ESTnet Premier Members IQE, the leading global supplier of advanced semiconductor wafer products and services, has joined a new consortium to establish a pan-European supply chain capability for the high volume production of vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs) for infrared illumination, data communications, gesture recognition and industrial heating applications.
The aim of the programme is to establish a European based production capability to bring VCSEL manufacturing to a level comparable to LED and CMOS manufacturing. By bringing together existing high volume production facilities at IQE, along with key end users, the consortium will deliver an end-to-end production supply chain offering significant reduction in the cost-per-function for VCSEL devices by reducing GaAs processing costs whilst increasing device performance.
VCSELs are key enabling technologies for a wide range of applications where demand is proliferating rapidly as this advanced laser becomes the device of choice for many high volume applications including:
- Gesture recognition, for gaming and non-contact navigation (e.g. TV, smartphone, tablet)
- Depth imaging for 3D vision, using 'time of flight (ToF)' technology, driving next wave of handset innovation for must have new phones
- Production line heating automation: significant operating efficiencies can be achieved using VCSEL technology with applications requiring tens of millions of devices
- Low energy optical storage and fast switching in high capacity data centres, servers and ultra-high speed computing
- High speed datacomms, including Active Optical Cables (AOC)
- Ultra-High Density magnetic Storage using Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR)
- Illumination for IR cameras for security, safety, night vision
- Other industrial heating applications including paint curing and commercial print shops
- Cosmetics and healthcare including hair removal, antiwrinkle, blemish reduction
IQE has already demonstrated significant advances in VCSEL technology including an established 100mm VCSEL process which has been enhanced by the recent launch of its new 150mm VCSEL wafer products for high volume applications, announced in March 2014.
The Euro 23million VCSEL Pilot Line for IR Illumination, Datacom and Power Applications (VIDaP) programme, whose partners include IQE, Philips, STMicroelectronics, Sick and Sidel, will receive funding under the European Commission's ENIAC program with IQE receiving significant support from the Welsh Government.
A key impact of the project will be for Europe to secure a leading global position in this vital and rapidly growing segment of photonics.
Dr Drew Nelson, IQE CEO, said:
"As the global leader in compound semiconductor wafer products, IQE is delighted to take part in the programme to establish a high volume end to end European production capability for this key enabling technology that will have a major impact on so many areas of our lives over the coming years and decades.
By working with key European partners to establish full pilot manufacturing capabilities for high volume production, we will bring the same principles and economies of scale that apply to LED and CMOS processes, to photonics applications employing VCSELs.
IQE has built a powerful technology platform for VCSELs, and recent announcements on our new 150mm process coupled with achievements such as record low power consumption and record high speed data transmission rates are testament to the strength that IQE will bring to this consortium.
IQE offers a strong track record in the manufacture of compound semiconductor wafers and laser devices and the consortium also includes a number of end customers who have and will expand the design of VCSELs into their existing and new families of products. The consortium represents product commercialization across a diverse range of applications of VCSELs, demonstrating the great versatility of the technology."