ARC linkage projects: tackling complex technical challenges

When Silanna Semiconductor were looking to figure out some of the more complex technical issues they were experiencing in their manufacturing process, they immediately looked to Scientia Professor Liangchi Zhang and his team in the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. With a relationship with Silanna going back 15 years, Professor Zhang was only too pleased to help. The result? Three ARC Linkage Projects worth almost $1M.

Industry partnership targets silicon-on-sapphire stress

The first project concerned what Andrew Brawley, Vice President of Manufacturing at Silanna, refers to as silicon-on-sapphire stress. “We found that we were getting an unusual amount of breakages of sapphire wafers in the production line and I thought it was about time that we found out why,” he says.

“Professor Zhang and his team investigated the mechanisms of sapphire wafer cracking, found a solution and we subsequently implemented it. It reduced breakages from 10% to 1% and has saved Silanna between $300,000 and $400,000 to date.”

The second project sought to develop a method to predict residual stresses in thin film systems, which Professor Zhang says is a very difficult scientific problem. “Here we are talking about interfaces in the size of nanometres, but you need to predict it on the large-scale engineering level as well. We also solved this one successfully and the software package we developed for them has led to production improvements of 10%,” he says.

Strong outcomes for the future

Professor Zhang and his team are still working on the third project, which seeks to characterise the thermal resistance of thin films and film interfaces, but they are making excellent progress. “We have presented our results to Silanna and they are very happy with it. Once it’s installed, they will be the first in the world in this area to be able to characterise the thermal resistance of the thin films and interfaces,” says Zhang.

Brawley has been incredibly pleased with all the project outcomes so far and has thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with the team at UNSW. “Professor Zhang is an excellent researcher and an excellent manager as well. He really knows how to focus his team and keep the project heading in the right direction,” he says.

Partnership in summary


Silanna Semiconductor

Type of partnership

Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project


$959k (total for three Linkage Projects)

Collaborating since


  1. Discover the mechanism of sapphire wafer cracking.
  2. Develop a method for residual stress prediction in thin-film systems.
  3. Characterise the thermal resistance of thin films and interfaces.

Reduced sapphire wafer cracking from 10% to 1%, saving Silanna up to $400,000; and enabled residual stress prediction, improving the production rate by 10%.

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