From expansions and acquisitions to new developments and partnerships, we’ve compiled the latest news from the advanced ceramics sector.

NexTech and Plug Power Complete 2-KW Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Demonstration Project

NexTech Materials, Ltd. and Plug Power Inc. have concluded their two-year collaboration to develop a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) power system. The two companies completed a number of joint activities, including market research, fuel cell stack development and testing, system design, and prototype construction at both NexTech and Plug Power facilities.

“Completion of this important project positions NexTech to move forward in both the commercial and military power markets,” said Bill Dawson, president/chief executive officer of NexTech. “NexTech has developed and demonstrated its planar 2-kW level SOFC stack, as well as internal reforming of methane.” NexTech plans to work with system integrators to develop products for remote power, transportation auxiliary power units (APUs), combined heat and power, and large commercial stationary applications using its sulfur-tolerant, high-performance stack technology.

NexTech also recently received funding for three unrelated projects based on its advanced SOFC planar stack technology. Most recently, the U.S. Department of Energy, through its SECA program, selected NexTech to develop its planar FlexCellTM SOFC technology for large-scale stationary power systems. NexTech was also selected by the U.S. Navy for two development projects, one to design a fuel cell system for underwater vehicle applications, and the other for the development of stack technology for use in a land-based APU.

For additional information, visit www.nextechmaterials.com or www.plugpower.com.

Kyocera Reduces Solar Cell Thickness, Acquires OTM

Kyocera recently announced a new achievement in its solar cell manufacturing process that offers higher efficiency in the consumption of multicrystalline silicon, the essential raw material used to make photovoltaic solar cells and modules. The new mass-production process allows Kyocera to manufacture solar cells with a thickness of 180 micrometers using the latest advances in silicon ingot slicing and wafer coating. The industry’s standard mass-production methods for multicrystalline silicon solar cells reportedly yield thicknesses of between 200 to 260 micrometers.

Kyocera’s broad strategy is to more than double its global production capacity for solar modules within the next three years while minimizing its consumption of silicon, according to Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar, Inc. “Long-term contracts with our supplier partners assure us of sufficient silicon stocks to expand our production output from about 207 megawatts of solar modules in 2007 to a target of 500 megawatts in the year ending March 31, 2011,” he said.

In addition, Kyocera Industrial Ceramics Corp. recently announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire On Time Machining Co. (OTM) from Kennametal Inc. Based in Wapakoneta, Ohio, OTM is a manufacturer and supplier of indexable cutting tool products, including drills, end mills, face mills, chamfer mills, aluminum cutting mills, counterbores and countersinks.

The integration of the OTM business into Kyocera’s U.S. Cutting Tool Division expands and complements Kyocera’s drilling, milling, grooving and turning product offerings; increases Kyocera’s existing North American manufacturing capacity for indexable cutting tools; and strategically enhances Kyocera’s capabilities in offering custom toolholder solutions. Visit www.kyocera.com for additional information.

WACKER SCHOTT Solar Commissions New Solar Wafer Facility

WACKER SCHOTT Solar GmbH, a joint venture of Wacker Chemie AG and SCHOTT Solar GmbH, has officially commissioned a new factory in Jena, Thuringia, Germany, for the production of silicon wafers for the solar industry. After six months of construction, WACKER SCHOTT Solar has commenced wafer production and plans to ramp up the factory’s annual capacity to 50 MW by the fall of 2008, increasing the company’s total annual capacity to 120 MW by year’s end. The two partners have invested €50 million (~ $79 million) in the new production plant and created 140 initial new jobs at the Jena site.

The new Jena factory relies on time-tested technology that involves sawing individual wafers from multicrystalline silicon ingots. The two-story building features 7560 square meters of floor space for manufacturing equipment, and it has one of the Thuringia region’s largest photovoltaic arrays installed on its roof. SCHOTT Solar manufactured and delivered the solar modules for this 82 kW array, which is operated by PV Meins KG (a partnership that includes many WACKER SCHOTT Solar employees).

