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Posted: October 5, 2007

Aonex Demonstrates High Quality GaN Growth on Its Proprietary A-GaN Substrates Which Target the GaN (...)

(Nanowerk News) Arrowhead Research Corporation (NASDAQ:ARWR) announced today that its majority-owned subsidiary, Aonex Technologies, Inc. and partner Sandia National Laboratories have successfully demonstrated the growth of high-quality gallium nitride on Aonex’s proprietary A-GaN substrates. Gallium nitride (GaN) and its alloys with indium nitride and aluminum nitride form the building blocks of devices such as blue, green, and white light emitting diodes (LEDs) and blue laser diodes. Aonex’s A-GaN™ substrates provide a pathway for reducing the cost of GaN-based devices while also improving performance. According to recent studies by Strategies Unlimited, the market for advanced substrates like A-GaN™ for gallium nitride devices is expected to grow to more than $440 million by 2010. Much of this growth will be driven by the blue laser diode market which Strategy Analytics expects to grow to over $1 billion by 2011, a compounded average annual growth rate of 103% over the next four years. Strategy Analytics forecasts the market for LEDs to grow from its current value of $5.2B to $8.9B by 2011.
Laser diodes are manufactured by depositing (or ‘growing’) GaN-based device structures on expensive bulk GaN substrates. Aonex’s A-GaN™ substrates are intended to offer a low-cost replacement for bulk GaN and could enable improved design flexibility that could lead to smaller devices and further cost savings. A-GaN™ substrates may also offer substantial benefits to LED manufacturers. Blue LEDs are currently fabricated by depositing GaN-based device structures on sapphire and silicon carbide substrates. Because of the challenges of growing GaN layers on these materials, the resulting device quality and yield is lower than desired. While superior devices can be produced using bulk GaN substrates, the cost of such substrates is prohibitively high. Aonex’s A-GaN™ substrates could help break this trade-off between cost and performance, by enabling the growth of high performance device structures on reasonably priced substrates while simplifying the manufacture of high-efficiency, vertical devices.
Aonex’s A-GaN™ wafers are, in effect, veneers of expensive bulk GaN wafers, offering high material quality at a lower price than bulk GaN. Each A-GaN™ substrate consists of a thin, single crystal layer of GaN (~500 nm) that is bonded to a low-cost polycrystalline aluminum nitride support wafer. The thin GaN layer provides the high quality surface for device fabrication while the support material is selected for its low cost, fracture resistance, process compatibility, and ease of removal following device growth. A-GaN™ substrates are fabricated using a proprietary process to transfer thin layers of GaN directly from bulk GaN substrates and onto the support material. These transferred GaN layers enable the growth of GaN of a quality that is comparable to that of the original bulk GaN donor. In addition, because multiple layers can be transferred from each bulk GaN donor wafer and used to form multiple A-GaN™ substrates, the cost of A-GaN™ wafers could be substantially lower than that of bulk GaN. Aonex has already demonstrated the transfer of 10 layers from a single substrate and expects to reach 20 layers or more in production.
Beyond its growth-related benefits, A-GaN offers a coefficient of thermal expansion that is nearly identical to GaN and increased physical robustness relative to bulk GaN wafers, which reduces breakage-related yield loss. In addition, the support material that makes up most of the A-GaN substrate is also readily removable via a simple chemical etch, which could simplify the fabrication of high performance devices, such as vertical LEDs, and open up a wide range of new design possibilities.
In the collaboration, Sandia National Laboratories grew GaN on A-GaNTM and sapphire reference substrates. The gallium nitride was then characterized using a variety of analytical techniques including transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to measure the material quality, particularly the number of dislocations in a given area, commonly referred to as defect density. Defect density is strongly correlated with GaN material quality, and reduction of the defect density results in better performing GaN-based devices. Analysis of the data indicates that GaN grown on A-GaNTM was as good as the bulk GaN donor wafer that was used to fabricate the substrate, approximately 4 x 10-6 cm-2.
Aonex is currently in discussions with device manufacturers to fabricate devices on A-GaN™ substrates. Interested parties should contact samples@aonextech.com.
About Arrowhead Research Corporation
Arrowhead Research Corporation (www.arrowheadresearch.com) (NASDAQ:ARWR) is a publicly-traded nanotechnology company commercializing new technologies in the areas of life sciences, electronics, and energy. Arrowhead is building value for shareholders through the progress of majority owned subsidiaries founded on nanotechnologies originally developed at universities. The company works closely with universities to source early stage deals and to generate rights to intellectual property covering promising new nanotechnologies. Currently, Arrowhead has four subsidiaries commercializing nanotech products and applications, including anti-cancer drugs, RNAi therapeutics, carbon-based electronics and compound semiconductor materials.
About Aonex Technologies
Aonex Technologies, Inc. is a developer of proprietary substrates that reduce the production cost of devices such as blue LEDs and high-efficiency solar cells. The Company is based in Pasadena, California.
About Sandia National Laboratories
Sandia is a multi program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company for the United States Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000.
Safe Harbor Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995:
This news release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the "safe harbor" provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based upon our current expectations and speak only as of the date hereof. Our actual results may differ materially and adversely from those expressed in any forward-looking statements as a result of various factors and uncertainties, including the future success of our clincial studies, our ability to successfully develop and manufacture products, rapid technological change in our industry, changes in demand for our future products, legislative, regulatory and competitive developments and general economic conditions. Our Annual Report on Form 10-K, and other SEC filings discuss these and other important risk factors that may affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. We undertake no obligation to revise or update publicly any forward-looking statements for any reason.
Source: Arrowhead Research Corporation