Site: ELMA: Research and Production Organization
for Electronic Materials (NPO ELMA)
Date Visited: October 27, 1993
Report Author: P.E. Cladis
Boris N. Ushkov
Dr. Viktor S. Belousov
ELMA is a company that has world-class expertise in the development and production of ELectronic MAterials for microelectronics. The quality and quantity of the company's materials are believed to be much better than those produced in the United States and of slightly lower quality than those produced in Japan. ELMA now makes LCDs (including drivers) for watches, calculators, games, and so forth, at the rate of 1-1.5 million pieces/year. The company is interested in attracting capital (roughly estimated at $2-$3 million with existing equipment for less than 100 mm diagonal and $10-$15 million for larger displays) to restart its active matrix liquid crystal display production. For the smaller displays, ELMA estimates five to six months for time to first output, then about 1,000 displays in the first year.
ELMA is in the formerly closed city called Zelenograd, located northwest of Moscow about one hour by car on an expressway. It is likely that Zelenograd does not appear on any of the older maps of the Moscow region when the mission of the various enterprises at Zelenograd was to work together to provide state- of-the-art semiconductor electronic devices and components for the Soviet military. To fulfill this charge, several research facilities were established in Zelenograd: one, an analogue of NIST, to set standards; another, the Institute for Physical Problems, which is located next door to ELMA. The best students from the best technical university, identified as the Moscow Physical Technical Institute, were recruited; equipment for production was built in the city; apartments were built to house the people who worked there; and shopping centers and schools were established for the workers' families. In short, all requirements for a self-contained, modern city for an elite cadre of highly educated and dedicated workers were put in place in a naturally lovely, forested setting far from any populated area.
Now all of the enterprises at Zelenograd have been broken up into various enterprises with a central administrative office that includes a Technical Relations Department with translation services if needed. ELMA is just one of the enterprises. It currently has a total workforce of 3,500 people, of whom 500 are engineers, 100 of whom have Ph.D.s. ELMA also has ten people in its patent department, and has contracts with western companies that include intellectual property protection.
ELMA has a showroom featuring its materials and production expertise. The most striking exhibits in this room are the large variety and size of the semiconductor single crystals for microelectronics. These include silicon; III-V compounds; indium phosphide; GGG (very heavy); and seven sapphire ribbons about two inches wide, three to four feet long, and about 2 mm thick -- grown in parallel simultaneously.
It is possible that much of the high-quality crystals are grown with energy-intensive methods. Energy costs, previously zero, now are reported to be about $35,000/month for all the institutes at Zelenograd. Given the large number of institutes in Zelenograd, this seems relatively inexpensive by U.S. standards.
A tiny part of the showroom was dedicated to ELMA's liquid crystal display activity. Here the WTEC team was shown a nonworking model of ELMA's active matrix liquid crystal display that was constructed about three years earlier. The display had 228 x 400 pixels (eight row drivers and ten column drivers made by ELMA). The organization's current limit for color filters is 0.2 mm center-center stripes. This is the technology that the organization's scientists are interested in recapitalizing. While the WTEC team was not shown photographs or data for ELMA's active matrix liquid crystal display, given the organization's incredible expertise in semiconductor materials, coupled with Niopik's similar breadth in liquid crystal materials and photoresists, it may be worthwhile to take a closer look at ELMA's production capabilities for semiconductor devices and active matrix LC displays. (Niopik, another formerly closed center, is located northeast of Moscow and about an hour by car from Zelenograd.)
ELMA is also involved in the production and development of passive matrix liquid crystal displays, both for alphanumeric (a few were in the show case) and graphic displays. The company also produces LCD color filters and expressed interest in developing LC materials and alignment layers.
The WTEC team was also told about a touch screen with 1 pixel resolution, and was shown a photocell activated liquid crystal light shutter (on glass) for use in a welding helmet, for example. The turn-on time for the shutter, including photocell and diode (both made by ELMA) is 1.5 ms. The cost is $100-$150 without the helmet.