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27 June 2008


Umicore to double germanium substrate capacity

Materials technology group Umicore of Brussels, Belgium is investing an expected €45m to expand its production capacity for not only lithium-ion battery materials but also germanium substrates (for use in high-efficiency solar cells).

In July, Umicore will start construction of its second germanium substrate plant at its site in Quapaw, OK, USA (where the firm’s germanium-based Electro-Optic Materials business line has already been active for some years, and close to the firm’s sizeable substrate customer base in the USA). The facility will complement Umicore’s existing production site in Olen, Belgium, effectively doubling wafer production capacity to 900,000 for the firm’s Substrates business line. The new plant should be completed by spring 2010.

Currently, germanium substrates are mainly used in solar cells for space applications and, to a more limited extent, in the production of LEDs. Umicore claims to be the world leader in the production of germanium wafers for use in high-efficiency solar cells, equiping most existing satellites in orbit as well as longer-range missions such as NASA’s current Phoenix Mars Lander.

The new capacity will support the expected rapid growth in the terrestrial concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) market, which could top 6 gigawatts by 2020 (requiring the equivalent of 10 million wafers). Concentrator technology has the potential to become the driving force behind the market for germanium wafers, reckons Umicore.

See related items:

Thin-film solar market to reach 9GW in 2012

CPV sales boost Emcore, but start-up costs widen losses

Spectrolab wins 350MW CPV order from Australia’s Solar Systems

IMEC claims record 24.7% efficiency for single-junction GaAs-on-Ge solar cell

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