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Jun 18th, 2012
 
IQE acquires RFMD’s MBE unit targeting HCPV and other markets
 
• IQE intends to use unallocated capacity from the transferred MBE facility to rapidly accelerate its wafer supply to meet the dramatically growing demand for high-concentration photovoltaic (HCPV) solar products.
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• As announced in Yole Développement’s report on HCPV technology and market, MBE (Molecular Beam Epitaxy) has some advantages in manufacturing of HCPV cells compared to standardly used MOCVD technique.

Epiwafer foundry and substrate maker IQE plc of Cardiff, Wales, UK has signed what is described as a multi-faceted agreement to acquire the entire in-house molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) epiwafer manufacturing unit of RF Micro Devices Inc of Greensboro, NC, USA (which supplies wafer starting material to RFMD’s chip-making facilities, which it will continue to own and operate in Greensboro and Newton Aycliffe, UK). As part of the deal, IQE acquires a fully furnished epi manufacturing plant, including 16 operational MBE tools.
RFMD’s gallium arsenide (GaAs) products incorporate transistor layers grown on either an MBE or a metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) process. The firm outsources all MOCVD-based starting material and, with the completion of the transfer, it will outsource MBE-based starting material.

The assets being transferred to IQE include a fully fitted cleanroom of over 90,000ft2, 16 MBE manufacturing systems and equipment, all housed in a 135,000ft2 stand-alone building in Greensboro. The value of the transferred assets is about $27m. The local management and employees for the unit (consisting of 70 people) will also transfer directly to IQE.

In exchange for the transfer of the assets, there will be no upfront cash outlay (resulting in no IQE shareholder dilution). Instead, the parties have agreed to a seven-year wafer supply agreement, with a minimum purchase commitment of $55m over the first two years, whereby IQE will exclusively supply all of RFMD’s MBE wafer requirements and a majority of its MOCVD wafer requirements under a discounted pricing arrangement.

IQE intends to use unallocated capacity from the transferred MBE facility to rapidly accelerate its wafer supply to meet the dramatically growing demand for concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) solar products in relation to its technology transfer and exclusive wafer supply agreement with Solar Junction, announced in February. This is expected to allow CPV wafer production with annual revenue capacity of up to $35m, without the need for significant up-front capital expenditures.

 

 
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