Category Archives: Intersolar North America

July 15, 2011 – Welcome to our third roundup of observations from SEMICON West 2011; we’ll be looking at LED technology and executive opinions on big-picture industry issues, and adding a few observations about the state of play in the solar market.

SEMICON West 2011
Day 1: SOI vs. FinFET, ReRAM vs. 3D NAND, and lots of video data
Day 2: A lithography-rich day
Day 3: Advancement in LED, exec perspectives, solar observations

LED improvements

The LED session at the TechXPOT venue was, like many of the other TechXPOT sessions, very well attended, with standing-room crowds, drawn by the prospect of an emerging semiconductor market with the potential to generate massive unit sales in the general lighting sector. Before this can happen on a mass scale, however, a steep reduction is needed in cost per lumen through a combination of performance boosts and manufacturing cost reduction. Speakers at the session reported progress in key areas, including efficiency, binning, epitaxy, manufacturing processes, and metrology.

On the performance side, the consensus is that efficiency for warm-light LEDs will increase from 100 lm/W today to 200 lm/W by 2020. An increase in input drive current from 350mA to 2A is one part of this process; it will also facilitate higher-power LEDs.

Unfortunately, nitride LEDs are plagued by the "droop" issue — at high operating currents, efficiency decreases. The origin of droop is still hotly debated, with the two leading hypotheses being carrier leakage and Auger recombination. The solution is tricky, as it requires growth of LEDs along non-polar or semi-polar crystal orientations (an area of active development), or reduction of carrier density in the active region by increasing the thickness of the quantum wells, which is not practical for high-power LEDs.

In the manufacturing cost arena, the primary focus in recent years has been on moving to larger wafers, reducing cost of ownership on front-end epitaxy, and improving overall packaged LED binning yields. The shift to 150mm substrates is expected to happen in under four years, compared to more than a decade for the 50mm-to-100mm transition. Top-tier LED companies are also eyeing larger substrates, but performance and yield remain challenging due to lattice and thermal mismatch between gallium nitride and silicon.

An interesting equipment trend is the race to make bigger, more efficient, MOCVD tools for nitride LEDs. Veeco has introduced the first production cluster tool for LEDs, while Aixtron recently announced a new record for wafer capacity (16 100mm wafers) for its Circus platform. Other approaches to reduce manufacturing cost, such as inline yield management and thin substrate handling during laser lift-off, are also being adopted.

Execs speak: Evolving adoption, favorite innovations

Wednesday afternoon’s Executive Summit, moderated by SEMI’s semiconductor business president Jonathan Davis, provided some interesting perspectives from top-level management.

Several panelists commented on evolving patterns of electronics consumption. Steve Newberry, president and CEO of Lam Research, noted that portable electronics are quickly becoming a necessity and not a luxury; Rick Wallace, his counterpart at KLA-Tencor, said he is bullish about the middle class using much more of its disposable income on electronics, and also about some 2 billion new customers who will want smart phones, music players, and other portable devices. Terry Brewer, founder and president of Brewer Scientific, commented on the importance of better user interfaces in this evolution, with Apple’s growth and success being testimony to this. (Davis had earlier pointed out that Apple recently became the largest IC buyer in the world, to the tune of $17.5 billion annually.)

When the topic turned to favorite innovations of the past year, Doug Neugold, chairman, CEO and president of ATMI, said he is getting a kick out of redeploying technology (such as material selectivity solutions for advanced ICs) towards handling electronic waste issues, like selective removal and recovery of metals from waste PC boards. Williams cited the use of laser-enhanced plasma in EUV illumination sources to create brightness five to ten times that of the sun.

Solar pricing, installation bottleneck, utility-scale concerns

Speaking of solar matters, there’s been at lot of talk on the show floor about plunging prices on solar modules, with reports of $1.20 to $1.30/watt or even less becoming common. While lower prices are in general a good thing, these levels (driven by a combination of declining demand in Europe due to fewer subsidies and a surge in manufacturing) are making life miserable for some in the startup community who had been planning on higher revenues.

Some are speculating that solar prices could become an international trade issue, with concerns that the large number of new producers in China may be dumping products below cost.

