Oral history interview with Robert E. Lorenzini

  • 2007-Sep-17

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.

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