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IQE bags laser order; hits CPV cell production milestone

06 Dec 2012

Advanced semiconductor wafer foundry is boosted by progress in two photonics applications.

IQE, the UK-headquartered compound semiconductor wafer foundry, says it has received an order worth more than £1 million to manufacture advanced laser structures for use in optical interconnects.

Set to be shipped in the first half of next year, with follow-on orders anticipated, the lasers are in demand for use in data center and infrastructure applications in China, says IQE.

The company will make the laser structures at its headquarters in Cardiff, UK, using 100 mm diameter indium phosphide (InP) wafer production.

CEO Drew Nelson said of the order: “This latest order for a new range of low-cost, high-performance optical fiber components marks a key milestone in the adoption of optical interconnects for a range of high-volume applications.”

CPV milestone
IQE also says that it has hit a key milestone in its development of triple-junction cells for concentrated photovoltaics (CPV). Earlier this year, it signed an exclusive manufacturing agreement to provide California-based Solar Junction with ultrahigh-efficiency cells - while taking an equity stake in the CPV specialist.

The complex cell structures are deposited using molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), and IQE also struck a deal to acquire MBE production capacity from the US chip maker RF Micro Devices (RFMD), in order to support the Solar Junction ramp.

IQE says that it is now delivering full triple-junction wafers to Solar Junction, using customized, production-scale MBE tools – hitting the fourth-quarter 2012 target deadline for the milestone.

“Commercial production is expected to begin in the first half of 2013, initially with customer product qualification quantities, moving to volume production in the second half of the year,” said IQE, adding that Solar Junction has also now qualified its cells to full IEC specifications with several customers, and is “strongly engaged” with all leading CPV systems houses.

Nelson, who describes the CPV deals with Solar Junction and RFMD as “transformational”, added in a statement: “The combination of Solar Junction’s core materials intellectual property (IP) and technology, with its recently improved world record efficiencies of 44%, together with our own IP and manufacturing capabilities, provides a compelling route to significantly higher cell efficiency and cost-effective, high-volume production for the CPV industry.”

Like much of the PV industry, the emerging CPV sub-sector is going through a tough period. While deployment of the technology is growing and materials advances such as those at Solar Junction are driving up cell efficiencies, the three leading CPV systems companies each have their own difficulties.

Market-leading (in terms of total deployed megawatts) Amonix was forced to close its system manufacturing facility in Nevada in the summer, while investors in SolFocus are reportedly looking to sell the company.

Meanwhile Soitec Solar has a very large pipeline of orders for deployment in southern California, but its parent company last month reported a significant financial loss that was due largely to the required investment in facilities for CPV production.

Delta Optical Thin Film A/SOcean InsightEclipse OpticsSynopsys, Optical Solutions GroupAltechnaJENOPTIK Light & OpticsPhotonTec Berlin GmbH
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