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CrystalQ Targets Sapphire Bottleneck

The sapphire crystal growth industry has gained another player, with its eye on improving substrate supply for LED and RF chip manufacturers.

CrystalQ, the Dutch sapphire substrate supplier, has just secured venture funding that it will use to cut its reliance on external bulk sapphire manufacturers.

Currently an expert in slicing and polishing bulk sapphire into high quality substrates, the cash injection will allow the company to produce its own crystals.

“We are going to use the money to invest in equipment for crystal growth, because that is where we see the bottleneck," said Joris Barendregt, general manager of CrystalQ, who added that the funding totaled less than €10 million ($15.8 million).

“We believe there will be huge pressure on the sapphire market. There is a very high barrier for entry into this market "“ there is no Aixtron for crystal growing equipment."

Speaking on May 23, as the funds were in the process of transferring to CrystalQ, Barendregt said that some will be used to buy equipment from Russian suppliers. Beyond that, the money will be used to develop the crystal growth process in-house.

This funding round, provided by Sustainable Energy Technology Fund, EPT/Benno Wiersma and E2 Cleantech, is accompanied by a further double-digit million investment incentive. If and when CrystalQ proves that it can actually produce bulk crystal sapphire, the extra funding will allow a production scale-up.

“It is very important to show that we can produce, that we have the knowledge and process under control," Barendregt said.

If CrystalQ can do this, LED and radio-frequency (RF) chip manufacturing companies have said that they will follow quickly behind the investors with large purchases, according to Barendregt.

The company has already built these relationships by selling the equivalent of 50,000 2-inch wafers, which it slices and smoothes with its proprietary polishing technique, annually. However, CrystalQ focuses on larger-diameter substrates because this is where its polishing process makes the most impact. With that experience behind it, the company s crystal growth development will initially focus on 6-inch sapphire wafers.

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