[CONTENU PARTENAIRE] Founded in 1964, Riber is a leading player in the electronic chip market. Its machines of atypical shape, marketed from the 80s, indeed form the first stage of production of certain semiconductors. Riber is today the world leader in its sector of activity and has sold more than 800 machines since its creation. Its order book assures it of a bright future for the years to come, with, in prospect, an entry into the industry of silicon components. Explanations with Michel Picault, CEO of Riber.
Can you present your company?
Riber is a company specialized in the field of instrumentation. It designs, manufactures and markets machines called MBE (Molecular Beam Epitaxy), for molecular beam epitaxy. This advanced technology is intended for the semiconductor alloy industry. It is a niche activity, useful for researchbut also essential for the proper functioning of our everyday objects that use information technology. This method is in fact at the origin of certain components inside our mobile phone or our video game console (among others).
Since the 1980s, our machines have mainly been used in the context of research carried out to create radio frequency power amplifierswhich led to the telecommunications networks by electromagnetic waves and lasers for fiber optic communication networks.
As the work of researchers in the labs has evolved, our technology has evolved to cover more and more semiconductor alloy domains. This is why the 90s marked the marketing of our first production machines dedicated to the amplifiers present in mobile phones.
How does this technology work?
The materials we use are very sensitive to oxygen and carbon, two molecules present in the air. To avoid this sensitivity, we evaporate them under “high vacuum”. Our machines thus act like large pressure cookers: we remove all the gas present in the air, up to pressures of up to one hundred billionth of atmospheric pressure. The void we create is therefore as pure as that of outer space..
Inside each machine is a previously chosen substrate (a monocrystal). It is in this purified environment that we grow semiconductor crystals by evaporation of simple elements (gallium, aluminum, indium, arsenic, etc.), which will be deposited layer of atoms by layer of atoms to form a new crystal. This new single crystal is created with layers of different thickness and composition. Depending on the shape given to this deposit structure, it can give rise to a microwave emitter, a detector or a laser.
How will your know-how evolve?
Our sector is booming! The Chinese market currently represents the largest percentage of our sales. He is indeed fond of our machines, since the country is equipping itself en masse with fiber optic networks and telecommunications objects. In the longer term, Riber intends putting its know-how at the service of microprocessors (and therefore enter more broadly into the silicon industry, which creates the objects in information technology).
Currently, information from microprocessors is communicated through electrical currents. However, to improve their performance, manufacturers plan to make them communicate by light waves. To do this, lasers and laser receivers are needed: their materials are precisely engineered in our machines. This is therefore a completely new development path for Riber.
At the same time, we want to find new sources of growth outside the Chinese market. We are already working on an R&D program to improve the performance of our machines, add AI to them, and thus open up our skills to the materials and markets of tomorrow. Finally, Riber being close to the world of research, we take care to know what work is carried out using our machines, and how they can be applied to industry. This allows us to anticipate the needs of our industrial customers.
Who are your customers?
The fields of application are numerous. Riber is primarily aimed at top universities in the world (French University, Harvard, MIT — Massachusetts Institute of Technology —the big Asian campuses) and research laboratories. Thanks to our machines, researchers can in particular invent new alloys and new forms of crystals, grow rods with which small lasers are designed, lock electrons or photons in a box… So much advanced research, intended for applications from the future.
In addition, applied research wishes to develop new electronic components. As such, we hope that their future materials will be based on those of our sector. The Riber company is also ready to offer machines with ever higher performance (both in terms of speed, power and signal capture). We have already proven that we are able to meet the most complex needs of new technologies : the single crystals of the James-Webb space telescope were made by Riber machines.
Secondly, our machines find their interest in the production. Our customers are also companies that manufacture these monocrystals and supply them to other companies to manufacture electronic components (found in 5G, terrestrial telecommunications, satellites, mobile phones, etc.). As we said above, our semiconductor alloys apply to fiber optic networksas sensors of all kinds (infrared, satellite or terrestrial detection, etc.).
According to you, what are the challenges that await you?
The biggest challenge ahead is to allow Riber to make a transition between the machines currently designed and those to come for the silicon industry, which have of the design rules different from ours. This path is clearly a turning point that we wish to take. For this, we still have to develop technical means, in order to carry out the deposition of the necessary oxide layers. An essential element to make the interface between the silicon substrate and the photonic part. We must also determine what will be the means that will allow us to evaporate the materials, then to control their thickness and composition.
This content was produced with SCRIBEO. The BFMBUSINESS editorial staff did not participate in the production of this content.