Future Apple iPhone displays could employ VC-funded solar tech from GT Advanced

“Do you remember Twin Creeks Technologies?” Eric Wesoff reports for Greentech Media. “The VC-funded startup was attempting to commercialize an ion-implant machine that would allow solar manufacturers to produce super-thin photovoltaic cells from crystalline silicon. It was a wildly ambitious bet, and the company went from unstealthing in early 2012 to having its assets purchased for approximately $10 million by GT Advanced Technologies in late 2012. ”

“The GT Advanced/Twin Creeks process is known as Proton-Induced Exfoliation (or PIE). A hydrogen ion or proton is accelerated to 1.2 million electron-volts and shot into a crystal material, where it settles at a finite depth,” Wesoff reports. “The hydrogen ions line up at that finite depth, where they are then heated, resulting in a wafer that cleaves right off the substrate along the crystalline plane. The proton energy determines how deep the protons go and therefore sets the thickness of the wafer.”

According to GT Advanced’s most recent earnings report, the Hyperion ion implant product is a tool for the ‘production of ultra-thin sapphire, silicon carbide and silicon laminates or templates,’ adding, ‘We continue to make excellent progress in these areas and have now exfoliated 26 micron thick sapphire lamina at a 6-inch diameter.’ Sapphire glass is significantly stronger and more scratch-resistant than the glass currently used in Apple’s iPhones,” Wesoff reports. “During the earnings call, Raja Bal, the CFO of GT, said that the Hyperion sapphire laminates are targeted for production in 2015.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Jax44” for the heads up.]


  1. Creative technology at its best.

    What I am surprised at is that the technology was sold for ONLY $10m to GT Advanced. Seems like GT made a steal on the purchase, compared to the sales it will generate.

  2. GT did get a deal on this tech. Besides the fact that Apple has patented the process for laminating GT’s thin ( surface exfoliated is their term for the process) sapphire they have found a way to amp up the Hypirion Proton Beam Generator into a potential medical device. Replaces much more expensive and cumbersome nuclear device. They are ready to go to market at around $10 million a pop.

    1. Hmmm… accelerating the hydrogen proton to 1.2 million electron-volts sounds a bit weak… 1.6 maybe.. exfoliating on sapphire with a hyperion proton beam generator sounds all nice and dandy… but my main question is.. will the flux capacitor hold?

  3. So this tech is not solar power related but is a process to slice sapphire crystals? I guess the regularity of the sliced surface is acceptable for what they will use it for. What happens to all those micro holes formed in the process?

    1. If you are talking about electron/proton versus hole charge carriers. This is not that kind of process.

      If you are thinking of “holes” created by the protons being fired into the sapphire then you need to realize that the size of a proton is so much smaller than the inter atomic lattice distance that the protons rarely hit anything before they stop. The two topics to look up on this are Rutherford’s original gold foil experiment, which describes how the vast majority of any “solid” is just empty space, and Linear Energy Transfer equations, which describe how a highly charged particle loses energy and comes to a stop in a material.

    2. Ok, cool.. Learned quite a bit from most of the responses.. Now I wonder how many you actually have to shoot into the crystal lattice to allow it to shear cleanly. I’m thinking quite a bit since they are hydrogen ion/protons and will only steal 1 electron from a neighboring atom, Al or O.

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