The World’s first Cluster on Compound Semiconductors to deliver technological advances
Compound semiconductors (CS) are set to deliver performance margins for a wide range of applications otherwise unattainable through silicon alone. The global semiconductor market is growing rapidly and is already well into the tens of billions of dollars. The outlook is positive, with smart, autonomous and connected products paving the future. The World’s first cluster on CS technologies and applications, established here in the UK, will accelerate research into novel technologies, product development and innovation, as well as driving down the technology cost of ownership for consumers globally.
Thanks to their enhanced properties, organisations are increasingly turning towards CS materials for a number of optical and electronic applications, from communications and power management through to sensing and high-speed computing.
Chris Meadows, Head of Open Innovation at IQE Plc said “It is more than fifty years since advances in silicon technology ushered in the digital world with which we are now so familiar. Compound semiconductors represent the next generation of advanced technologies that are poised to revolutionise the way we live, work and spend our leisure time.”
The CS community is growing internationally and the trend is also visible at CS International; once a niche event on CS technologies now enjoys attendance of over 500 delegates and top-class presentations on novel CS technologies, applications and trends.
One such technology that has gained popularity is the Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL); with applications including depth imaging for 3D sensing, gesture recognition, illumination for IR cameras, LIDAR sensing for autonomous vehicles, industrial heating, high speed datacomms and optical storage to name a few.
Andy Sellars, Chief Business Development Officer of the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult said “Because of their ability to support high-speed switching, compound semiconductors already support key markets such as optical and RF communications, with devices used in mobile handsets, base stations and high-speed telecom switches. And the UK already has a strong position, with more than 100 companies operating across the compound-semiconductor supply chain.”
A cluster approach for research through to innovation
Collaboration across supply chains has clear advantages for product manufacturers; materials can be tuned to specific applications for increased performance and learning across technology and manufacturing will impact time to market for future technologies.
CSconnected, the world’s first cluster on CS technologies and applications in Wales, UK is a fine example of the triple-helix approach and follows considerable high-level thinking across government, industry and academia, as well as significant investment to establish top-class facilities and infrastructure to support activities along Technology Readiness Levels 1-9:
In 2015, Cardiff University announced an investment of around £75 million for the Institute of Compound Semiconductors (ICS) as part of its new £300 million Innovation Campus. The announcement was followed by a £24 million joint venture between IQE Plc and Cardiff University to form the Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC). As Europe’s first prototyping facility, the CSC will allow businesses and academics to demonstrate production-ready CS materials reducing time-to-market for start-ups and multinationals alike. The facilities at the CSC will be complemented by new materials research, fabrication and testing at the ICS.
2016 saw the announcement by Innovate UK – the UK Government’s innovation agency – of a £50 million investment to establish the Compound Semiconductor Applications (CSA) Catapult, located in South East Wales; a world-class, open-access R&D facility to support businesses across the UK in exploiting novel CS technologies in key application areas such as healthcare, the digital economy, energy, transport, defence and security and space.
There are a number of long-standing organisations in the region, including IQE Plc, a leading provider of CS wafers and SPTS, an Orbotech company that designs, manufactures and supports a range of wafer processing tools for the semiconductor and microelectronics industries. Downstream capabilities include Microsemi’s Advanced Packaging business, delivering novel solutions for miniaturised electronic circuits with wireless connectivity.
Enabling high-volume manufacture
In preparation for high-volume markets, product manufacturers utilising CS-based devices require security of supply, as well as continued innovation at device level to support future product generations.
High-volume manufacturing is certainly on the agenda for the cluster; in September 2017, IQE, Welsh and UK Governments and the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal ratified the development of the Compound Semiconductor Foundry through a historic signing ceremony.
The signing followed an agreement in May by the Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) Regional Cabinet to contribute £37.9 million from the CCR City Deal’s Wider Investment Fund towards the establishment of a state of the art foundry, as an anchor in the region for high-end production of compound semiconductors. The CCR City Deal seeks to position the region as the global leader in compound semiconductor-enabled applications, which was initiated by a £12 million investment from the Welsh Government.
Cardiff University was awarded £10 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to lead the EPSRC Manufacturing Hub in Future Compound Semiconductors that will combine and connect the UK research excellence in compound semiconductors, with the very best translational facilities and the new CSA Catapult. The combined activity will provide a pathway from fundamental research through to device and application testing and qualification.
Peter Smowton, CS Hub Director said, “The EPSRC Manufacturing Hub in Compound Semiconductors addresses the need to integrate CS and Silicon (Si) manufacturing, apply the manufacturing advances made in one type of CS across the different families of CS technologies and combine these different CSs for optimum functionality.”
A number of exciting projects are already underway within the cluster, such as improving VCSEL manufacturing efficiencies, nanoimprint lithography for laser diodes and enabling miniaturised atomic clocks using VCSEL pump sources, with both the latter projects worth over £1m.
The collaborative environment of CSconnected fosters strong working relationships to encourage sharing of knowledge and ideas. The organisations involved are enthusiastic about the future and CSconnected is open for business.
On 24 January, regional leaders, including Stephen Doran, CEO of the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult will come together at CoInnovate 2018 to introduce the CSconnected cluster brand and to share insights on collaborative opportunities for compound semiconductors. The evening session launching at 18:30 also includes a live 5G demo on the piano of the Internet of Skills by the talented Prof Mischa Dohler of King’s College London.
Denise Powell firstname.lastname@example.org / +442920 839 400