Another interesting aspect is that installation has become a bottleneck in the residential and commercial sectors; potential US demand at these lower prices cannot be fully realized given a general shortage of "boots-on-the-ground" experienced marketing and sales personnel generating an order pipeline. In part because of this, installers have not had to lower their prices despite lower module costs, so margins have improved. We talked to one Southern California installer who noted that a few months ago, he couldn’t get his calls returned when he wanted to buy panels; today, panel suppliers are calling him.

Utility-scale installations are a another challenge, however; financing and permitting remain huge issues, and the returns are still not broadly compelling at all-in costs of $3/watt or more when financial costs are included. Bankability is a much greater issue in this end of the market, while efficiency is top-of-mind in residential and commercial.

It will be interesting to see how the solar industry matures and if it evolves in a similar manner to what we have seen in semiconductors.

Overall, it has been another great year for the SEMICON/Intersolar shows!

by Michael A. Fury, Techcet Group

Click to Enlarge July 12, 2011 – Another cold summer in San Francisco, another SEMICON West, brimming with the usual vital statistics: 1256 booths, up 10% over 2010; 712 exhibiting companies (up 24%) from 21 countries, of which 105 are new to this event. Among the equipment suppliers, 315 have brought equipment to demonstrate, an attribute that had been on the decline over the past several years. Over 30,000 people have pre-registered for the combined SEMICON and Intersolar events, though it is safe to assume that Intersolar is the steroid driving that number.

Having recognized the action in Moscone West, I elected to start my wanderings at Intersolar. Two impressions struck me immediately upon entering. First, there were displays set up in what was otherwise lobby and aisle space in previous events. Clearly, space was at a premium, and there was plenty of demand for it. The other impression is that the space is very European. I’m not talking about the kind of distribution of ethnicities that you see at SEMICON shows around the world — I’m talking about a distinct predominance of European languages and eyeglasses and haircuts. I found it striking, and can only attribute it to the very effective nature of government subsidies for solar technologies in Europe as compared to the US. Yes, of course, US and Asian companies were well represented, but they did not determine the ambience.

Navigation through the Intersolar aisles required a reasonable amount of care, though far short of that required to ride a Tokyo subway. The space around the Solyndra booth, however, was simply not navigable due to the throngs of people waiting to approach their representatives for a discussion. At least that why I think they were waiting; there didn’t seem to be any stupendous giveaway driving the crowd. I was glad to see eIQ Energy back at the show and apparently doing quite well. They manufacture power inverters for connecting panels of varying designs and power outputs, and doing so in parallel rather than series. Last year they appeared as a fledgling startup with big aspirations. This year, they appeared more confident and capable, much less tentative than before. I imagine the same can be said for many other companies on the floor.

But my comfort zone is still in the semiconductor halls, where I found it much easier to navigate, yet the crowds were respectable and the buzz was a level above my recollection of the past two years. My time on the floor was limited by my own private meetings and by the commencement of a new feature for 2011: a private symposium by CEA Leti of France. Multimedia convergence on mid-size devices like tablet PCs call for high performance at low VDD, which is the focus of Leti’s FDSOI program (fully-depleted silicon on insulator). These devices are built on an 8nm SOI film with raised source & drain and undoped channel. Migration from 28nm bulk transistors to 20nm FDSOI can enable a 50% power reduction at constant speed, or a 60% speed gain at 0.8VDD (35% gain at 1.0VDD).

3D integration is another program focus at Leti, as it is at so many other companies these days. Development and implementation of EDA methods for 3D TSV has made Grenoble a consortium center for design shops. Solder-free copper-on-copper direct bonding is one of the disruptive process concepts being developed in the program. Leti has launched a program called Open 3D to foster open access to 3D design and process integration technologies to accelerate industry implementation.

The Leti program on silicon photonics aspires to combine CMOS with photonics to leverage the cost effectiveness of CMOS integration with the high bandwidth demands that are presently limiting card-to-card and module-to-module data transfer. Since 2006, Leti has been operating a product prototyping collaboration with 60 commercial partners in the US and Canada, resulting in the release of over 150 products.

