GTAT’s Secret Weapon – Hyperion Ion Implanter
GT Advanced Technologies acquired Twin Creeks Technology late in 2012 and one of their first primary focuses was to “to pursue the development of thin sapphire laminates for use in applications such as cover and touch screen devices”. The Hyperion ion implanter machine acquired from Twin Creeks can cut ultra thin wafers (25 microns thick) out of silicon, silicon carbide, sapphire, germanium and other crystalline materials. How thick is 25 microns? The laser sliced sapphire home buttons on the iPhone 5s measure 170 microns thick, which is nearly 7 times the thickness of the sapphire laminates that can be sliced by GT’s Hyperion. The Hyperion machine takes a thick block of crystalline sapphire, blasts it with hydrogen ions and carves a 20 micron layer thick of sapphire from the block. The process is repeated over and over until the block is completely separated. As of last November GT expected the pace of the development with Hyperion to accelerate as their current tool was in the pre-production phase. Hyperion is targeted to be commercially ready in 2014 and will be used across several of GT’s product lines including sapphire for consumer electronics, sapphire for LED, Silicon Carbide (SiC) as a semiconductor and thin wafers for solar applications.
Here is the amazing Video of Hyperion in Action from 2011. GT has spent millions in R&D to advance this technology further but this will give you just a sneak peak of what this giant laser can do.
GT’s management outlined some of the benefits when they purchased Twin Creeks Technologies.
GT expects that Twin Creeks’ unique Hyperion™ ion implanter technology will have broad application in the production of engineered substrates for power semiconductors and thin wafers for solar applications. In addition, GT expects to pursue the development of thin sapphire laminates for use in applications such as cover and touch screen devices. The Hyperion ion implanter has the potential to minimize, or in some cases eliminate, the need for wafering saws, which would significantly lower the cost of production.
The assets acquired by GT relate primarily to the Hyperion ion implanter as well as Twin Creeks’ portfolio of approximately 30 granted US patents and over 70 pending US and international patent applications. GT’s ion implanter engineering team will be based in Danvers, MA.
“Hyperion’s unique ion source and beamline design will enable a wide range of exfoliation applications in markets where thin silicon, silicon carbide, sapphire, germanium and other crystalline material substrates can enable breakthroughs in performance and cost,” said Vikram Singh, executive vice president of advanced systems development. “Hyperion will enable the production of high throughput and optimum thickness substrates that can not be achieved with other ion implant technologies.”
Additional technical information Courtesy of Gigaom is below:
The machine, called Hyperion, creates silicon wafers at 20 microns thick, compared with the typical 200 microns, said Siva Sivaram, CEO of Twin Creeks. Being able to use the same amount of silicon to make more cells means a cut in capital equipment cost, which is measured in cents or dollars per watt. Putting Hyperion to work could reduce the capital equipment expenditure by 50 percent for a vertically integrated company, which makes everything from silicon to solar panels, Sivaram said. Using Hyperion in a large factory — that means 100 MW of annual production capacity or more — will lead to a cell production cost of 40 cents per watt, he said.
Twin Creeks takes a thick block of silicon and put it in Hyperion, which bombards the silicon block with hydrogen ions down to the depth of 20 microns. The ions in effect create a bubble layer, and when the wafer is moved to a furnace and heated, the bubble expands and separates the 20-micron top layer from the rest of the silicon block. The remaining silicon block is then used again and again. “The only way we continue to get more value is for those materials to become more productive,” Sivaram said.