For more information, call (49) 3641-68193211, fax (49) 3641-28889276 or e-mail barbara.kirchner@wackerschott.com.

H.C. Starck Sells Silica Sol Business to Akzo Nobel

The H.C. Starck Group has sold its silica sol business in Leverkusen, Germany, to Akzo Nobel Chemicals GmbH, Düren, Germany. The acquisition price was not disclosed. “We are convinced that the silica sol business continues to have very attractive growth possibilities under the ownership of Akzo Nobel,” said Heinz Heumueller, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the H.C. Starck Group. The companies concluded the contracts on April 30, 2008, and the sale was subject to approval by antitrust authorities.

“This strategically important acquisition will enable us to enter a number of additional silica sol markets, primarily in Europe,” said Rob Frohn, Akzo Nobel’s board member responsible for Specialty Chemicals. “Our streamlined chemicals portfolio is primed for investment, and this transaction emphasizes our commitment to focusing on growth.”

“Akzo Nobel is the ideal partner for our future expansion,” said H.C. Starck Silica Sol’s Managing Directors Gabriele Hey, Ph.D., and Sven Marienfeld. “With the support of Akzo Nobel, we are well-positioned to continue to pursue our growth strategy.” For more information, visit www.hcstarck.com or www.akzonobel.com.

Poco Graphite to be Acquired by Entegris

Entegris has signed a definitive agreement to acquire privately held Poco Graphite, Inc. in an all-cash transaction valued at $158 million. Based in Decatur, Texas, Poco is a leading provider of graphite-based consumables and finished products used in a variety of markets, including semiconductor, electrical discharge machining (EDM), medical, opto-electronic, aerospace and specialty industrial. In 2007, Poco generated revenues of more than $60 million, approximately 40% of which was for semiconductor-related customers.

The transaction, which is expected to be accretive to Entegris’ earnings per share in 2009, is anticipated to extend Entegris’ position in the semiconductor market as a major provider of process-critical consumables and related products and services, and will add new complementary growth vectors in other high-performance industries. “This transaction adds to our core materials science competencies, significantly broadens our range of high-performance consumable offerings, and enables us to serve more customers in more ways,” said Gideon Argov, president and chief executive officer of Entegris. “As such, it is an opportunity to increase our revenues and earnings, accelerate our growth, create economies of scale, and build value for our shareholders.

“Poco, together with the Entegris Specialty Coatings business that we acquired in August 2007, will form the foundation of a materials-based consumable products business that has a strong presence in semiconductors but is also well-positioned in other growth areas. With 60% of its revenue coming from outside the semiconductor industry, Poco provides us with existing sales and growth opportunities in the medical, aerospace and specialty industrial markets.”

A replay of a recent conference call discussing the transaction can be accessed by calling (888) 203-1112 or (719) 457-0820 and using passcode 3436574.  A webcast of the call can also be accessed from the Investor Relations section of Entegris’ website at www.entegris.com. Poco’s website is located at www.poco.com.  

Global Solar Energy Chosen by Dow Building Solutions for BIPV Development Initiative

Global Solar Energy, a manufacturer of thin film solar cells for glass modules or flexible material products, recently announced that Dow Building Solutions, a business unit of The Dow Chemical Co., invited Global Solar to participate in its U.S. Department of Energy Solar America Initiative (SAI) project to help create innovative building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) products. As a part of its SAI program, Dow is creating a flexible solar roof shingle, and it has made Global Solar a key team member in the shingle’s development.

“We are collaborating with Global Solar Energy because throughout our search for a solar material provider, it was the only company able to supply a qualifying flexible copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) material that meets our needs and the requirements of the SAI,” said Bob Cleereman, senior director of Solar & Structural Technology with Dow Building Solutions. “CIGS has proven to be the most efficient, cost-effective thin film technology for BIPV applications, and by teaming up with Global Solar we are working with an industry leader. Global Solar is the only company in full-scale production of CIGS cells on flexible substrates, and it has achieved a record-setting average 10% solar cell efficiency, meeting SAI’s requirements.”

For more information, visit www.globalsolar.com or www.dow.com.