Another program focus at Leti is the creative use of electronics in the practice of medicine, moving us toward the notion of molecular medicine. The MEMS technology that is already integrated into cell phones and gaming handsets is being adapted to a variety of medical assignments. Direct brain-computer interfaces that were once relegated to science fiction are now being tested to allow a variety of tasks from guiding a wheelchair to quelling muscular tremors to commanding an exoskeleton device that would allow a paralyzed patient to walk and raise a glass of champagne. (Some of these concepts come from other sources, and are not necessarily part of the Leti program.) The already complex issues of integration and device packaging now have to address the additional issue of biocompatibility and FDA approval.


Michael A. Fury, Ph.D, is senior technology analyst at Techcet Group, LLC, P.O. Box 29, Del Mar, CA 92014; e-mail [email protected]

by Michael A. Fury, Techcet Group

Click to Enlarge July 12, 2011 – Another cold summer in San Francisco, another SEMICON West, brimming with the usual vital statistics: 1256 booths, up 10% over 2010; 712 exhibiting companies (up 24%) from 21 countries, of which 105 are new to this event. Among the equipment suppliers, 315 have brought equipment to demonstrate, an attribute that had been on the decline over the past several years. Over 30,000 people have pre-registered for the combined SEMICON and Intersolar events, though it is safe to assume that Intersolar is the steroid driving that number.

Having recognized the action in Moscone West, I elected to start my wanderings at Intersolar. Two impressions struck me immediately upon entering. First, there were displays set up in what was otherwise lobby and aisle space in previous events. Clearly, space was at a premium, and there was plenty of demand for it. The other impression is that the space is very European. I’m not talking about the kind of distribution of ethnicities that you see at SEMICON shows around the world — I’m talking about a distinct predominance of European languages and eyeglasses and haircuts. I found it striking, and can only attribute it to the very effective nature of government subsidies for solar technologies in Europe as compared to the US. Yes, of course, US and Asian companies were well represented, but they did not determine the ambience.

SEMICON West 2011
Day 0: Market forecasts, supply-chain dynamics
Day 1: Intersolar wanderings, SEMICON West symposium
Day 2: CMP views, outlooks for breakfast
Day 2.5: Roaming the floor, LEDs, CMP pads, kudos to Napoleon
Day 3: Two eye-catching technologies in CMP slurry, printed electronics

Navigation through the Intersolar aisles required a reasonable amount of care, though far short of that required to ride a Tokyo subway. The space around the Solyndra booth, however, was simply not navigable due to the throngs of people waiting to approach their representatives for a discussion. At least that why I think they were waiting; there didn’t seem to be any stupendous giveaway driving the crowd. I was glad to see eIQ Energy back at the show and apparently doing quite well. They manufacture power inverters for connecting panels of varying designs and power outputs, and doing so in parallel rather than series. Last year they appeared as a fledgling startup with big aspirations. This year, they appeared more confident and capable, much less tentative than before. I imagine the same can be said for many other companies on the floor.

But my comfort zone is still in the semiconductor halls, where I found it much easier to navigate, yet the crowds were respectable and the buzz was a level above my recollection of the past two years. My time on the floor was limited by my own private meetings and by the commencement of a new feature for 2011: a private symposium by CEA Leti of France. Multimedia convergence on mid-size devices like tablet PCs call for high performance at low VDD, which is the focus of Leti’s FDSOI program (fully-depleted silicon on insulator). These devices are built on an 8nm SOI film with raised source & drain and undoped channel. Migration from 28nm bulk transistors to 20nm FDSOI can enable a 50% power reduction at constant speed, or a 60% speed gain at 0.8VDD (35% gain at 1.0VDD).

3D integration is another program focus at Leti, as it is at so many other companies these days. Development and implementation of EDA methods for 3D TSV has made Grenoble a consortium center for design shops. Solder-free copper-on-copper direct bonding is one of the disruptive process concepts being developed in the program. Leti has launched a program called Open 3D to foster open access to 3D design and process integration technologies to accelerate industry implementation.

