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SemiSouth and II-VI prime Mississippi fab

The US state of Mississippi is to get its first taste of high-volume semiconductor manufacturing as SiC specialist SemiSouth and wafer supplier II-VI prepare for the grand opening of their new state-of-the-art facilities.

SemiSouth Laboratories, the spin-off company from Mississippi State University (MSU) that specializes in SiC chips, is to formally open its new manufacturing facility on August 24.

According to SemiSouth, the fab does not simply represent the dawn of the company as a volume manufacturer; it also marks the emergence of the semiconductor industry in this part of the US.

"The celebration signifies the beginning of high-tech economic development in the heart of Mississippi," said SemiSouth.

As well as SemiSouth's new fab, the facility will also house a cleanroom dedicated to wafer processing and operated by SiC substrate supplier II-VI.

Aptly-named US Congressman Chip Pickering will be among the dignitaries taking part in the opening, along with SemiSouth CEO Jeff Casady and II-VI counterpart Carl Johnson.

Spun out from MSU back in 2001, SemiSouth now boasts 45 employees and is actively hiring. It expects the semiconductor fab to provide jobs for more than 250 people within five years as the market for energy-efficient high-power electronic components gathers pace.

SemiSouth also aims to generate annual revenue in excess of $100 million from the production of more than 50 million SiC-based components in the same time-frame.

"We anticipate production to begin in the fourth quarter of 2006," said the company. "[We are] developing proprietary products and have secured contracts with both governmental and commercial customers."

As well as high-power applications in hybrid electric vehicles and electrical grid transmission components (see related stories), SiC wafers look to have a bright future in the RFIC industry as the base material for GaN transistors in next-generation base stations that will be used to provide broadband wireless services.

Only last week, Cree formally opened its own new fab to produce GaN and SiC transistor components, and II-VI is now starting to pick up substrate orders too.

In July, II-VI said that it had received an order worth $1 million for 3-inch SiC substrates from a large US customer. The material is set to be delivered over the next 12-15 months, and will be used to manufacture RF power transistors for cellular base station applications.

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