LED Market Increasing
The general illumination market is by far the largest volume application for LEDs and will continue to grow in a variety of markets. Between 2012 and 2013, the worldwide market for all LEDs increased by 7%. LED sales in 2013 were $14.4B worldwide. 2013 also marked the year that white light LEDs achieved a performance/price ratio sufficiently high enough to appeal to US consumers. Home Depot began selling CREE white light LEDs at all of its US retail stores for a price of ≤$12.00; CREE has now become a consumer brand. For the consumer, LEDs offer longer lifetime, the ability to be dimmed, and superior energy efficiency. Demand for LEDs is also being assisted by legislation passed by governments around the world. For example, on January 1, 2014, the manufacture of traditional 40W and 60W incandescent light bulbs was discontinued by law in the US.
The fastest growing segment within the general illumination market will be for high power LEDs, defined as >5 W input power and >400 lumens output. According to Strategies Unlimited, sales of these highest power LEDs will grow by a CAGR of 57% between 2013 and 2018. Such LEDs are used to illuminate outdoor spaces (roads, parking lots, sidewalks, parks) as well as large indoor spaces like parking garages and warehouses. These LEDs can be used to minimize power consumption by being tied to sensors, e.g, their intensity can be increased whenever sensors detect the presence of a person or vehicle in the vicinity.
The United Nations has designated 2015 as the “International Year of Light.” It remains to be seen if this promotion will further the conversion of lamps from incandescent and fluorescent to LED. For more information, visit http://spie.org/x93905.xml.
Wireless Handset Mixed Growth
Samsung has recently unveiled the new Galaxy S5 smartphone, intended for sales starting in June. Apple has plans to launch iPhone 6, though it is not known when. Overall annual smartphone sales from all vendors has plateaued since 2012, although new products are still being introduced. The market is approaching saturation among consumers of high end, 4G LTE phones.
However, growth remains strong for development of low cost 3G smartphones which are still gaining in popularity. For example, in February 2014, Mozilla and Spreadtrum announced their intention to offer a $25 smartphone for sale in the developing world. To save money on software, the operation system will be the new Firefox OS for smartphones by Mozilla.
Powering Your Mobile Devices
Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) devices are used to make power amplifiers (PAs) for the wireless radio in smartphones and tablets. The high power added-efficiency of GaAs still gives it a performance advantage over Si CMOS devices for high performance power amplifiers used for cellular communications and WiFi. High efficiency is required to extend battery charge time in portable devices. GaAs dominates PAs for 4G LTE mobile devices and 802.11ac WiFi.
However, during 2012 and 2013, GaAs devices were replaced by lower cost silicon and silicon-on-insulator (SOI) devices for RF switches and older generation PAs in handsets. In fact, three GaAs device manufacturers each acquired a Si power amplifier manufacturer in order to provide access to cost-effective SI PAs for 2G wireless. Despite continued competition from Si devices, the overall GaA device market continues to grow. Eric Higham of Strategy Analytics reported that the size of the GaAs device market grew by 2% in 2012 and 9% in 2013 to a current level of $5.7B/yr worldwide.
Boosting Efficiency of Amplifiers
Some silicon companies are touting methods to increase the efficiency of Si power amplifiers to be competitive with the efficiency of GaAs PAs. For example, fabless manufacturer Nujira is promoting its envelope tracking (ET) technology as a method to boost efficiency. ET is a method to control the power consumed by the amplifier using a microprocessor and software; ET is not material-specific. In 2013, RFMD announced their use of GaAs power amplifiers controlled by ET microprocessors, therefore staying ahead of Si in overall power-added efficiency.
The largest GaAs RF device manufacturers are Avago, Skyworks, Anadigics, RFMD, TriQuint and Hittite. Hittite is a fabless manufacturer and relies on GaAs foundries. The three largest GaAs foundries are in Taiwan: WIN Semiconductor, AWSC and Wavetek.
On February 24, 2014, the senior management of RFMD and TriQuint jointly announced their merger. The name of the merged company is to be determined; the placeholder name is “NewCo.” The merger is expected to be completed in the second half of 2014. “NewCo” will become the largest GaAs integrated device manufacturer in the world, with sales of over $2B/yr.
Materion – Support for the LED and Wireless Markets
We have served the LED and wireless markets for many years by supplying PVD consumable materials like evaporation slugs and sputtering targets. As both markets are large consumers of platinum, gold and gold alloys, Materion provides complete lifecycle management of precious metals: PVD consumables, shield kit cleaning, assay, and refining/ reclaim. Our suite of products and services minimize the overall cost of precious metals for the wireless and LED industries. We also offer the complete suite of non-precious metals for thin film deposition, including Ta, Ti, Ti:W, Ni:V and Cu. For more information about our PVD products and services, contact Jim Militello, Product Manager at James.Militello@Materion.com
Additionally, Materion manufactures powders used for the formulation of advanced phosphor materials. These phosphor materials are used atop LEDs for the creation of white light. Materion is an expert at the creation of various nitride powders. Our customers blend and react our powders in order the make the phosphors that convert a blue LED into white light. For more information on our ceramic powders for phosphors, contact Alan Devaney, Product Marketing Manager at Alan.Devaney@Materion.com.