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China Optics Valley ready for broader terrain

Posted: 28 May 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:China Optics Valley? optoelectronics? LED lighting? 3G?

Expanding markets
Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics (WNLO) is one of the five national laboratories, whose construction was started in 2003 under a Ministry of Science and Technology mandate. The lab has been open since 2005 and has a research staff of more than 1,000; more than 700 of those researchers hold postgraduate degrees. WNLO deputy director Xie Changsheng said the lab focuses on "strategic and perspective research" as a forerunner to applied research, with an eye toward solving "key technological problems" in optoelectronics.

"During research on quite a number of frontiers, we introduce high-end talent from abroad and connect the fruits of our own research" with input from the offshore researchers, Xie said. Among the lab's recent accomplishments, he pointed to progress in "dye-sensitized solar cells, for which a successful sample of 10cm x 10cmcapable of driving a motorhas been worked out. Its cost is [as low as] one-tenth that of the current silicon solar cell." He added that the lab had developed an organic LED material that "is quite something in terms of both light emitting efficiency and chromaticity. Next we will apply it to devicesmobile phone screens, for example."

Other research areas include micro/nanomanufacturing for optical communications, fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), wireless communications and optoelectronic information storage.

One optoelectronic storage project at WNLO has developed a phase-change memory with a claimed read/write speed of 5 nanoseconds. Other researchers are working on the Net Video Disc (NVD), a red-light-based compression technology that enables high-definition playback.

Just as the companies of California's Silicon Valley long ago expanded their reach beyond silicon, China's Optics Valley has its eye on the broader horizon. "The magnitude of enterprises is still not large" within the East Lake high-tech zone, said Investment Promotion Bureau director Wang Jizeng. "We must strengthen our systems; ensure our leading position in the optoelectronics field; and plan speedy development of [capabilities in] microelectronics, biology, semiconductor lighting, software services and outsourcing."

A 12-inch IC production line, the first of its kind in central China, has been completed at Wuhan Xinxin Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd, with investment from the Wuhan municipal government and oversight by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. Last June, a trial at the facility achieved a yield of 92.6 percent for a wafer run in a 90nm process technology.

"The project shows our attention to the semiconductor industry," said the Investment Promotion Bureau's Yang. Following the completion of the 12-inch chip production line, the East Lake development zone plans to set up a semiconductor R&D center. In the meantime, it is soliciting investment from the government to advance an open, public platform for IC design. Fifteen IC design operations and 14 enterprises engaged in chip manufacturing, packaging and related activities currently do business in the high-tech zone; they include a number of Taiwanese and American companies.

Another focus is consumer electronics, with 19 companies having set up shop thus far. Foxconn has an installation in Wuhan that turned out 1.6 million digital cameras in phase 1. Wuhan Tianma Micro Electronics Co. Ltd. started a TFT project in the first quarter. And China's NVD videodisk project in Wuhan has advanced the country's efforts in intellectual property development, having generated 49 patents.

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