Compound semiconductors are used in satellites and fibre optics and connectivity is the name of the game. That’s according to Drew Nelson, CEO of IQE.
According to Nelson, IQE has 650 staff at 11 manufacturing operations around the world, and has been going for 25 years. It leads in several markets and supplies half of the wafers that go into wireless devices.
Nelson said Gordon Moore, the inventor of Moore’s Law, “is a very clever fellow” and recognised a trend. Humans find ways to make things faster and cheaper and will continue, but probably in a different way over the next 20 years. And he thinks compound semis will play a major role in this different kind of Moore’s Law.
Silicon is approaching its limits, according to Nelson, but compound semiconductors have very much more functionality and flexibility. The material properties of compound semis are fundamentally better than silicon. From a power perspective compound semis have a clear lead over silicon.
In compound semis you can mix all sorts of different materials together. IQE sells wafers to chip companies, and the trends driving its adoption are high speed connectivity, efficient energy, and safety and security, Nelson said.
He said that in the third generation solar panels will be vastly more efficient than the current generation, and based on compound semis. He believes that PV based on compound semis (CPV) will be over 50 percent efficient, compared to silicon PV at around 44 percent.
There are also big market opportunities for GaN on Si (Gallium Nitride on Silicon) in the LED market too, because of its superior switching properties and efficiencies.