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24 October 2012

SemiSouth to be closed; 90 staff to be laid off

SemiSouth Laboratories Inc of Starkville, MS, USA, which designs and manufactures silicon carbide (SiC) devices for high-power, high-efficiency, harsh-environment power management and conversion applications, is to close down, according to a report by the Starkville Daily News.

SemiSouth was founded in 2001 by former Mississippi State University (MSU) faculty member Jeffrey Casady and current MSU electrical and computer engineering professor Michael Mazzola, and has since been housed at the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park near MSU.

MSU director of university relations Sid Salter said that, while MSU does not have a formal business relationship with SemiSouth, the university assigned the technology’s intellectual property rights to non-profit organization MSU Research and Technology Corp, giving the university a 2% stake. As owner of the Cochran facility, MSU has managed SemiSouth’s lease of its portion of the building (yielding $300,000 in revenue annually).

In October 2010, in order to drive the expansion of its SiC fabrication facility, Power Integrations Inc of San Jose, CA, USA (which supplies high-voltage integrated circuits for compact, energy-efficient power conversion in electronic products for AC-DC, DC-DC and LED lighting applications) made a $30m strategic investment in SemiSouth (including an equity investment, a technology license and other financial commitments). The firms also collaborated on driving the adoption of SemiSouth’s SiC technology, aiming to speed the development of efficient power conversion devices for applications including solar and wind inverters as well as hybrid/electric vehicles.

In second-quarter 2011, to expand production capacity, SemiSouth installed an Aixtron AIX 2800G4 WW chemical vapor deposition (CVD) reactor in 10x100mm- and 6x150mm-wafer configuration for the production of power SiC junction field-effect transistor (JFET) and Schottky barrier diode (SBD) devices. More recently, just this March, SemiSouth announced its second major capacity expansion (worth $18m) within 18 months, intended to add 50% more capacity to meet demand for SiC power JFETs and power diode products from the solar inverter and industrial power supply markets.

However, now, Power Integrations says that its third-quarter 2012 results will include a pre-tax charge of about $60m from the closure of SemiSouth (resulting in a net loss). “The expected closure of SemiSouth is disappointing, but reflects the challenges and risks inherent in the quest for disruptive technologies,” says Power Integrations’ president & CEO Balu Balakrishnan. “Our strategic direction remains unchanged, and we continue to invest in promising technologies to expand our market opportunity within the realm of high-voltage power conversion,” he adds. 

MSU vice president for research David Shaw hopes a solution can be developed to retain employees among the 90 affected. “We hope we can be a resource to some of these families looking for other job opportunities,” adds Jennifer Gregory, VP for tourism and development at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership.

Tags: SemiSouth SiC




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