KYOCERA Develops New GaN Laser Chip, World's Smallest* to be Mass-Produced from Silicon Working Substrate
Kyocera Corporation (President: Hideo Tanimoto)(TOKYO:6971) has developed a new thin-film process technology for making unique silicon (Si) substrates for gallium nitride (GaN)-based micro-light sources, including short-cavity lasers and micro-LEDs.
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(a) 100 Micron Long Laser Developed by Kyocera, (b) Micro LED Substrate, and (c) 100 Micron Long Laser (Graphic: Business Wire)
*World's Smallest: Among GaN-based edge-emitting lasers formed on silicon substrates. (Source: Kyocera, September 2022)
What is a micro-light source?
A "Micro-light source" is a light source with a side measuring less than 100 microns (1/10th of a millimeter). Examples include short-cavity lasers and micro-LEDs. Because they offer key performance advantages, such as higher definition, smaller size, and lighter weight, micro-light sources are considered essential to next-generation automotive displays, wearable smart glasses, communication equipment, and medical devices. The market for micro-LED chips alone is expected to reach $2.7 billion by 2026, a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 241%.*
*Source: TrendForce"Micro LED Large-Sized Display Chip Market Estimated to Reach 2.7 Billion US dollars by 2026, Says TrendForce"(August,2022)
Technical challenges in making micro-light sources
GaN-based light-source devices, both micro-LED and laser, have typically been fabricated on sapphire and GaN substrates. Conventional processes involve forming a thin GaN device layer for the light source directly onto the sapphire substrate by heating it to a high temperature (1,000 degrees or more) in a controlled gas atmosphere. The device layer has to be then removed, or "peeled," from the substrate to create a GaN-based micro-light-source device. Despite rising demand for smaller devices, however, three separate challenges threaten the ability of this process to achieve miniaturization targets in the near future:
(1) Difficulty in peeling the device layer
(2) High defect density, inconsistent quality
(3) High manufacturing costs
New process developed by Kyocera
Kyocera successfully developed the new process technology at the company's Research Institute for Advanced Materials and Devices in Kyoto, Japan. First, we grow a GaN layer on Si substrate which is available in high volumes at a low cost. The GaN layer is then masked with a non-growing material that features an opening in the center. After this, when a GaN layer is formed on the Si substrate, GaN nuclei grow over the opening in the mask. The GaN layer, which is a growing nucleus, has many defects at the initial stage of growth; but, by forming the GaN layer laterally, high-quality GaN layers with low defect density can be created, and devices can be fabricated successfully from this low-defect region of the GaN layer.
Advantages of Kyocera's new process
(1) Easier peeling of the GaN device layer
(2) High-quality GaN device layers with low defect density
(3) Lower manufacturing costs
Micro-light source applications
(1) Next-generation automotive transparent display
(2) Micro-light sources for AR/VR
This so-called "novel cleaving method" results in a size reduction of about 67% and helps minimize power consumption. Semiconductor lasers with lower power consumption make it possible to reduce the size and weight of the battery, thus improving fit.
Kyocera will offer a wide range of platform, substrate, and process technologies to bring high-quality, low-cost micro-light sources to market in the near future. We also aim to transform next-generation display and laser markets using this new platform.
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