Learn more about the landmarks that formed our history, since Topsil was founded in the late 1950s. Topsil's history is the tale of a specialised global niche corporation, dedicated to the manufacture of ultra pure silicon wafers.
Second half of the 1950s
Danish civil engineer, Dr. Haldor Topsøe, starts to develop ultra-pure silicon on the basis of float zone technology in the basement of his home, Hellerup, Copenhagen. The company is founded in Frederikssund on the outskirts of greater Copenhagen.
Inspired by one of his many business trips abroad, Danish civil engineer, Dr. Haldor Topsøe, starts to develop ultra-pure silicon on the basis of float zone technology in the basement of his home, Hellerup, Copenhagen.
In 1958 Haldor Topsøe cuts the first sod for his new catalysts plant in Frederikssund, Denmark, less than an hour's drive out of Copenhagen. One year later, he initiates industrial manufacture of ultra-pure silicon in a corner of the plant. Hence Topsil ("Top" for Topsøe and "sil" for silicon) is in operation.
Topsil soon launches its first high quality product, "hyper pure silicon" (HPS) for advanced detector technology. The first silicon wafers are small, between 1 and 1½ inches in diameter.
During the first years in business, the float zone technology is Topsil's main technology as well as a supplement technology for the manufacture ofCzochralski silicon. Topsil produces its own raw material for silicon manufacture on the basis of supplied tetrachloride, which becomes distilled and then purified, amongst others by use of zone purification. This process requires float zone technology.
The first generation of silicon wafers is small, between 1 and 1½ inch in diameter. At this time, the silicon becomes doped by small drops of acetone, phosphor or boron, added by use of pipette.
Soon, Topsil succeeds in launching its first high quality product, "hyper pure silicon" (HPS), which finds it use in advanced detector technology. The HPS products prove to be extremely pure, and the future looks promising. The production area becomes expanded, and new production equipment developed and implemented by Topsil's own engineers.
HPS remains one of Topsil's silicon specialty products. Nowadays (2014), the HPS wafers are available in sizes up to 200mm in diameter
In 1972, Dr. Haldor Topsøe decides to divest Topsil from his other business activities which are related to catalysts. Two years later, Topsil succeed in making a technological breakthrough worldwide when launching neutron doped (NTD) silicon for high voltage components. Diameters available are now up to 3 inch.
In 1972, Dr. Haldor Topsøe decides to divest Topsil from his other business activities which are related to catalysts. Two years later, Topsil engineers come up with a great idea. They intend to develop a new product.
The semiconductor industry is in the wake of introducing a new kind of components, thyristors, that are to play a key role in transforming high voltage alternate current to direct current. The development of thyristors requires silicon uniformity, precision and reliability up to unprecedented level in order to function. Theoretically speaking, several experts say, neutron transmutation doping of silicon might be a viable road to achieving these material properties.
In 1974 Topsil therefore convinces researchers at Risoe National Laboratory (DK) to conduct some reactor experiments. During the initial discussions, skeptics amongst scientists make a point that tests are likely to result in radioactive and therefore useless silicon crystals. Topsil, however, is true to the idea, backed by a customer, later known as ABB, which has a keen interest in pushing the limits of silicon.
The first test proves sceptics to be wrong. The neutron transmutation doped (NTD) test crystal is only slightly radioactive and displays exactly the material properties desired. After only five days, the wafer is no longer radioactive and can threfore be returned to Topsil.
One year later, this technique is widely accepted in the silicon industry for the manufacture of the most advanced high power semiconductor components. The diameters of Topsil's silicon wafers are now slightly bigger, from 2 to 2½ inch. End of the decade, Topsil silicon wafers pass the diameter of 3 inch.
Four decades later Topsil has succeeded in maintaining its position as the global market leading supplier of NTD silicon, which constitutes the vast proportion of the company revenue. The Czochralski manufacture, on the other hand, is closed down in the mid-1970s, as the manufacture proves not to be cost-effective.
Times are difficult for silicon manufacturers due to severe global recession. Topsil becomes restructured and reestablished in 1983. In 1986, the company becomes publicly listed. By the end of the decade, the silicon wafer diameters have passed a size of 5 inch.
Early 1980s, times are difficult for silicon manufacturers. The dollar is weak, and the global economy is in a severe downturn. Sales are slow and Topsil is hit hard.
Topsil ends up being restructured and reestablished, initially funded by a couple of Danish-American investors, who acknowledges the technical expertise and business potential of the company. The investors, however, run out of capital in the spring 1983, and consequently, Topsil is bought up by a number of large Danish/Dutch investors. In 1986, Topsil becomes publicly listed on NASDAQ OMX Copenhagen.
In 1989 Topsil decides to close down its own raw material manufacture. An external supplier has been identified who is capable of delivering not only the required quality but also to manufacture larger raw material rods than Topsil is able to inhouse. The increased size of the rods is important for the overall production efficiency, and the larger size results in quite som production capacity enhancement.