The Leti program on silicon photonics aspires to combine CMOS with photonics to leverage the cost effectiveness of CMOS integration with the high bandwidth demands that are presently limiting card-to-card and module-to-module data transfer. Since 2006, Leti has been operating a product prototyping collaboration with 60 commercial partners in the US and Canada, resulting in the release of over 150 products.

Another program focus at Leti is the creative use of electronics in the practice of medicine, moving us toward the notion of molecular medicine. The MEMS technology that is already integrated into cell phones and gaming handsets is being adapted to a variety of medical assignments. Direct brain-computer interfaces that were once relegated to science fiction are now being tested to allow a variety of tasks from guiding a wheelchair to quelling muscular tremors to commanding an exoskeleton device that would allow a paralyzed patient to walk and raise a glass of champagne. (Some of these concepts come from other sources, and are not necessarily part of the Leti program.) The already complex issues of integration and device packaging now have to address the additional issue of biocompatibility and FDA approval.


Michael A. Fury, Ph.D, is senior technology analyst at Techcet Group, LLC, P.O. Box 29, Del Mar, CA 92014; e-mail [email protected]

July 12, 2011 — SEMI appointed Doug Neugold, ATMI Chairman, CEO, and president, as Chairman of its International Board of Directors, serving his first term on the association’s board.

Neugold’s year-long tenure will begin tomorrow at the SEMI membership meeting during SEMICON West 2011 and Intersolar North America in San Francisco, CA. Neugold is an active SEMI member, recently serving on the International Board, the Executive Committee, and as Vice Chairman of the Board. He will assume leadership from Rick Wallace, KLA-Tencor president and CEO, who served as Chairman for the prior 12 months.

Neugold looks forward to serving as SEMI chairman as SEMI and the industry undergo "significant strategic, technological, and management change." He was welcomed to the Board Chair by outgoing SEMI president and CEO Stanley T. Myers.

David B. Miller, president, DuPont Electronics & Communications; and Ho-Ming Tong, chief R&D officer and general manager, ASE Group, were newly elected to the association board as well. Dave Miller and Ho-Ming Tong have made "significant contributions to SEMI regional activities and advisory groups," noted Myers.

In accordance with the association’s by-laws, the following board members were re-elected: Andr

by Steve Leone, RenewableEnergyWorld.com

July 12, 2011 For an industry with as much momentum as solar, it’s still a healthy reminder that only 1% of America’s electricity supply comes from the sun.

Right now, solar is mostly a peak generation provider. For it to get where it needs to go, it needs to move into baseload territory — namely, the space dominated by fossil fuels.

To achieve that end, the solar industry and other renewables have to lay the groundwork for a new energy economy focused on smart solutions to some current limitations. That was the view presented by Andrew Skumanich, CEO of Solar Vision, during his presentation Monday morning at the opening day of the Intersolar conference in San Francisco, which runs through Thursday.

Here’s what Skumanich laid out as some of the key considerations if the US and other emerging markets are really to achieve their solar potential:

Appreciate the challenge. Utilities have always had to manage intermittency on the demand side, but now they have to manage it on the supply side as well. This creates an extraordinarily complex configuration. Right now, utilities are concerned about dependability at about 20 to 30 percent integration.

We must deploy available solutions. These include smart meters with time-of-day pricing, co-generation with PV-natural gas partnerships and forecasting that happens by the week, day and hour.

Energy storage goes way beyond batteries. It’s still costly and still at the research and development level. This remains true even with Concentrated Solar Power, which has a promising built-in option for storage. The reserves that would be needed for sources like solar and wind are very high, so to achieve this, you may need to overbuild developments, which would also increase costs.

Know where your resources are. When considering the transmission challenges, the biggest factor is that demand and supply usually don’t overlap. In the U.S., the population centers are often far away from the most ideal locations for solar and wind energy developments. There has also been a rather low investment in transmission lines compared with the rise of renewable energy over the past decade.

Tackling and solving these issues are what will give the solar industry the ability to expand and achieve a double-digit percentage of the electricity market in the US. "For solar to take off, it needs a smart grid," said Skumanich. "Some of this is happening, but we need an urgency for it."