AVX Named to Fortune 40

AVX Corp. was named to Fortune’s “Fortune 40: Best Stocks to Retire On” in the magazine’s June 23, 2008, issue. The annual list credits AVX as a company with no debt that has consistently used available cash to boost its dividend and buy back stock. With a market cap of $2.3 billion (June 2, 2008), AVX manufactures and sells a broad passive and interconnect component product offering for today’s growing electronics market. AVX technology is at the core of future electronics applications, such as sustainable energy generation, exploration, transportation, advanced medical electronics, aerospace systems and communications for the mobile market.

“We are delighted and honored to be singled out by Fortune magazine in this impressive list of companies,” said Pete Venuto, vice president of Sales. “Our commitment to product innovation, diversification and quality has driven AVX in a consistent and profitable growth path, as evidenced by our strong operating performance and balance sheet. Our competitive markets, coupled with today’s uncertain global economic environment, are requiring both customers and investors to pay particular attention to the suppliers that can weather any storm.”

For more information, call (843) 448-9411, fax (843) 444-2864 or visit www.avx.com.

Momentive Announces Plans for New Technology Center, Headquarters

Jonathan D. Rich, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Momentive Performance Materials Inc., recently announced plans to build a state-of-the-art Technology Center and Global Headquarters in Rensselaer County, N.Y. The new facilities will employ 250 people with a total annual payroll of approximately $38 million; 150 of these jobs are new to the Capital Region.

Construction of the Technology Center is expected to begin in 2009 and will result in approximately 150 construction-related jobs. The Technology Center will cost approximately $65 million and will employ 130 people. The company’s global headquarters building will be constructed following completion of the Technology Center at a cost of approximately $16 million. The headquarters will employ 120 people. The company has not finalized the site of the new facilities, but has narrowed the field to several locations in Rensselaer County and expects to make the final decision shortly.

Momentive is presently headquartered in Wilton, Conn., with some corporate staff located at its manufacturing facility in Waterford, N.Y. An interim global headquarters will be located in Albany, N.Y., and will include staff from Wilton, Waterford and other locations throughout the U.S. For more information, visit www.momentive.com.

Sandvik Acquires Minority Share in Precorp

Sandvik Tooling has reached an agreement to acquire 49% of the shares of Precorp Inc., based in Spanish Fork, Utah. Precorp is a developer, producer and supplier of polycrystalline diamond (PCD) and cemented-carbide tools for the machining of advanced composite materials and other materials used mainly by the aerospace and automotive industries.

“The acquisition is in line with Sandvik’s long-term strategy to deliver increased customer value and generate profitable growth,” said Anders Thelin, president of Sandvik Tooling. “Through the acquisition, we intend to further develop and strengthen the global business for diamond-based cutting tools, particularly in the rapidly growing aerospace segment.”

For more information, visit www.sandvik.com or www.precorp.net.

DOE Announces Effort to Advance U.S. Wind Power Manufacturing

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner recently announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the DOE and six leading wind industry turbine manufacturers: GE Energy, Siemens Power Generation, Vestas Wind Systems, Clipper Turbine Works, Suzlon Energy and Gamesa Corp. The two-year collaboration is designed to promote wind energy in the U.S. through advanced technology research and development, and siting strategies aimed to advance industrial wind power manufacturing capabilities.

“The MOU between the DOE and the six major turbine manufacturers demonstrates the shared commitment of the federal government and the private sector to create the roadmap necessary to achieve 20% wind energy by 2030,” said Karsner. “To dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance our energy security, clean power generation at the gigawatt-scale will be necessary to expand the domestic wind manufacturing base and streamline the permitting process.”

Under the MOU, the DOE and the six turbine manufacturers will collaborate to gather and exchange information to define specific needs for achieving 20% wind energy by 2030. In 2007, U.S. cumulative wind energy capacity reached 16,818 MW, with more than 5000 MW of wind installed in 2007. Wind contributed to more than 30% of the new U.S. electricity generation capacity in 2007, making it the second-largest source of new power generation in the nation (surpassed only by natural gas). Visit www.energy.gov for additional information.

