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Asahi Kasei ramps Hall sensors at new GaAs plant

The Japanese firm Asahi Kasei Electronics begins full commercial operation of a new GaAs fabrication facility where it will mass-produce so-called Hall elements that are used as magnetic sensors.

Asahi Kasei Electronics (AKE), a Japanese company that makes a range of semiconductor products for magnetic sensor applications, has begun full commercial operation of a new GaAs wafer facility.

According to AKE, the new plant will act as the key base for production of Hall sensors, of which it is the world s biggest manufacturer with a claimed market share of 70 per cent.

Its Hall sensors are based on a variety of GaAs, InSb and InAs elements that sense the rotation of electric motors.

Although older versions of this technology were based on vacuum deposition of polycrystalline InSb and used mica substrates, the latest high-performance sensors are manufactured using MBE and semi-insulating GaAs.

Within the past three years, AKE has purchased an MBE 49 research and development system from French supplier Riber, as well as a V100 reactor from UK-based Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology.

Using this more advanced approach to make InAs Hall elements means that the devices can operate over a much wider range of temperatures, and with much improved precision.

This is expected to lead to applications of the technology in the automotive market, where Hall elements could possibly be used in fuel systems to ensure precise timing of the opening of fuel injection valves.

AKE also makes integrated circuits based on Hall elements. These more advanced products combine the sensor with a signal processor, and also include specialty devices that can sense position and angle.

Between August and December 2006, AKE began commercial sales of no fewer than seven different Hall elements based on either GaAs or InAs, and it expects strong demand as the field of applications expands into the consumer electronics market, such as in cell-phones.

"The new plant"¦will serve as the core for new business development in the field of compound semiconductor thin-film devices," said AKE.

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