Soitec acquires Altatech, makes progress with GaN wafers

Feb. 3, 2012
As well as completing its acquisition of Altatech Semiconductor, which makes wafer-characterization equipment, Soitec has developed large-diameter GaN wafers with Sumitomo Electric.
Soitec (Euronext Paris), a France-based semiconductor-materials company, has completed the acquisition of Altatech Semiconductor SA, a French company located in Montbonnot Saint Martin near Grenoble. The final purchase price was EUR 15 million.

Soitec said that the acquisition will provide it with “strategic access to specific equipments necessary to deliver its LED strategy.”

In December 2011, Altatech introduced its new AltaSight LEDMax system, the company’s first product designed specifically for detecting, classifying and characterizing defects on wafers used in manufacturing LEDs.

Gallium nitride substrates

In further news related to LEDs, Soitec recently announced a major milestone in its strategic joint development program with Japan-based Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd.

The two companies say they have demonstrated four- and six-inch engineered gallium nitride (GaN) substrates, and have launched pilot production lines to enable wider market adoption.

The substrates are produced by transferring ultra-thin, high-quality GaN layers from a single GaN wafer to produce multiple engineered GaN substrates. The companies say these substrates ideally suited for manufacturing advanced high-brightness LEDs, as well as power-efficient controllers for the energy and electric-vehicle energy markets.

The adoption of GaN substrates by LED manufacturers will depend on the ability to grow high-quality, uniform epitaxial layers on the material…and will also be very strongly influenced by cost, compared with sapphire, and even silicon.

The program started in December 2010, and has leveraged Sumitomo Electric’s manufacturing technology for GaN wafers and Soitec’s Smart Cut layer-transfer technology. The partner companies are now proceeding with the next step to invest and establish pilot production lines in Itami, Japan, and Bernin, France. The pilot lines will initially fabricate four-inch wafers, with six-inch wafer production to quickly follow to support customer demand.

Sumitomo Electric will manufacture bulk free-standing GaN substrates in Japan for shipment to France, where Soitec will apply its Smart Cut layer-transfer process to generate the final engineered wafers with the same coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) as GaN wafers. The resulting wafers have low defect density, enabling the manufacturing of advanced semiconductor devices at lower costs than bulk GaN wafers, according to the companies.