DURHAM, NC … Light emitting diode and semiconductor manufacturer Cree opened the world’s first commercial Gallium Nitride (GaN) production facility in Research Triangle Park Tuesday.

The 230,000 square foot engineering and production facility will enable Cree to commercialize scientific advances that will create a dramatic shift in the amount of energy required by devices such as lights, motors and communications equipment.

The uniqueness of the facility is because of Cree (Nasdaq: CREE) chips based on silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN).

More than 200 people turned out for the opening of the plant, which once housed production for advanced networking devices from Cronos and JDS Uniphase. JDS acquired Cronos and later shuttered the plant.

“The advanced power components being developed and produced here are important elements of our business strategy,” said Chuck Swoboda, chief executive officer of Cree. “Moreover, they represent Cree’s continued commitment to delivering efficient technologies needed to better serve the world’s growing energy demand.”

Cree announced the expansion in August of 2004 with plans add 300 additional jobs. The land was purchased from JDS Uniphase in January of 2005 for $7.4 million.

“The new Cree site houses one of the first commercial SiC and GaN production facilities in the world devoted to serving the power and wireless infrastructure markets,” said John Palmour, Cree’s executive vice president for Advanced Devices.

Cree is emerging is a leader in GaN-based technology as well as standard silicon chip development.

According to industry sources at Strategies Unlimited Inc., the GaN-based device market is expected to grow from $3.3-to-$3.4 billion in 2005 to $7.2 billion by 2009. Other companies have tried and failed to harness GaN’s exceptional properties.

Cree is also developing SiC and GaN “wide bandgap” radio frequency devices for Department of Defense and WiMAX applications, and provides SiC and GaN foundry services for defense and general-purpose applications.

WiMAX is a wireless broadband technology.

Cree: www.cree.com