Most spacecraft operating in the inner solar system rely on the use of photovoltaic solar panels to derive electricity from sunlight. Germanium is a semiconductor material that formed the basis for the development of transistor technology (yep, 1950’s transistor radio technology). Although the breakthrough of planar technology and integrated circuits put silicon in the foreground (and Silicon Valley on the map), in recent years there has been a renewed interest in germanium. However, only two companies in the world are innovating to the extent of what 5N Plus Semiconductors (formerly Sylarus Technologies) is doing –right here in Saint George, Utah.

Dr. Brock Alexander is the General Manager of 5N Plus Semiconductors. He is responsible for the technical, operational and financial performance of the company.  Over the past three years, Brock developed and executed the vision, strategy and scorecard that resulted in the development and production of epi-ready germanium wafer products for satellite photovoltaics.  He built a talented technical team and contributed side-by-side to successfully execute product and manufacturing milestones while fostering an environment for innovation.

Robert Johnson serves as plant manager and leads the engineering and operation teams in the production of germanium and InSb wafers. One of the highlights of Robert’s contributions,that enabled execution of the strategy, was the development and implementation of a manufacturing enterprise system that tracks wafers through the manufacturing line and allows a high level of visibility of production and facility information in real-time.  Robert also conceived and led the development of a novel software tool for visualizing the distribution of microdefects in germanium crystals. The combination of Robert’s application knowledge, visibility of manufacturing information, and focus on customer relationships has resulted in increased quality and performance and significantly increased volume share with 5N Plus Semiconductors key customers.

Today, 5N Plus Semiconductors is the only US domestic manufacturer of National Security Space qualified germanium wafers.The company has seen its commercials sales double in 2012 and double again in 2013; they also won two government contracts valued at more than $10M.

Photo Source: ”Earth’s Atmosphere at Sunrise” by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, licensed under CC BY 2.0