Wacker Honors Researchers for new Wafer Process
Wacker Chemie AG presented this year’s Alexander Wacker Innovation Award to a project team at Siltronic AG, the Group’s semiconductor division, for developing a novel process used in the production of silicon wafers for high-performance devices. The so-called granular float zone process constitutes a further development of the conventional float zone process and opens interesting technological perspectives in the special performance wafers market. This year’s €10,000 innovation award focused on process innovation.
Hyperpure silicon wafers form the basis for microelectronic components (chips) and photovoltaic modules. Two processes are used internationally to produce these wafers, the standard being the Czochralski method, whereby silicon chunks are melted and a monocrystalline silicon ingot is pulled from the melt by means of a seed crystal. The alternative float zone process involves melting a polycrystalline silicon ingot zone by zone with an induction coil; the narrow molten zone is then brought into contact with a seed crystal. The desired monocrystalline structure forms as the molten zones cool. The float zone method is far more complex and expensive than the Czochralski method and hence is used mainly for producing power electronics devices requiring especially high purity, defect-free silicon wafers.
A team of Siltronic developers headed by Dr. Georg Raming modified the float zone process so that granular silicon can be used instead of silicon ingots whose production is resource intensive. The process, which has been patented, was named “granular float zone process” by the developers.
“The new granular float zone process provides the high-performance device market with an interesting alternative to the conventional float zone method,” said Auguste Willems, member of the Executive Board at Wacker Chemie AG, who presented the prize to the developer team at the Group’s Research Symposium in Burghausen. “The award-winning production process,” added Willems “has the potential to produce special performance wafers which have properties similar to those previously achieved with the conventional industrial float zone method.”
The Alexander Wacker Innovation Award
Since 2005, the Munich-based chemical company has honored employees’ outstanding R&D work as part of its annual Research Symposium. Named after the company’s founder, the €10,000 “Alexander Wacker Innovation Award” rotates between the categories of product innovation, process innovation and basic research. Next year’s research competition focus will be on basic research.
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