Editorials

Strategic SiC Patents Up for Grabs?

Not sure what to make of all this, but SiC shifts are afoot, and someone may
want to tap dance quickly to the front of the line.

The info came from one of the longtime compound semi materials gurus, Heikki
Helava, formerly of AXT and Fox Group, etc. Since Fox has elected to concentrate
only on UV LEDs, Heikki acquired Fox Group’s crystal growth facilities in Deer
Park, New York USA. “This gives me the opportunity to continue to develop
AlN substrates and to exploit them for a variety of devices and applications
that can benefit from the unique properties of AlN,” said Heikki. But what
else is up for grabs left over from outstanding (but disappointingly unrewarding
monetarily at the time) work by Helava and Vodakov is what’s especially interesting.

As you may recall, one of the great Russian master crystal growers, Vodakov,
died last year. But back in the late 1990s, he and Heikki worked on some key
micropipe and dislocation-free SiC materials growth research and development
that wasn’t so popular at the time… but it evidently is now. That in itself
shouldn’t surprise anyone in the CS R&D community. Like great artists in
any walk of life, it’s often way past one’s time on this earth that your work
becomes fully appreciated. The work at least resulted in two key US patents,
numbers 6,534,026
and 6,562,130
for low micropipe SiC material. The former is titled, simply: Low defect
density silicon carbide
and the latter is titled Low defect axially grown
single crystal silicon carbide
. Clicking on the above hotlinks on the patent
numbers will get you to the particulars.

Since Fox is quietly getting out of the crystal growth business, they’ve been
equally quietly shopping these patents. Since much-improved and fresh patent-safe
methods of growing SiC is back in vogue (thanks largely to the USA’s DoD funding
agencies who’ve concentrated their wide bandgap efforts on SiC, vs. new and
improved GaN to justify all the heady expenditures of the past), this might
be a route for SiC growers to get to getting more and better funding attention.
Seems there’s a bit of a scramble going on in the USA, Europe and Japan to try
to find something that invalidates the patents… which should be a clue that
they’re important. Given the traditional carefulness of Vodakov and Helava,
my bet is they’re a pretty safe bet.

The pursuit route for the patents is via Barney O’Mera at The Fox Group, www.thefoxgroup.inc.
The way to find Heikki these days is via his newly established company. Heikki
Helava, PhD., Helava Systems Inc., 191B East Industry Ct., Deer Park, NY 11729
USA, T: 631-242-8853 F:631-242-8906 and his new email address is: hhelava@optonline.net.

Good luck!

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