Comptek reduces semiconductor defect states through a new method of passivation
Comptek Solutions Oy, which emerged from a research project funded by Tekes, has developed a method for reducing electronic defect states on the surface of semiconductors. The innovation enables components for the electronics industry to be manufactured more efficiently and more affordably than before.
Exposure to air gives rise to high numbers of defect states in compound semiconductors. They slow down the flow of the current, causing the component to heat up and, in the worst case scenario, prevent it from functioning.
Researchers at University of Turku's Department of Physics and Astronomy discovered a process affecting the semiconductor's surface, thus enabling the surfaces to be as much as 98 per cent more defect free than before. Thanks to the changed symmetry, semiconductors no longer react as easily to oxygen, thus resulting in a decrease in the number of defect states.
"Our technology will make the devices more efficient. Cost savings are also achieved, as the proportion of defective components on a semiconductor wafer decreases," explains Johnny Dahl, special researcher, who has a PhD in physics.
Semiconductors are midway between an insulator and a conductor. Compound semiconductors are used in components for the electronics industry, such as internet fibre-optic cables, mobile phone circuit boards or base station transmitters.
"Our technology is excellent in that it can be used in all compound semiconductor materials," says Dahl.
Tekes project encouraged researchers to set up their own company
The research team sought broad patent protection for the invention. Dahl and the other researchers began to manufacture device prototypes, but with small resources this was difficult.
"We decided to seek funding from Tekes so that we could prepare to commercialise the invention. It was clear that the invention also needed to be tested in practice, so that it would be possible to assess its usefulness more effectively. Fortunately, Tekes saw major international potential in the innovation," Dahl says.
At the beginning of 2016, he worked as a project manager in Tekes' New knowledge and business from research project (TUTL). During this period, prototype devices were manufactured, market analyses were carried out and business models were assessed.
During the project Dahl also developed an interest in business operations. It was then that a company was built around the semiconductor passivation invention.
"It became clear that we would benefit from our invention most by setting up our own company – as the inventors of the technology, we are the best experts."
Network of contacts grew in Silicon Valley
Dahl says that there are very few companies in Finland that are involved in the compound semiconductor business. For this reason, it was a pleasant surprise for Comptek to be selected for Tekes' Nordic Innovation House REACH programme. The programme is designed specifically for Nordic projects and startups that have emerged from research projects.
"Two Finnish projects were selected for the pilot programme that began in the spring of 2016. We wanted in the programme groups that come from the research commercialisation programme and who have a unique solution or technology," says Tiina Tanninen-Ahonen, Development Manager at Tekes and planner of the REACH programme.
REACH took Comptek to Oslo and to San Francisco's Silicon Valley, where meetings were held with companies and experts. The weeks consisted of lectures and various workshops.
"The programme helped us enormously in creating a network of contacts. We also received help from a number of business development professionals," says Dahl.
Comptek intends to establish a laboratory in Turku for the purpose of further developing the technology. The laboratory will also accelerate the entry of the first products into the market. Dahl says that contract negotiations with the first client have begun.
"The market has a clear need for our invention," Dahl says.
CEO Vicente Calvo Alonso
Comptek Solutions Oy
Tel. +358 44 240 4004
Text: Kaiku Helsinki