Space factory for power wafers

May 05, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Space factory for power wafers
UniversityWafer in the US is working on a system that will provide production of power wideband semiconductor materials such as gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC) in low earth orbit.

Without gravity novel methods of fabrication is possible, says Christian Baker, founder of the Boston-based company. The capabilities will include Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) with a range of growth temperatures up to 800C and continuous growth time sup to six months.

This follows plans by a UK startup, Space Forge, for a similar space factory in orbit.

“The space platform will be capable of Chemical Vapor Deposition as it orbits around the earth. No gravity is promised to enhance wafer purity and crystals,” he said. “We are well aware of the experiments that were done on Spacelab and the Wake Shield Facility. For conventional silicon wafer production, we would agree there is little demonstrated advantage, both in terms of quality and relative cost. However, for compound and other exotic semiconductors there is a demonstrated advantage for free flyers. UniversityWafer’s partners will use a dedicated facility just for crystal growth, not attached to the International Space Station (ISS) or any other vehicle, both in terms of reduced convection and ambient contamination,” he added.

UniversityWafer aims to provide a free flying space platform to fabricate semiconductor materials service to its research customers in both the academic and corporate world. This would allow for operation in different orbits or inclinations and avoid the restrictions on the ISS.

However the focus is not on R&D, but on finding scalable things that need manufactured in orbit, he says, with the first example being semiconductor wafers. The plan is to scale production to multiple missions per month. UniversityWafer will works as a manufacturing company to operate these satellites, as well as experimenting with new materials that can currently only be made in orbit.

www.universitywafer.com

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