Ceradyne Acquires SemEquip, Expands in Semiconductor Industry

Ceradyne, Inc. recently announced that it has acquired SemEquip, Inc. for approximately $25 million in cash at closing, plus contingent payments of up to $100 million during the 15-year period following completion of the merger based on revenues achieved over that period by SemEquip. Privately held SemEquip, Inc., based in North Billerica, Mass., is a leader in the development of cluster ion implantation sub-systems and advanced ion source materials for the manufacture of logic and memory chips. SemEquip has a significant patent portfolio related to the use of cluster chemicals in semiconductor ion implantation. The company’s technologies enable the utilization of cluster beam ion implantation for manufacturing advanced integrated circuits at low costs and high throughputs.

It’s expected that the acquisition will expand Ceradyne Boron Products’ business and will significantly extend Ceradyne’s market opportunity in the semiconductor industry. Ceradyne acquired Ceradyne Boron Products, LLC (formerly EaglePicher Boron, LLC) in August 2007. Ceradyne Boron Products mainly produces the boron isotopes 10B and 11B. The boron isotope 11B (enriched boron) is used as a “doping” agent in semiconductor processes where ultra-high-purity isotopic boron is required. This growing market currently accounts for approximately 40% of Ceradyne Boron Products’ sales.

“The SemEquip acquisition follows the model we have successfully used in the past; that is, the vertical integration of raw material to final product,” said David Reed, Ceradyne’s president of North American Operations. “Ceradyne Boron Products, a 2007 acquisition, will produce the elemental boron for the cluster boron molecule and elemental materials for additional proprietary molecular products for SemEquip. A similar strategy was incorporated in the 2004 ESK Ceramics acquisition, where ESK Ceramics produces the boron carbide powder for Ceradyne’s U.S. armor operations, and again in the 2007 acquisition of Minco, where Minco produces the high-purity fused silica powder for use in Ceradyne’s photovoltaic solar ceramic crucibles.”

Additional information is available at www.ceradyne.com. SemEquip’s website is located at www.semequip.com.

sp3 Receives Orders for Diamond Deposition Tool

Gaining momentum from recent orders and installations, sp3 Diamond Technologies, Inc. recently announced two new orders for its model 650 hot filament chemical vapor deposition (HFCVD) diamond reactor. The first order was received from the India Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, which will install one system as part of the expansion of its Nano Functional Materials Technology Centre (NFMTC). The second order was from an unnamed Japanese manufacturer.

“These orders, along with the Heriot-Watt installation at the end of last year, highlight the increasing interest not only in the material itself, but also in a product capable of delivering large-scale and cost-effective thin-film diamond deposition,” said Dwain Aidala, president and chief operating officer of sp3. “The model 650 is the only tool with this capability and, as such, leads the industry in providing CVD diamond to a growing number of market segments worldwide.”

IIT Madras selected sp3’s model 650 to explore CVD diamond’s ability to improve the wear resistance of the drawing dies that are used by the Murugappa group of industries. “Nanocrystalline diamond films are considered to be the best candidates for wear-resistant and other tribological coating applications because of their high hardness and low friction coefficient, combined with high thermal conductivity,” said Professor M.S.R. Rao of IIT Madras. “Hot filament CVD ensures high uniformity over large areas for planar and non-planar surfaces. Nanocrystalline diamond-coated tungsten carbide dies can increase their lifetime by a factor of 10-15 times.”

sp3’s model 650 HFCVD diamond deposition reactor enables cost-effective, large area deposition of high-quality, polycrystalline diamond films with a thickness of between 100 nanometers and 50 microns on a variety of substrate materials. The chemical vapor deposition technology is reportedly ideal for applications such as diamond on wafers in sizes up to 300 mm, wear coatings, substrates for thermal management, amorphous silicon deposition for solar cells and other products, electrodes for water treatment and electrochemistry, passivation layers for semiconductor chucks, and cutting tools. For additional information, visit www.sp3inc.com or www.iitm.ac.in.

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