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Newsletter "SEI NEWS" 2012

Home > Company Information > SEI WORLD > Back number > Vol.420

[Newsletter "SEI NEWS" Vol.420]

Compound Semiconductor

Sumitomo Electric launched a compound semiconductor research program in 1956. The progress of the research was hindered for some time because the company dissolved the laboratory in charge. In such adverse circumstances, the research group continued its steady efforts to expedite the research until the company acknowledged the research results and established a compound semiconductor development section in 1970. Since then, we have accelerated the development of a seeding process and other key technologies and established the foundation of the company’s current compound semiconductor business. In 2003, we succeeded in developing a gallium nitride substrate on the basis of the compound semiconductor development and production know-how we had accumulated over the years, and commenced mass-producing this new product for the first time in the world.

Compound semiconductor

■Product Data
Start of production 1970
(compound semiconductors)
Production bases U.S.A., China, Taiwan, Japan (Itami and Kobe)

What is a compound semiconductor?

Single element semiconductor and compound semiconductor

A semiconductor is a substance whose electrical conductivity lies between that of a conductor like copper or aluminum and an insulator like rubber or glass. It can conduct electricity under some conditions but insulate electricity under other conditions. Of the 92 elements existing on the earth, only several elements, including silicon (Si), germanium (Ge) and selenium (Se), can behave as semiconductors.

In contrast to a semiconductor composed of a single element, one composed of two or more elements is called a compound semiconductor. Typical examples of compound semiconductors include gallium arsenide (GaAs), gallium nitride (GaN), indium phosphide (InP), zinc selenide (ZnSe), and silicon carbide (SiC).

What are compound semiconductors for?

Since electrons in compound semiconductors move much faster than electrons in silicon, the most popular single-element semiconductor, compound semiconductors are ideal for high-speed signal processing. They operate at a lower voltage, respond to light, and generate microwaves.

Owing to their superior light receiving/emitting function, magnetic sensitivity and heat resistance, compound semiconductors are also used in various electronic systems/devices familiar to us. Some examples of such systems/devices include lasers and light-receiving elements for optical fiber communication, power amplifiers for mobile phones and other wireless communication devices, light sources for DVDs and Blu-ray discs, white LEDs for illumination, and solar batteries.

■Interview with engineer in charge
What are the difficulties in manufacturing compound semiconductors?

Shinya Fujiwara, Production Dept, Sumitomo Electric Semiconductor Materials, Inc.

Compound semiconductor substrates must be finished with smooth surfaces that are free of impurities as far as possible. In addition, since they are much more fragile than silicon semiconductor substrates, they are easy to break and tend to generate cracks and other defects. To enhance the quality of the semiconductor substrates we produce, we minimize their surface defects by introducing an improvement methodology in terms of on 5Ms ? Man, Method, Measurement, Material and Machine ? from the development and design stages.

The unit price of compound semiconductor materials is higher than that of silicon and, in recent years, Japanese compound semiconductor makers are experiencing fierce cost-competition from overseas makers. To sustain our competitive edge in the international market, The Sumitomo Electric Group including overseas production bases are working together toward overall cost reduction.

What features of Sumitomo Electric’s compound semiconductors are well received by customers?

Our compound semiconductors enjoy superior quality unsurpassed by our competitors. We have achieved such quality based on the crystal growth and semiconductor production technologies we have cultivated and accumulated over the years.

We operate overseas semiconductor production and sales bases to meet the demands of our customers in Europe, America and Asia. Quick delivery and attentive, speedy response to customer needs by these local bases are also regarded highly by our customers.

What is a new product you have recently developed?

We have developed a 6-inch GaAs substrate that can be used in smartphones and other wireless communication systems. As smartphones are upgraded, substrates of enhanced quality are required. The engineering, quality assurance and research departments of the Sumitomo Electric Group worked together to develop a higher quality substrate demanded by our customers within the shortest period of time, and launched it onto the market. Our advanced product development capability and expeditious mass-production activities received high commendation from our customers.

 
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