News Article

UK Government Pumps Cash Into Compounds

Collaborations in areas as diverse as solar power, optical positioning and power electronics have won investment from the UK's Technology Strategy Board.

The UK government is funding a diverse range of new research projects featuring compound semiconductor technologies, which it hopes will help to answer the country's energy and economic challenges.

Three high-profile funding announcements in August, with an overall government investment of £38 million ($67.2 million) spread across 51 projects, each featured compound-based electronics efforts.

Raytheon Systems in Glenrothes is partnering with Strathclyde University to develop a low-voltage, high-temperature SiC metal-oxide semiconductor (MOS) integrated circuit process. The three-year project starts in October, with a total value of £1.4 million.

Raytheon has experience with both SiC and MOS but has not previously worked on both simultaneously. It will be developing the final SiC IC process and produce a sensor to demonstrate it. Strathclyde will provide modeling expertise and produce a SiC-based driver IC.

Renishaw, a leading manufacturer of optical encoders, is aiming to advance its products by integrating off-the-shelf LEDs and photodiodes monolithically. It has already shown that the encoders, used for high-precision positioning measurements, can be equipped with single InP chips that contain both an LED and a photodiode.

Unfortunately the InP chips are expensive and fragile, so now it is working with optoelectronics foundry Compound Semiconductor Technologies Global to make equivalent GaAs devices. The team, which also includes Heriot-Watt University, started work on the three-year, £1 million project at the start of July.

Meanwhile, a “III-V CPV" project valued at £750,000 is set to bring two new players into the compound semiconductor solar sector. Whitfield Solar currently produces concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) systems based on silicon. The independent New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) performs a number of photovoltaic and other services, including manufacturing silicon cells for CPV.

These two partners will work with III-V cell manufacturing startup Quantasol, and the Loughborough University Center for Renewable Energy Systems Technology, CREST, which will quantify the performance of the low-cost systems targeted by the project.

The two-year effort is scheduled to start in October. Participating companies receive 40 percent of their costs associated with the project.

Wafer Technology, the IQE subsidiary, is exploring an even narrower niche within III-V solar, that of highly efficient thermophotovoltaic cells. The substrate specialist is leading a project team that includes defense research group Qinetiq and energy company RWE npower.

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