28 February 2011

Johnson Matthey reports rapid growth of hydrogen purifier sales to LED makers in 2010

Johnson Matthey of West Chester, PA, USA, which designs, manufactures and distributes hydrogen purifiers, says that sales increased dramatically for its PureGuard hydrogen purifiers in 2010 as it shipped its purifiers to new and expanding fabs for semiconductor applications including metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) processes for LED production, crystal growth and photovoltaic (PV) deposition processes. In particular, the increase was due largely to the continuing rapid growth of LED production in Taiwan and China.

In China for example, Johnson Matthey has supplied purifiers to two major high-tech manufacturers. One is focusing on the development and large-scale production of ultra-high-brightness red, orange and yellow LED epitaxy and chips, light communication components and other optoelectronic devices, says Stuart Bestrom, sales manager for Johnson Matthey’s Gas Purification Technology (GPT) group. The other large Chinese customer — which designs, makes and distributes full-color ultra-high-brightness LEDs, epitaxial wafers, photo-diode detectors and compound solar cells (with an annual throughput of 550,000 epiwafers and 16bn LEDs) — purchased several Model PSH-60 purifiers capable of hydrogen flows of 60Nm3/hr.

Johnson Matthey’s PSH Series bulk hydrogen purifiers are capable of providing 99.9999999%-pure hydrogen for wafer fabrication. The HP Series purifier product line is the most popular, since this technology provides the purest hydrogen.

Johnson Matthey is seeing similar success in Taiwan, Bestrom notes. Among the major customers that have purchased several Model PSH-60 purifiers is a leading maker of pure-play, high-power InGaN LED wafers and chips (and the only one in Taiwan offering a full spectrum of products including high-power InGaN blue, green and near-UV LEDs). Another leading Asian manufacturer is using the firm’s purifiers to supply ultrapure hydrogen (having recently added 34 new high-throughput MOCVD tools).

China is strengthening its position as a major global manufacturer of LEDs, according to business-to-business media firm Global Sources. In recent months several leading international suppliers have invested in the construction of factories in the Pearl, Yangtze and Minjiang River delta regions, Bohai Rim Economic Region, and even in some parts of Middle Western China.

With global demand for LEDs outpacing yield, manufacturers are looking to expand production capacity to curtail a looming deficit in supply, says Global Sources. The growing popularity of LED-backlit LCD TVs is expected to exacerbate the shortage, as each LCD panel for TVs generally requires 300–500 LEDs with a uniform level of brightness, compared with only about 50 LEDs required for laptops.

“China will become important to the global LED industry this year,” says Zheng Haowen, director of the National High-Tech Enterprise Development LED Professional Committee. “The total foreign investment for the sector is projected to exceed 60bn Yuan ($8.8bn), a phenomenal increase from about 10bn Yuan ($1.5bn) in 2009,” he adds.

Bestrom says that in 2010, China reportedly added more than 1200 MOCVD systems, reflecting the “extraordinary prosperity” of the country’s LED industry. The main motives encouraging such LED growth are the subsidy policies of the Chinese government and the huge prospects for the LED market, he continues.

In Taiwan, total LED production value reached $5.43bn last year according to the country’s Photonics Industry & Technology Development Association (PIDA). PIDA adds that, with the continued expansion of the LED application market, the annual growth rate is predicted to be 40% this year, then 40% in 2012 (reaching $11.3bn).

Last year, reports PIDA, Taiwan was the number-one-ranked country in the world in terms of the production output of LED wafers and chips, with sales of just under $2bn. Indium gallium nitride (InGaN) LEDs comprise 52% of the production value; the market for packaged LEDs was slightly less than $3bn. The LED lighting segment in Taiwan is expected to grow rapidly in the next two years.

According to Bestrom, Johnson Matthey’s palladium membrane technology is preferred by PV and semiconductor fabs for use with the compressed hydrogen supply that is common in Asia and particularly China. “Compressed gas source contains higher levels of impurities and varying quality, and our palladium membrane technology offers the best capability to remove all oxygen and carbon impurities to parts-per-billion levels, with no effect from input impurities,” he says. “These impurities must be consistently removed to assure the brightest LEDs.”

Tags: Johnson Matthey Hydrogen purifiers MOCVD LEDs

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