Robert E. Lorenzini
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Robert Lorenzini begins the interview by briefly describing his childhood and studying metallurgy at Stanford University for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. After gradation Lorenzini was recruited by Rheem Semiconductors, where he adapted his master's thesis work on zone melting in metals to work with silicon. Lorenzini's efforts lead to Rheem's own crystal growing furnace and its ability to produce its own silicon wafers. Following brief stints at the Allegheny Electronics Chemical Company and Knapic Electrophysics, Lorenzini decided to capitalize on his reputation as a furnace designer and started Elmat Corporation. Building his first commercial furnace with a focus on speed and maximum operation uptime, Elmat quickly gained customers such as RCA and Texas Instruments. Elmat was eventually purchased by General Instruments in 1968 and Lorenzini founded the Siltec Corporation in 1969. With innovations such as the zero dislocation silicon technique Siltec quickly gained a stable costumer base. Lorenzini then described the delicate balance of working with supplying big semiconductor manufacturers with both equipment and silicon supplies. In the late 1980s, as the industry was going through a downturn, Siltec was acquired by Mitsubishi. Free to pursue other projects, Lorenzini got interested in photovoltaics and founded SunPower Corporation with Stanford professor Richard Swanson. Lorenzini concluded the interview by offering a positive outlook on the PV industry.
|1958||Stanford University||BS||Materials Science|
|1960||Stanford University||MS||Materials Science|
Allegheny Electronic Chemical Company
Table of Contents
Early aptitude and interest in engineering and science. Moving from Boston to San Francisco to Evanston. Enrolling in Stanford University to study metallurgy.
Decision to stay at Stanford for graduate school. Curriculum and new research direction within the department. Thesis work on zone melting in metals.
Recruitment by Leopoldo Valdes. Translating zone melting work from metals to silicon. Designing and building the crystal puller at Rheem. Pros and cons of flat zone method versus the Czochralski technique for crystal growing. Brief stint at Allegheny Electronic Chemical Company on the East Coast. Returning to Knapic Eletrophysics in California. Knapic's liquidation and purchasing part of its supplies for own startup.
Starting Elmat in 1964. Moving from RF to resistance heated growing furnaces. Designing a speed-oriented furnace. First Elmat customers and working relationships with them. SEMI standardization efforts. Basic Elmat operations. Dendritic germanium/ribbon growing technique. Purchase by General Instruments in 1968.
Developing the zero dislocation silicon technique. Competition and cooperation with bigger companies. Siltec company expansion model. Key technological advances during the Siltec years. Foreign competition and industry downturn. Siltec acquisition by Mitsubishi.
Working with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and introduction to Richard Swanson. Raising capital to start SunPower Corporation. Application of semiconductor manufacturing techniques and equipment to photovoltaics. Outlook on the PV industry.
About the Interviewer
Hyungsub Choi is an Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Seoul National University and was manager of the emerging technologies program at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, directing the Robert W. Gore Materials Innovation project. His training is in the history of science and technology, with specialties in recent developments in the fields of semiconductors, materials science, and nanotechnology. He has received degrees from Seoul National University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Johns Hopkins University. He was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) postdoctoral fellow at the University of Tokyo, Japan. Choi’s works have appeared in leading professional journals, such as Technology and Culture and Social Studies of Science. Currently, he is preparing a book examining the history of the semiconductor industry in the United States and Japan.