Recent export restrictions on Germanium and Gallium by China have significantly impacted the global compound semiconductor community, affecting various industries worldwide. Germanium substrates have traditionally been vital for the space solar cell market, which is experiencing growth due to the development of new satellite constellations and planning of numerous space projects. Furthermore, the rise in terrestrial concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) applications demands a high volume of Ge substrates, emphasizing the need for cost-effective solutions. These trends, coupled with the growing demand for Ge in products like optical crystals and blanks, have markedly increased the market demand for Germanium metal. In this presentation, we will explore how recycling capabilities can mitigate the challenges of sourcing virgin Germanium. We will present Umicore's recycling capabilities and their potential to secure a sustainable European Ge supply. Additionally, we will discuss the environmental and financial advantages of recycling Ge substrates for volume applications in detail. The recycling and reuse of Ge substrates are pivotal in the CMOS integration of III-V materials. The growing consumer and automotive markets are propelling the development of new photonic devices, such as micro-LEDs, multi-junction VCSELs, and imagers for the NIR and SWIR spectra. Despite the prevalent use of GaAs substrates in photonics device production, advancements in Germanium substrates offer compelling benefits over GaAs, including compatibility with CMOS fabrication standards, which is constrained by GaAs wafer sizes and contamination concerns. Umicore's development of 8-inch and 12-inch Ge substrates bridges the gap between the III-V and semiconductor industries, facilitating improved form factors, device performance, and cost reductions. To meet the low-cost and high-volume demands for space PV and CPV Ge substrates, and to enable cost-effective recycling during CMOS integration in photonics, Umicore is developing a reusable Ge substrate platform. This approach allows for epitaxial growth on reusable Ge substrates, after which the functional materials are transferred to another substrate (such as glass or silicon), and the Ge substrate is reconditioned for subsequent epitaxial growth cycles. This innovation not only reduces process costs and the need for virgin materials but also minimizes the CO2 footprint of the overall manufacturing process.
Ivan is the Commercial Manager for the EU & Asia at Umicore, with a focus on photonics & electronics markets and VCSELs, LiDARs and AR/VR technologies in particular. Before working at Umicore, Ivan had experience at various microelectronic companies such as ASM International and IMEC. Ivan obtained his PhD degree in Chemistry from KU Leuven, Belgium, while he did his research at IMEC on selective atomic layer deposition for advanced metallization schemes.