ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It seems the best way to produce next-generation “space wafers” is to not actually fly to space.
ACME Advanced Materials — an Albuquerque startup that planned to use suborbital flights to produce high-quality semiconductor wafers in microgravity — has opted instead to create its own microgravity environment with parabolic flights. Those flights use modified fixed-wing planes to create reduced gravity by flying sharply up and down.
The company may still eventually fly its wafers to space, but for now, it’s a lot cheaper to use reduced-gravity aircraft to produce the firm’s ‘S’-grade, or ‘space-grade’ wafers than the cost of rocketing them into suborbit, said ACME President and CEO Rich Glover.
“With suborbital flight you get a lot better microgravity, but it costs a whole lot more,” Glover said. “Parabolic flights are an order of magnitude less expensive, but the process is still good enough to result in superior processed material. As a business, we need to focus on that to maximize profit.”