This article was originally published by RenewableEnergyWorld.com and reprinted with permission.

July 12, 2011 – A solar PV testbed in Arizona is widening its reach to investigate integration of different energy storage technologies with PV onto the grid.

Attached to a 1.6MW solar plant located at the U. of Arizona’s Science and Technology Park (owned by Tucson Electric Power), built by Solon, the energy storage research and testing site will have four phases: the first will implement compress air energy (designed by UA faculty and students in the AzRISE program), followed by a second phase with lithium ion. Solon’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system will manage it all. The UA’s overall SolarZone is a ~14MW combined testbed incorporating various types of solar tech in 2-5MW chunks: multijunction CPV; "more conventional PV"; and concentrated thermal storage for CSP.

PV variability isn’t so much of an issue now, but as it scales from what is "large" today (~20MW) to "large" in the future (multiple hundreds of MW sites), intermittency will have a definable cost for utilities, explained Bill Richardson, Solon director of R&D. (He’s also at Intersolar North America this week, speaking about energy storage.) By pairing solar PV with energy storage, "there’s an opportunity beyond just fixing intermittency" to other things storage brings to the table: shifting when output happens, frequency/voltage control, transmission/distribution deferral. "Customers in different places have different needs," he noted, so Solon wants to get familiar with and know how to integrate different kinds of energy storage technologies. Put another way, Solon’s in the business of managing energy systems, and then handing it off to customers, including control of everything (generation to storage). For TEP, they get an up-close look "how to control these things, what works in what situations," Richardson said. And for UA, well, it’s full of really smart people who want to try out different things, such as algorithms for energy management.

For example, compressed air, the first-stage candidate in the Solon-TEP-UA experiment. TEP thinks compressed air "is interesting on a large scale" to help shift the load, Richardson said. (And UA happens to also have developed prototype of a system that makes compressed air more efficient, he added.) On the flip side, Li ion is better for short-term power, and TEP is interested in this angle too. It’s simply being able to address energy management from both sides (generation and storage) with whatever’s needed for the grid at that time, "and have control over the whole thing," he said. The pieces will be slightly bigger than 100kW, and it’s "more interesting to have smaller demo pieces to practice on, gather data, then scale up," he said — because for some customers that small size could be just right.

The CAES will be introduced in August, and Li ion added in 4Q11. Two more are slated beyond that, with help from partners, but without specific guidelines. Beyond that, the site won’t be maxed out; it’s a test site to look at long-term effects, so there’s the ability to continue to put in new technologies from new partners.

And to that point, there’s not really an endpoint in the project; e.g. they may quickly learn what CAES efficiency is and its cycle times, but there will still be value in validating technical and economic models. UA is working on algorithms to help storage make decisions on its own: e.g. taking into account grid rates and weather forecasts to determine if the system should charge or discharge. Then compare what the model says the utility could save, run it with real PV for a month and see if the numbers line up.

And data on that modeling is critical for funding as well, Richardson added, showing financers a field-proven working model.

Richardson noted Solon is open to other demos, with utilities or even banks (and hinted they indeed are, but wouldn’t specify with what partners or technologies). "There are lots of different companies and storage out there to be investigated," he said, "and we’re willing to work with all of them."

Bottom line: future turnkey PV systems will come attached with energy storage of some type(s). "We want to be able to hand the keys over, the control for all of it," Richardson said.

July 11, 2011 – A spirited panel discussion involving solar PV industry organizations, vendors, and even local government gathered on the first day of Intersolar North America to come up with ideas about whether and how the US can grow and nurture solar PV as a viable energy alternative, from consumers to utility and overall with policymaking decisions.

Fielding the first volley from panel moderator (and solar industry luminary) Eicke Weber from Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE whether they are satisfied with solar PV progress in the US, and specifically California, analyst Paul Gipe with Wind Works replied that Ontario has a FiT and installed 350MW in 2011, well on its way to becoming the largest PV market in North America. And the US’ 2GW installations is half of Italy’s 4GW in 2010, and Italy is reining in its market just to keep doing 2GW for several years out. How, then, can anyone in a nation 5

by James Montgomery, news editor

July 26, 2010 – The "Extreme Electronics" stage in the back corner of Moscone’s South Hall was packed all week long, offering discussions and presentations ranging from MEMS (see Pete’s writeup) to sensors to energy harvesting to flexible electronics. The talks we stood in on (no easy-access seats were available) were worth it.

