Plessey acquires spin-out CamGaN and new LED-making process

Posted on 8 Feb 2012

Plymouth-based semiconductor manufacturer buys new technology, paving the way for developing a cost-effective manufacturing solution for high brightness LEDs.

Semiconductor manufacturer Plessey has acquired CamGaN Ltd, a University of Cambridge spin-out formed to commercialise novel technologies for the growth of gallium nitride (GaN) high brightness light emitting diodes (HB LEDs) on large-area silicon substrates.

The acquisition will enable Plessey to exploit synergies with its 6-inch processing facility in Plymouth to produce HB LEDs based on CamGaN’s proprietary 6-inch GaN-on-silicon technology. Plessey says the acquisition puts it among the first companies to successfully manufacture HB LEDs on 6-inch silicon substrates.

The Plessey HB LED solution enables the growth of thin HB LED structures on standard, readily available, silicon substrates (SiC). Current technologies use silicon carbide or sapphire substrates, which are expensive and difficult to scale-up.

Plessey’s GaN-on-silicon solution offers cost reductions of the order of 80% compared to LEDs grown on SiC or sapphire in three ways, by: reducing scrap rates, minimising batch time and enabling the use of automated semiconductor processing equipment.

Such cost reductions will be achieved later this year, Plessey says, while enabling outputs in excess of 150 lumens per watt. If proven, the result will be one of the most cost effective solution in the HB LED industry.

Managing director of Plessey Michael LeGoff said: “HB LED lighting represents the future of domestic, architectural, medical and automotive lighting. Achieving the goals of high efficiency and brightness is key to the rapid deployment of energy saving, solid state lighting. This new British technology provides cost and performance advantages that will constitute a game-changing step forward towards the replacement of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs with HB LED lamps.”

A new technology
On the significance of Plessey’s new technology, Dr John Ellis, chief engineer at Plessey, said: “To date, the biggest technological challenge preventing the commercialisation of HB LEDs grown on large-area silicon substrates has been the large lattice mismatch between GaN and silicon. Plessey’s new GaN-on-silicon process has overcome this challenge and our expertise combined with the intrinsic cost savings of using automated 6 inch processing equipment will position Plessey’s HB LED lighting products at the forefront of the industry.”

Professor Sir Colin Humphreys, CBE FREng, Director of the Cambridge Centre for Gallium Nitride, added: “Everyone at Cambridge is delighted to be working with a company like Plessey who are committed to exploiting GaN-on-silicon technology in the UK. This technology is the product of substantial R&D investment over the past decade and the plans for its commercial development within Plessey have tremendous potential. The opportunities to develop affordable smart-lighting products for domestic, medical, automotive and other applications provide a real opportunity to have a positive impact on people’s lives.”

Prof Sir Humphreys is also professor of Experimental Physics at the Royal Institute and co-inventor of the GaN-on-silicon technology.

Plessey has also announced a plan to release a range of smart lighting products that incorporate existing Plessey sensing and control technologies including the EPIC sensor. These products will enable intelligent energy management, remote control, controlled dimming and automated response to ambient conditions.