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Sofradir to double HgCdTe output with MBE switch

French firm Sofradir wins permission to build a new factory near Grenoble where it will double its production of infrared detectors based on mercury cadmium telluride.

Sofradir, the French company that makes high-performance infrared detectors, will near-double its production capacity when it opens a new semiconductor fab in late 2007.

The €9 million ($11.5 million) facility will be located near Grenoble. There, Sofradir will use MBE to manufacture 4-inch wafer material for its "third-generation" HgCdTe detectors.

Sofradir claims to be the first European manufacturer to produce infrared detectors using the MBE approach, and the only company worldwide to exploit the process on an industrial scale for this application.

MBE is however widely used for mass-production of GaAs-based epiwafers for RF transistor applications, and also to make laser diodes for optical data storage. Meanwhile, the Polish firm VIGO System manufactures HgCdTe detectors using an MOCVD reactor from Aixtron (see company link).

Sofradir s Grenoble fab will measure 9000 m2 in total, one third of which will be dedicated as cleanroom space.

According to the French firm, users of infrared detectors, such as the US Army, defense contractors Thales and Selex, and the European Space Agency, are demanding larger, more complex products with new features like dual-band or laser imaging.

By switching to MBE production and the larger wafer format, Sofradir ought to be able to respond to these demands while simultaneously reducing the cost of its products.

Sofradir's range of products, which include quantum well and microbolometer detectors as well as HgCdTe semiconductors, cover the infrared spectrum from 1 µm all the way up to 16 µm.

Among other uses, they are employed for thermal imaging, missile detection, and surveillance applications.

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