Site: Sapphire Research and Production Amalgamation
Date Visited: October 28, 1993
Report Authors: M. Slusarczuk, R. Rice
Professor Anatoly P. Karatsyuba
Andrey B. Phillipov
Professor Valery P. Sushkov
Dr. Oleg Yermakov
Sapphire was established in 1956 as the first semiconductor diode institute in the former Soviet Union. In 1962 it began working on optoelectronics. Its original structure was a research institute and a manufacturing facility. Since the collapse of the FSU, the manufacturing facility has been organizationally separated from the research and development facility. Previously operated by the Ministry of Electronics Industry, Sapphire was privatized on September 13, 1993. Its original staff of 2,000 has diminished to 1,000, and is expected to fall to 500 in the near future. Sapphire formerly operated a large plant for production, but this was split off after the collapse of the USSR. The facility that the WTEC team visited was evidently the research and development arm of the amalgamation. The facility maintains ties with the plant, though it is unclear what these arrangements are.
Sapphire formerly provided radiation-hardened electronics and microprocessors for nuclear reactor instrumentation, spacecraft, and military aircraft. Sapphire also manufactures optoelectronics and LEDs for display applications. There was no tour provided; the meeting was held in a conference room. There were displays of LEDs and Radhard electronic chips produced for inspection. Sapphire representatives expressed a willingness to sell components to western businesses or governments.
Sapphire demonstrated the first SiC blue light-emitting diode. It continues to perform research on SiC LEDs, and has demonstrated an experimental blue LED operating at 480 nm with a 2 millicandela maximum output, and a green LED at 520 nm with 3-4 candela output. Dr. Sushkov described an ultraviolet SiC LED operating at 390-410 nm. He suggested that such an LED could be used to stimulate emission from a phosphor. The idea was patented in the Soviet Union ten years ago, and was proven last year experimentally using an ultraviolet LED and a Stokes phosphor. The efficiency of the UV LED was very low, but the effect was observable.
Another research effort related to displays is Dr. Oleg Yermakov's work on porous silicon. This work is still in its early stages, but he has achieved an external quantum efficiency of 1% at 700 nm.
Presently, Sapphire manufactures a broad range of incoherent light-emitting devices, including individual LEDs, arrays of LEDs, and dot matrix and alphanumeric indicators. It also fabricates optoelectronic couplers featuring a modulated LED and photodetector in a common package. Other fiber optic components manufactured by Sapphire include modulated sources for an 850 nm, a 1,300 nm, and a 1,550 nm operation. The company also produces photodetectors for optoelectronics applications.
Red LEDs are fabricated from AlGaAs, and green LEDs from GaP. Sapphire fabricates single devices with nine digits and provides driver electronics, as well. The researchers showed a 20 mm x 20 mm GaAsP LED array consisting of 32 x 32 elements. For large arrays, uniformity is an issue. The largest array fabricated was an 8 x 8 LED that measures 100 mm x 100 mm. Other standard sizes are 60 mm x 60 mm, 20 mm x 20 mm, and 10 mm x 10 mm. Arrays can also be produced in various colors. The colors available are red (GaAlAs), green (560 nm, GaP), and blue (480 nm, SiC). A complete catalog of LED devices was provided.
Sapphire also works in III-V semiconductors, including GaAs, AlGaAs, GaAsP, and other quaternary compounds. The approach is to buy wafer material from other suppliers, who grow epitaxial structures and heterojunctions by LPE, VPE, and MBE, and then do all device processing and packaging. Standard semiconductor processing capabilities are available, including photolithography, ion implanting, coatings, and metallization.
In addition to optoelectronic devices, Sapphire manufactures some integrated circuits. In particular it has a wide range of CMOS silicon on sapphire radiation hard devices. These include a 16 bit, 5-10 MHz microprocessor, with a 32-bit microprocessor in development, 16k SRAM with 64k SRAM in development, and time- interval meter for a laser range finder.
Radhard microprocessor chips and related components manufactured by Sapphire do not appear to be as sophisticated or capable as the 1750A devices produced at U.S. military semiconductor foundries, but were quite interesting. The basic technology was SOS, with 2 şm feature sizes in production and 1.5 şm under development. Some of the components displayed were the microprocessors, clock drivers, interface chips, Mux/Demux chips, reference Zener diodes, and so forth. Sapphire has a Radhard 16 K SRAM in production and is developing a 64 K version. The microprocessors were described as 32 bit processors running at 10 MHz clock speed. One chip of particular interest in the Radhard catalog was a time interval counter for laser range finders. It came in two versions, with clock speeds of 100 and 150 MHz. Its use as a Radhard component was not clear.
The Sapphire chips were mounted on a complementary chip carrier structure, which had obviously been designed with considerable care. The appearance of the components was quite different from comparable western devices and packages. While most common functions seemed to be represented, there was a strong sense of an indigenous electronics technology in what was shown.
The production equipment is almost completely from the FSU and other Eastern European countries. Substrates, chemicals, and materials are obtained from Research Institute of Materials Science and the Research Institute for Electronic Materials.
Sapphire is a commercial supplier of a range of optoelectronic products, and is looking for customers interested in its products. It is uncertain how Sapphire's products will fare on world LED niche markets.