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May 22nd, 2014
Azzurro Semiconductors went bankrupt… A hard blow for GaN-on-Si technology!
“If it can be made on Silicon, it will be made on Silicon”…
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This old proverb from the semiconductor industry was also developed for GaN-based applications (LED, power electronics, RF and laser) too.
However, recently, such “rule” has shown its limit. Based upon data from the Dresdner Neuesten Nachrichten (www.dnn-online.de), it seems that the German GaN-on-Si epiwafer producer Azzurro Semiconductors went bankrupt. According to this source, “the company had not been able to bring its innovative technology to the market and make money”. As a result, the majority of the 42 people have been laid-off.

Azzurro Semiconductors had been spun off by renowned professors from the University of Magdeburg in 2003. These professors had invented a novel method to coat ordinary Silicon wafers, common in the chip industry, with Gallium Nitride (GaN). In the past years, Silicon substrate has created a lot of interest in the LED, RF and power electronics industry, with the final objective to decrease manufacturing cost by using depreciated CMOS fab.
But, after setting up its first factory in Dresden at a cost of around €19M and despite a new investor bailed out after months of negotiations, Azzurro Semiconductors applied to the bankruptcy court with insolvency proceedings that were opened on 30th of April (2014).

Step back in time, RF was the first application trying to capture the added-value of GaN-on Si technology for commercial products (Nitronex 1999). LED then joined the battlefield with Lattice Power then more recently Toshiba and Bridgelux, aiming to displace Sapphire domination. In power switching, pioneers were International Rectifier and EPC, followed by numerous new entrants since then, all targeting low cost, high power conversion efficiency devices.

As a conclusion, that very sad news shows how GaN-on-Si technology is still in its infancy, with winning business models (in-house or subtracted epi) not being fully stabilized yet.  Market volumes are not large enough to sustain massive up-stream investments at the moment and the question mark remains again: Will power and LED GaN-on-Si device makers process GaN epi internally or not…. Future will tell…

More on the topic: Yole Développement invites you to register to its next webcast focused on GaN-on-Si. More information here.



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