The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

GT Buys Twin Creeks' Thin Solar Wafer Tech To Move Beyond Solar Market

GT Advanced Technologies has bought an ultra-thin silicon wafer technology that it says will help reduce the price of producing solar electricity and creates new markets beyond solar for the company, said GT's CEO, Tom Gutierrez, on Thursday.

The factory equipment developer snatched up Twin Creek Technologies’ thin wafer technology, called Hyperion, and a portfolio of patents for $10 million from Twin Creeks’ lenders. GT also agreed to pay royalties that will be based on how well it can sell the thin wafer equipment. GT plans to bring the Hyperion technology to market in late 2014.

Twin Creeks, a San Jose, Calif.-based company, only launched its first tool, called Hyperion, in March this year. Twin Creeks was founded in 2008 and had raised $93 million from investors including Crosslink Capital, Benchmark Capital, Artis Capital Management and DAG Ventures.

Twin Creeks’ demise may not be so surprising considering the solar manufacturing industry is continuing its now 2-year struggle to make money. An oversupply of solar panels and related components has triggered a rapid price decline, the pace of which is hard to match by efforts to cut production costs. Dozens of solar manufacturers worldwide have filed for bankruptcy and shuttered factories. Some have become cheap acquisition targets for corporate giants. In September, Hanergy announced that it was scooping up MiaSole, a solar thin film developer in Silicon Valley that had raised somewhere around $500 million, for a paltry $30 million.

Given that many companies are idling production lines or suspending factory expansion plans, the factory equipment business has suffered as well. GT has tightened its spending and announced last month a plan to lay off 25 percent of its workforce and consolidate its business units. The company posted $2.3 million in net income, or $0.02 per share, on $110 million in revenue for the third quarter of this year. During the third quarter of 2011, it was generated $39.9 million in net income, or $0.29 per share, on $217.7 million in revenue.

GT is looking at using Twin Creeks’ technology to achieve several goals: roll out equipment that will help its solar customers cut manufacturing costs, expand its foothold in the LED business, and conquer the consumer electronics segment. Gutierrez, who spoke via a webcast from a UBS conference on Thursday, said the company's restructuring plan will allow it to devote resources to new technology development, which is key to surviving the tough times.

“If you don’t plant seeds, your farm shrinks,” Gutierrez said.

Carving out new markets for its factory tools is another survival strategy, he said. Back in 2010, 100 percent of GT’s business was in solar. This year so far, 30 percent is in light-emitting diodes (LED).

Twin Creeks’ technology makes it possible to slough off ultra-thin wafers from a monocrystalline silicon ingot. Instead of the usual thickness of 200 microns, Twin Creeks’ Hyperion can do 25 microns. The technology aims to reduce material and production costs.

Here is how the technology works. The Hyperion machine takes a thick block of silicon bombards it with hydrogen ions down to the depth of 20 microns. The ions in effect create a bubble layer. When the wafer is moved to a furnace and heated, the bubble expands and separates the 20-micron top layer from the rest of the silicon block. The remaining silicon block then undergoes the same process again and again.

The technology can apply not only to silicon blocks but also sapphire and other materials. Sapphire, in particular, is a common ingredient in making LED. It also holds promise for making scratch-resistant screens for smart phones and other mobile gadgets since it’s the second hardest material on Earth, behind diamond, Gutierrez said. He believes handset manufacturers will be willing to use scratch-resistant screens even though it’d adds about $15 to the production cost because some consumers spend more than that to buy screen protectors. 

Untitled Document

RELATED ARTICLES

Solar power growth impacting UK electricity sector

Diarmaid Williams

Q2 of 2015 saw a large increase in the generation of electricity from solar PV in the UK, with the growth having a significant impact on electricity market prices and other supply factors.

PACE Finance Opening Doors for C&I Solar In California

Susan Kraemer, Correspondent With its excellent renewable policy, California leads the nation in solar. Over the years both the Renewable Portfolio Standard and the California Solar Initiative drove utility scale and residential solar deployment. But w...

US Clean Power Plan Could Include Carbon Trading

Mark Drajem, Bloomberg Some businesses that back President Barack Obama’s plan to curb greenhouse gases are making a late lobbying push to add an element similar to a cap-and-trade program. With the administration set this week or next to unveil ...

Why the Future of the Yieldco Is at Risk

Haresh Patel In the past two years, the proliferation of YieldCos, and their ability to open new sources of capital for renewable energy projects, has captured the attention of the energy industry. While a YieldCo’s potential to catalyz...
Ucilia Wang is a California-based freelance journalist who writes about renewable energy. She previously was the associate editor at Greentech Media and a staff writer covering the semiconductor industry at Red Herring. In addition to Renewable En...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Grid-connected and Off-grid Photovoltaics

This training covers all aspects of planning, installation, maintenance,...

2015 Green Energy Expo

Stop by and visit Canadian Solar at the Green Energy Expo in Mexico City!

2015 Intersolar-South America

Canadian Solar will be exhibiting @ Intersolar-South America. Stop by an...

COMPANY BLOGS

LSX rises with sustainable wine making in Mexico

his custom LSX solar canopy shades the upper deck organic gard...

Do Your Goals Match Your Values?

Before you set goals for your company or your personal work performance ...

A Networking Story

When you’re at a networking event and you meet someone who works i...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS