Engineers at Twin Creeks Technologies have unveiled a manufacturing system which can ‘slice’ single-crystal material wafers (such as silicon) to sizes 10x smaller than traditional methods, using a technique called Proton Induced Exfoliation (PIE).
Hyperion is the hydrogen ion particle accelerator responsible for performing this technique, and it’s not just a fantastical concept either; Twin Creeks has plans to sell the equipment to manufacturers.
The PIE process involves a ‘donor’ wafer which is embedded with high energy hydrogen ions just under the surface of the material, without altering the original properties. When these ions are heated, they lift off a thin layer of the donor (a lamina), ultimately allowing a single wafer to produce several thinner laminae. The thickness of the laminae can be controlled by the voltage applied when embedding the ions. Twin Creeks achieved a thickness of 20 microns compared to 200 microns currently used in industry.
Perhaps the most surprising tidbit about this technology is that the resultant laminae perform just as well as the original donor, without the excess waste.
Twin Creeks claims that this new process can significantly reduce the cost of producing semi-conductor products such as LEDs, CMOS sensors, power electronics, and their main focus - photovoltaics.
The original aim of producing Hyperion was to narrow the price/watt gap between fossil fuel and solar energy sources. It is expected that solar panels will cost approximately half as much to produce (40c per watt), with a yearly output of 1.5 million wafers or 6 megawatts of solar equipment.
With any luck, the benefits of the technology could trickle down into computing gear in order to produce cost effective parts.
Click here for more info, science nerds!
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