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Tower buys three wafer fabs for $8 million By Peter Clarke As expected foundry Tower Semiconductor Ltd. (Migdal Haemek, Israel) has struck a deal with Panasonic Corp. to take control of three of the Japanese company’s wafer fabs. However, the deal may have implications for Tower’s existing wafr fab in Japan, at Nishiwaki. The two companies are forming a joint venture in which Tower, which trades as TowerJazz, will hold 51 percent and Panasonic has pledged to purchase chips from the JV in volume for five years. In consideration of its acquisition of 51 percent in the JV Tower is issuing $8 million in shares and Panasonic will become a minority shareholder in Tower Semiconductor Ltd. As well as the fabs and the tools the joint venture will get $40 million in cash to be invested by Panasonic and work in progress and inventories manufactured at the fabs before the closing date. Panasonic is acting as part of efforts to exit the semiconductor industry, stem losses and reduce its workforce. While most of the 2,500 jobs associated with the Panasonic fabs will will transfer to the joint venture Tower said that after the acquisition it will rationalize its Japanese business. This may include consolidations between its Nishiwaki fab and those of the joint venture. The company said it is therefore evaluating possibilities for the Nishiwaki facility. Under the terms of the deal Panasonic will transfer to the joint venture its semiconductor manufacturing processes and manufacturing equipment for 200- and 300mm diameter wafers at its Hokuriku factories in Uozu, Tonami and Arai. The deal will add $400 million of annual revenue to Tower’s books and 800,000 wafers of annual capacity (200mm diameter equivalent). TowerJazz had full-year sales in 2012 of $639 million. The deal will also extend Towers’ manufacturing process capability. One of the wafer fabs produces analog circuits on 300mm diameter wafers and Tower will also receive 65nm CMOS image sensor process and additional 45nm digital technology. The deal is expected to close by April 2014. The high-definition front-side illuminated CMOS image sensor process is suited to high performance sensors used in high-end digital single lens reflex cameras. A high-voltage SOI process will extend Tower’s bipolar-CMOS-DMOS process from 80V up to 190V enabling Tower’s entry into some display driver and medical markets. Tower said that, following the acquisition of the three Panasonic wafer fabs, it will rationalize its Japanses business. This may include consolidations between its Nishiwaki fab and those of the joint venture. The company said it is therefore evaluating possibilities for the Nishiwaki facility. “This partnership brings together two leaders - Panasonic, an acknowledged analog components and systems leader, and TowerJazz, a recognized analog foundry leader - to create a company that will serve and grow the analog foundry space as no existing single foundry company can,” said Russell Ellwanger, CEO of Tower Semiconductor, in a statement. Silicon supersaturated with gold atoms through laser doping yields broadband infrared response By Julien Happich Researchers at MIT have published results on doping silicon with gold to improve its response to broadband infrared light. Normally, Silicon lets most infrared light pass right through because its bandgap requires an energy level greater than that carried by photons of infrared light. Various treatments of silicon can mitigate this behaviour, usually by creating a waveguide with structural defects or doping it with certain other elements, but these methods have significant negative effects on silicon’s electrical performance, only work at very low temperatures, or only make silicon responsive to a very narrow band of infrared wavelengths. The new system works at room temperature and provides a broad infrared response. It incorporates atoms of gold into the surface of silicon’s crystal structure in a way that maintains the material’s original structure. The researchers implanted gold into the top hundred nanometers of silicon and then used a laser to melt the surface for a few nanoseconds. The silicon atoms recrystallize into a near-perfect lattice, into a layer of layer of silicon supersaturated with gold atoms (what the paper says is that the final material contains about 1 percent gold, over 100 times greater than silicon’s solubility limit). At the very high concentrations achieved by laser doping, the researchers noted that gold could have a net positive optoelectronic impact under infrared light. These results could find applications in infrared imaging systems. www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe January 2014 11


EETE JAN 2014
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