MEMS had a big presence, both among exhibitors and the aforementioned presentation stage. Yole Développement sees a $6.5B MEMS device market in 2009 swelling to >$16B by 2015, and an even bigger surge in units: 3.2B in 2009, and 10B in 2015. iSuppli sees MEMS growing 11% this year to $6.B and expanding to $9.8B by 2014, a 10.7% CAGR; units will rise from 3.44B in 2009 to 4.14B in 2010, and 8.5B units by 2014 (a 19.5% CAGR). MEMS demand is so hot that even companies with internal MEMS fabs (e.g. Delphi, Conti) are exploring foundry sources, noted Yole’s Jean Christophe Eloy.

Better manufacturing technology for MEMS is pushing prices down, Eloy said. In 2000, accelerometers were 10mm2 in size, consumed 0.1mW, cost >$3.00, and were manufactured on 4-6in wafers. In 2010, devices are ~2-3mm2, made on 6-8in. wafers, consume 0.05mW, and cost $0.70. By 2020, MEMS devices will measure 1-2mm2, consume <0.05mW, cost <$0.4, and be manufactured mostly on 8-in. wafers (and will utilize 3D integration). "MEMS production is back on the fast track," said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at iSuppli."

More "lessons learned" from SEMICON West 2010:
Lesson #1: Good times here, for now
Lesson #2: Capital intensity & EUV
Lesson #3: 3D and packaging are hot
Lesson #4: Supply chain challenges

Also fueling growth in MEMS is applications for consumer electronic devices and mobile handsets, which "bulldozed their way through the economic crisis," Bouchaud said. Inkjet printers will stay the dominant-selling MEMS device through 2014, ending the period with $2B/year.

High-brightness LEDs held the "Extreme Electronics" stage for every slot on Wednesday, reflecting that sector’s growing interest from semiconductor firms and suppliers seeking yet another new high-growth business. (HB-LED processing is something that suppliers will need to better understand, pointed out one industry watcher. E.g. wafers can sit up to half a day in a chamber vs. typical tool-to-tool flows for semiconductor manufacturing. And sapphire wafers are about to get much bigger — think 300mm.)

And of course everything Intersolar was right next door in the West Hall (exhibits) and Intercontinental (sessions), where traffic was even heavier (it barely thinned out as you went to the top of the three exhibit floors.) One question we heard, though, somewhat rhetorically: What happens if (when?) the solar side gets any bigger? How many solar panel demos can you fit in one expo center? We’ve heard Intersolar and SEMI remain committed to having a colocated show, so the question will be how to give Intersolar enough room to flex its muscles.

Semiconductors are everywhere

Bernie Meyerson’s Tuesday keynote identified high-level real-world applications where enabling technologies can make a fundamental difference in people’s lives, from managing urban traffic to pre-diagnosing sudden onset of diseases. At a SST-hosted breakfast on Wednesday (July 14), Andrew Thompson of Proteus Biomedical, developer of "intelligent" pharmaceutical devices that can be swallowed to monitor and relay body functions, preached for the marriage of information and technology and medicine. Among the planet’s 6-7B humans, there are roughly 5B cell phones in use — while only 3B people have shoes, he said. And the Internet reaches more people than water or electricity — it’s the world’s most important utility. (His grandmother witnessed the invention of everything from flight to refrigerators to TVs, he said, so surely we can come up with something.)

But it’s getting the message across to the masses (and influencers) outside our industry that’s the next big goal. We heard several times that the semiconductor industry (and tech in general) needs charismatic, intelligent advocacy to help Wall Street really understand the broad impact and potential of how what we do.

But eager ears are certainly out there — and maybe in surprising places. At our hotel this year, the concierge surprised us by revealing quite a bit more than a passing knowledge. Turns out he’s a U.Penn-pedigreed Ph.D — patented, with a handful of published papers — with a wide background in everything from narrow bandgap semiconductors to IR detectors and sensors to solar panels and nickel-hydride batteries. He’s still tracking what goes on in the industry, and has a keen interest to get back into the game after a hiatus. We’ve got his contact information if anyone’s interested.

by Michael A. Fury, Techcet Group

Click to Enlarge July 20, 2010 – The third & final day of SEMICON West 2010 was quite a bit more relaxed with everyone crashing following their sugar highs at the NY Loves NanoTech dessert event the night before. Folks seemed more willing to just sit down and talk for a spell.

Mike Ciesinski, president & CEO of the FlexTech Alliance (which now resides in SEMI HQ) gave me an update on the next quarterly workshop on flexible & printed electronics: Advanced Materials and Processes Enabling Thin Film PV R2R Nanomanufacturing, coming up Sep. 15-16 in New Bedford, MA.

Robert Rossi (VP) and John Welty (polishing manager) at Spartan Felt gave me a fascinating tour through the world of polishing pad applications and pad types beyond the domain of semiconductor CMP. It really is a humbling experience to see how much technology goes on outside of our semiconductor-centric world.

SEE ALSO:
Day 2: Shoes vs. phones, CMP users, updating Art’s Law
Day 1: CMP, slurries, metrology, thermal, zombies, observations

In my Day 2 blog, I promised some follow-up to some questions raised at the CMPUG Q&A. Some additional data and presentations can be found on the Confluense LLC Web site, and it is instructive to watch their video posted on YouTube. For anything else, I recommend contacting Confluense directly. The other subject that came up was the button pad from SemiQuest, which has posted some early data on its Web site — but the most recent information, including a description of the pad itself, is posted online with the May 2009 NCCAVS CMPUG proceedings, in a presentation called "Opportunities and Challenges in Developing a Low Defectivity Pad Platform".

It’s always fun to see things come full circle. Bob Roberts, who sold me my first (not the first) CMP polisher at IBM East Fishkill in ~1986, is now back in San Luis Obispo, CA as Strasbaugh‘s executive director of advanced technologies, after several years on the East Coast. He and the Strasbaugh team launched their new STB P300 CMP system at the show, targeting small-lot, high-mix manufacturing environments.

I wasn’t able to spend much time at the Intersolar events over at Moscone West this year, but I did get a personal tour of the eIQ Energy system for connecting solar panels in parallel instead of series, from QA manager Bob Sherrill. It’s instructive to watch their video on YouTube — apparently it’s a pretty big deal to be able to connect panels in parallel for overall system efficiency. It has the added benefit of being able to use panels from different vendors, even different technologies, in a single integrated system. One of their local demo sites is the Big O Tire shop in Dublin, CA.

One thing I noticed about the Intersolar show is that folks were walking around with beers at 1pm, which I choose to believe is an indication of just how well things are going for the solar power industry. Had I seen this in the semiconductor show, I would have had a completely different interpretation for the early afternoon drinking, a much sadder one.


Michael A. Fury, Ph.D, is senior technology analyst at Techcet Group, LLC, P.O. Box 29, Del Mar, CA 92014; e-mail [email protected].

During the week of Intersolar NA, IMEC announced new partnerships with solar cell material and equipment suppliers (MEMC, Leybold Optics, Roth & Rau, Mallinckrodt Baker) as part of its wafer-based silicon photovoltaics industrial affiliation program (IIAP), which with a grant from the Flemish government will set up a solar-cell pilot line for process development in a “semi-industrial environment.”

Emmanuel Van Kerschaver, Group Leader, Solar Cell Technology Group at IMEC, shared with SST‘s Debra Vogler highlights of recent developments at the research center: a solar cell with copper-plated contacts that has an efficiency of 18.5%, another solar cell with 16.1% efficiency using only 20µm of Si; and a chloride-free solar cell texturing process.

Van Kerschaver noted that much other work is being done, and should be ready to discuss soon. (IMEC was to present roughly a dozen papers at Intersolar.)