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Robert Castellano
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Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president of The Information Network (, received a Ph.D. degree in solid state chemistry from Oxford University (England). He has had ten years experience in the field of wafer fabrication at AT&T Bell Laboratories and Stanford... More
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  • The Path To Lower Solar Production Costs Heads East (Asia) Except.....

    I pointed in early May how solar manufacturers can differentiate their products, particularly during the economic slowdown that has dropped capacity utilization to below 50%, and most importantly, how can they do it cheaply.  First Solar has set the benchmark at 92 cents per watt for production in Malaysia.  Aside from the traditional lingo such as reduce costs or economies of scale, there is a better way – increase efficiency.  First Solar expects to cut costs from 92 cents per watt to between 52 and 62 cents per watt. by improving the conversion efficiency of its cadmium telluride panels to somewhere between 16 and 18 percent.


    1366 Technologies, is developing a technology that it claims can boost multicrystalline silicon cells from 16%t efficiency to 18% efficiency, thereby reducing their cost per watt, by giving the solar cells a rougher texture. The startup raised $12.4 million in 2008.


    Xerocoat developed a coating strategy that increases efficiency by 4% on not only a multicrystalline silicon cell but thin film cells as well.  The company received $3 million in DOE funding in 2009.


    SolarPA, Lehigh Valley, PA, has developed a process of using nanocoatings utilizing 3-7 nm proprietary nanomaterials to increase the efficiency of solar cells by as much as 12%.


    Previously, the start-up had achieved a 10% increase in efficiency on both crystalline and thin-film solar cells using an electrospinning process.   New achievements have demonstrated a 12% increase in efficiency using a spin-on process, which embeds the nanomaterial in a polymer matrix that can be deposited with conventional spin-on or spray-on equipment.


    The technology replaces existing antireflection coatings (NYSE:ARC) using SiN deposited by expensive vacuum CVD processes, thus lowering the processing cost as well as increasing the efficiency. 


    While thin film solar cells do not used ARC, SolarPA’s technology serves as a replacement for an expensive vacuum deposited microcrystalline thin film that most companies are experimenting with but largely unsuccessfully.


    The company plans to present at the Pennsylvania NanoMaterials Commercialization Center workshop at Penn State University on October 20, 2009 and the ISA Vision Summit 2010, India, in February 2010.


    Sep 16 7:37 PM | Link | Comment!
  • MEMs Markets on the Rebound


    MEMS, or MicroElectroMechanical Systems, are a class of semiconductor chips that also contain mechanical or moving parts. They function as accelerometers in cars for airbag deployment in collisions, in the iPhone to manipulate screen orientation, and in the Wii game system as a motion-sensitive controller. They work as silicon pressure sensors to monitor car tire pressures.


    MEMS devices cover a broad spectrum of products such as accelerometers, digital mirror displays, gyroscopes, micro fluidic devices, microphones, and pressure sensors  Because they are such a diverse lot, the have fared better than the overall semiconductor industry.  The semiconductor industry declined 2.8% in 2008 and we project it to drop another 21.6% in 2009.  The MEMs device market, in contrast, grew 1.2% in 2008 and we project it to increase 1.7% in 2009.


    The MEMs device market is faring much better than the overall semiconductor industry but, the MEMs processing equipment market is suffering the same fate as the semiconductor equipment market. 


    The MEMs equipment market dropped 37.5% in 2008 and we project a further drop of 31.2% in 2009, decreases similar to the 32.5% drop in 2008 and our projected 41.0% drop in 2009 for semiconductor equipment.


    As I stated in a SeekingAlpha article on Monday, the semiconductor equipment market should see a rebound starting before October.  Fortunately, the MEMs equipment market started to rebound in Q2, while we don’t see an uptick in the overall semiconductor equipment market until mid-Q3.


    Companies in the MEMs equipment space include Tegal, Aviza Technology, Inc., Applied Materials, Inc., Lam Research Corporation, Novellus, Tokyo Electron Limited , OC Oerlikon Corporation AG, Plasma-Therm LLC, Ulvac Japan, Ltd., Canon Anelva Technix Corporation, Oxford Instruments, NEXX Systems, and Sumitomo Precision Products / Surface Technology Systems.

    no positions

    Jun 29 7:15 PM | Link | Comment!
  • Competition for Market Share Intense in Semiconductor Chemicals and Materials Sectors


    Semiconductor chemicals and materials market leaders are holding onto razor thin leadership positions, and exchange rates can play a big part, according to the report “The Global Market for Equipment and Materials for IC Manufacturing,” recently published by The Information Network, a New Tripoli, PA-based market research company.


    Market share differences between the top two leaders in four major chemical and material sectors is less than 2.1%. In three out of the four sectors, the top leaders are in different countries, so that swings in exchange rates will readily tip the scale.  Coincidently a strong dollar will make U.S. goods more expensive to foreign purchasers.



    Tags: APD, HON, OMG
    Jun 22 9:35 PM | Link | Comment!
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