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New Stanford Manufacturing Process Could Yield Better Solar Cells, Faster Chips

By Stanford Report

March 26, 2015

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Stanford University researchers have developed a manufacturing process that could significantly reduce the cost of producing gallium arsenide electronic devices.

"Once it becomes possible to make gallium arsenide more cost-effectively, other people will jump in to improve other parts of the process,' says Stanford professor Bruce Clemens.

Conventional manufacturing processes cost about $5,000 to make a wafer of gallium arsenide eight inches in diameter, compared to about $5 for a silicon wafer of the same size. The new Stanford process aims to reduce this thousand-to-one cost differential by reusing the $5,000 gallium arsenide wafer.

The researchers make the wafer reusable by adding several steps to the manufacturing process. First, they cover the wafer with a layer of disposable material. Then they use standard processes of gas deposition to form a gallium arsenide circuit layer on top of the disposable layer. Next, they vaporize the disposable layer and lift off the circuitry layer, before mounting it on a more solid backing and cleaning the gallium arsenide wafer to make the next batch of circuits. This reuse process could create gallium arsenide devices that would be up to 50 to 100 times more expensive than silicon circuits, but that is still a major improvement over conventional methods.

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