In the wake of the decade silicon wafers have reached the size of 4 inch. End of the eighties new and bigger silicon wafers are ready for market, this time in the form of 5 inch silicon wafers.
Topsil launches the gas phase doped "preferred float zone" (PFZ) product, targeting medium voltage components, and which builds upon previous product generations. At the turn of the millenium customers are offered 150mm (6 inch) silicon wafers.
In the early 1990s, Topsil engineers decide to aim for simplifying the manufacture of silicon. They believe that zone purification by use of float zone technology - which constitutes the last part of the ready-making process before melting the raw material, might no longer be necessary to obtain a satisfactory end result.
Topsil starts utilising the float zone technology as its silicon manufacturing methodology and launches a new type of silicon, that is the gas phase doped "preferred float zone" (PFZ) silicon product targeting medium voltage components. The product is developed out of earlier product generations back to the early 1970s.
Late in the 1990s, the wafer diameters once again become bigger, up to 150mm, driven by customer requirements. Concurrently, Topsil begins to develop float zone based PV silicon for solar cell panels. The solar industry is on its rise and Topsil identifies an opportunity to develop ultra-pure silicon for high efficiency solar cells.
After some time on the market, however, stretching into the new millenium and involving various kinds of owners and financing, stretching into the new millennium, Topsil draws the conclusion that although float zone based PV silicon indeed is more efficient than other types of silicon available for solar cells, a profitable mass production has not been obtained. Consequently, the manufacture of PV silicon becomes scaled down.
Topsil PV remains a specialty product in the product portfolio to this day and is most widely used as reference wafers.
The demand for silicon is notably on its rise due to a world economy booming and increased focus on the green agenda. Topsil enters into long term contracts with its raw material supplies balanced out with long term contracts with its six main customers and acquires Cemat Silicon (Now: Topsil S.A.) in Poland, 2008.
As the PV industry is booming, shortage on raw material, poly, for other kinds of silicon manufacture kicks in. The result is soaring poly prices, which hit particularly hard in 2005. New commercial terms apply in the market place, and Topsil signs its first long term poly contract, stipulating fixed prices and minimum/maximum quantities. The contract are balanced by long term contracts with a number of major customers.
The world economy is booming in the mid-2000s onwards and the green agenda gains a foothold among political decision-makers across the globe. Driven by a growing demand for energy efficient power grids, build-up of infrastructure, green energy and energy maximising solutions, the market for power components based on float zone silicon gains momentum and Topsil's business is growing considerably.
In 2008, Topsil makes a strategic decision to acquire Polish based Cemat Silicon S.A. (Now: Topsil S.A.). Cemat is specialised in the manufacture ofCzochralski silicon and has own in-house wafering facilities. Following the acquisition, Topsil once again gains access to Czochralski silicon technology, targeting the lower voltage levels on the power market, and is hence able to expand its product offering. Topsil, furthermore, gains access to its own wafering facilities enabling in-house manufacture of certain product specifications, and the possibility to develop poly for float zone out of Czochralski silicon, should this become necessary.
In order to further exploit expected long term market growth, Topsil decides to speed up its product development and expand its production capacity. In 2012 Topsil inaugurates a new and enlarged state-of-the art production facility and new products in the form of 200mm silicon wafers (eight inch) as well as other tecnically improved products are ready for the market. In 2014 Topsil established a subsidiary in Japan.
Following megatrends such as global middle class on its rise, an increased level of urbanisation and focus on the green agenda and energy efficiency, anumber of key contract customers decide to scale up production. Topsil follows suit and launches a new offensive strategy, focusing on exploiting the market potential, 2010. This is to result in the development of new products with improved technical properties, next generation silicon products with larger diameters (200mm), and enhancement of product capacity through the construction of a new state-of-the-art production plant and investments in new manufacturing equipment.
In the second half of 2011, the power market - which constitutes Topsil's main market - is severely hit by a sudden downturn, when planned public investments in transport, energy efficiency improvements and green energy become slowed down or postponed around the globe. Governments and private corporation alike are out of funding.
New CEO, Kalle Hvidt Nielsen, steps in and launches the "Executing on Opportunites" strategy August 2012, two months prior to the Grand Opening event of the new plant. The strategy aims at improving the results of the company through added sales and efficiency enhancements. The new products as well as the new plant are essential to the execution, and by the turn of the year, the first samples of next generation of silicon wafers (200mm) are submitted for customer approval.
On 20 May 2016 Topsil signed an agreement with GlobalWafers Co. Ltd., Taiwan, to sell its silicon business, and the acquisition was adopted on an extraordinary general meeting on 17 June 2016. After the acquisition Topsil changed its name to Cemat A/S. The only activities in the company are operation, development and sales of the Polish property company CeMat ’70 S.A. in Warsaw.