouraged by our progress, the macroeconomic environment is impacting our growth outlook in the near term."

Cree is targeting revenue in a range of $305-$325 million for its first fiscal 2013 quarter. Moreover it expects gross margin in the 36% range, and that would represent a slight improvement over 2012 performance.

Larger wafers boost Rubicon
Rubicon's growth for the quarter that ended June 30 was relatively modest, although the company reported positive news specifically relative to 6-in wafers, and that's an area of strength for the company. The company said revenue from the larger wafers increased 84% sequentially to $10.1 million and represents 59% of the quarterly revenue.

"I am pleased with the growth in our six-inch wafer business in the quarter and expect additional growth in the second half of the year," said Raja Parvez, president and CEO of Rubicon. Gross profit was break even for the quarter, however, and the company attributed weak pricing for 2- and 4-in sapphire cores as one culprit.

Rubicon said it saw the beginning of a recovery in the LED market during the quarter. The company expects margins to improve going forward, but also said inventory of smaller wafers will remain a problem.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Soraa will lead DOE funded research on GaN LED substrates

The DOE's transformational-energy agency ARPA-E has selected GaN-on-GaN startup Soraa to lead a project on the development of bulk GaN substrates.
Startup Soraa emerged from stealth status back in February at the Strategies in Light Conference with gallium nitride (GaN)-on-GaN LED technology, and now announces that it will lead a DOE project focused on developing bulk GaN substrates. The US Department of Energy (DOE) agency called Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) first funded Soraa on the project in 2011 and has now decided to make Soraa the prime contractor.

Soraa believes that GaN has immediate applicability for brighter LEDs and perhaps other industries as well. Using the same material for the substrate and epitaxial layers results in a better match of the crystalline structures. The result, according to Soraa, is the ability to drive LEDs at higher current with less droop.

As Soraa points out, other segments of the semiconductor industry use what are sometimes called native substrates, such as the silicon-on-silicon technology used to manufacture the bulk of digital ICs such as microprocessors. But the adoption of GaN-on-GaN in LEDs and other applications has been hampered by the high costs of the substrates. The ARPA-E agency hope to capitalize on an opportunity with a US-developed solution.

Soraa's founder Shuji Nakamura has long worked with GaN in his pioneering work developing high-power LEDs. Nakamura said, "I have spent many decades of my life working on gallium nitride for LEDs because I believe this is a very important development and holds great promise for more energy efficient technology in lighting, power electronics and more."

"It is clear to ARPA-E that Soraa’s system design and capabilities represent a breakthrough path toward the development of high-quality, low-cost GaN substrates," said Mark Johnson, ARPA-E program director. "We are excited to move forward in supporting their process development, crystal quality improvements, and device characterization."

The DOE believes that applications for GaN substrates have the potential to reduce US energy consumption significantly. Moreover, the DOE estimates that GaN products such as LEDs, laser diodes, and power electronics have the potential of being worth over $50 billion annually.

"We are pleased and honored that ARPA-E has recognized the value and impact of Soraa’s true bulk GaN substrate technology," said Mark D’Evelyn, Soraa’s principal investigator on the project. "DOE’s recognition and support of this transformational technology is expected to accelerate a more energy efficient, higher performing US-based technology for LEDs and a host of additional applications."

Osram develops LED module for historic street luminaires

Luminaires from any manufacturer can be simply and rapidly upgraded to LED technology using an adaptable LED module and mounting plate.
Osram's DSL module
Osram has developed an LED module to enable rapid upgrading of historic street luminaires. The decorative street lighting (DSL) module can be used for a wide variety of luminaires, independent of the original manufacturer. The module is prepared upon request so that fitting is as simple as replacing lamps or sockets.
Osram claims that, compared with mercury-vapor-discharge lamps, the DSL cuts energy consumption of luminaires by at least 60 per cent. Upgrading is less than half the cost of a new LED installation.

Standardized LED-based replacement modules are available for many luminaire models with modern designs, but this is not the case for non-standard heritage luminaires.

Street lighting application
Osram offers a service that begins with the lighting owner – such as a local authority or city council – sending a luminaire to Osram. A construction kit, consisting of an LED module and mounting plate, is adapted by Osram specifically for the luminaire in question. Then, an employee from the town's works department is able to install the module with the minimum of effort.
The second photo at right shows a luminaire containing the DSL module in Wipperf├╝rth, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, which consumes up to 60% less energy than when fitted with the original mercury vapour discharge lamps.

As well as offering improved energy efficiency and durability, the modules, which are fitted with Osram’s Oslon SSL LEDs, provide high levels of color rendering. The DSL also enables more targeted control of light compared to classic lighting, for example by choosing the correct number of LEDs in order to reduce light spill in certain circumstances.

Osram also notes that the integration of modern control units with intelligent light management can ensure further energy savings. For example, the company’s AstroDIM system enables luminaires to be dimmed completely self-sufficiently without use of a corresponding control line. In this way, between midnight and the early morning hours, lighting can be adapted to lower volumes of traffic to achieve supplementary energy savings.