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Motorola Develops New Semiconductor Materials

Motorola Inc. said that its Motorola Labs scientists are the first to successfully combine the best properties of workhorse silicon technology with the speed and optical capabilities of high-performance compound semiconductors that are known as the III-V materials.

The discovery solves a problem that has been vexing the semiconductor industry for nearly 30 years, officials said, and opens the door to significantly less expensive optical communications, high-frequency radio devices and high-speed microprocessor-based subsystems by potentially eliminating the current cost barriers holding back many advanced applications.

Until now, the optical-communication industry has been dependent on costly gallium arsenide and indium phosphide wafers for optical and high performance applications. Because of their brittle nature, no one has previously been able to create commercial GaAs wafers larger than 6 inches or InP wafers larger than 4 inches. Scientists have also been unable to combine light-emitting semiconductors with silicon integrated circuits on a single chip, Motorola said.

For consumers, the technology should result in smarter electronic products that cost less, perform better and have exciting new features. The technology will change the economics and accelerate the development of new applications, such as broadband "fiber" cable to the home, streaming video to cell phones and automotive collision avoidance systems.

Other potential markets include data storage, lasers for such consumer products as DVD players, medical equipment, radar, automotive electronics, lighting, and photovoltaics. Until now, there has been no way to combine light-emitting semiconductors with silicon integrated circuits on a single chip, and the need to use discrete components has compromised the cost, size, speed and efficiency of high-speed communications equipment and devices.

The technology enables very thin layers of so-called III-V semiconductor materials (which include gallium arsenide, indium phosphide, gallium nitride and other high performance / light-emitting compounds) to be grown on a silicon substrate. Until now, this has been a virtually impossible task due to fundamental material mis-match issues.

The idea was originally developed by Motorola Labs' scientist, Dr. Jamal Ramdani. Developing and proving the exact recipe and process grew out of work done by a broad team of scientists and engineers. Motorola Labs is now working on developing the optimum intermediate layer for indium phosphide and other materials.

Motorola has filed more than 270 patents on inventions related to this new technology and the company intends to broadly license the technology. Padmasree Warrior, a Motorola corporate vice president has been selected to lead the commercialization effort.