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AlN growth startup targets $3m injection

With backers already interested, Aurora UV is looking for an experienced LED industry partner to fund commercialization of its quality HVPE-grown substrates for making UV LEDs.

A spin-out from the University of California Santa Barbara, wants cash to help AlN UV LEDs match the performance of GaN blue emitters.

Troy Baker, chief technology officer of Aurora UV, has designed a hydride vapor phase epitaxy (HVPE) reactor based on his experience working with GaN LED pioneer Shuji Nakamura.

While performing doctoral and post-doctoral research under Nakamura at UCSB Troy helped develop high-quality HVPE-grown AlN substrates that can be used to produce UV LEDs.

“Mid and deep UV LEDs are extremely poor efficiency, around 1 percent,” Baker explained to compoundsemiconductor.net. “I think that with the proper substrates UV LEDs can be as efficient as blue LEDs.”

Aurora UV, formerly known as Nitride Solutions, won top prizes in two categories at UCSB s May 2008 new venture competition, and also won a US national prize.

Now a top epitaxy equipment maker is poised to produce a system for Aurora UV based on Baker s patented design, but the startup needs $3 million to go ahead. Investors are already interested in providing “a substantial amount of money”, but are hoping to be joined by knowledgeable LED industry counterparts.

“We think the best way would be to partner with an existing LED company that then uses our substrates to make the UV LEDs,” Baker explained.

Cleaning up
UV LED manufacturers tout their products as more economical and reliable replacements for mercury-based UV fluorescent sterilization technologies. Aurora UV says that this market is already worth over $1 billion, and that UV LEDs could also enable portable water treatment devices.

Baker points out that AlGaN active regions with typical dislocation densities around 109 cm-2 are limiting efficiency of shorter wavelength UV LEDs, which have higher AlN contents.

He and his colleagues at UCSB developed original HVPE techniques that lower bulk AlN dislocation levels to 106. “I ve grown films up to 360 µm thick at rates of 180 µm an hour,” Baker said, yet the reactor he previously used has limited further progress.

Working independently from UCSB, Aurora UV now intends to begin business with a reactor design that should enable AlN substrate production in commercial volumes.

The company currently only comprises Baker and chief financial officer Muriel Taylor, who are currently recruiting an additional scientist to help commercialize its technology.

Taylor, a 20-year veteran entrepreneur, has been involved with the UCSB competition for ten years but has never before taken such an interest in a winner.

“This is the first time I ever saw a business that I became really passionate about and really wanted to see commercialized,” she said.

• Would your company be interested in working with Aurora UV? Contact Troy Baker for more information.

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