Gear up for a Second Semiconductor Revolution
Date: Wednesday , November 30, 2011
The hot trend in the industry today is to be “not hot”. Inefficiencies in power conversion, which is ubiquitous, result in hundreds of Tera Watt hours of wasted electrical energy which manifest itself as heat. Such waste is in markets as diverse as, data center power supplies, motor drives, photo-voltaic inverters, and hybrid or electric cars. Over 10 percent of the electrical energy generated in the U.S (more than 13 times of all the electrical energy generated from renewable sources). is lost in inefficient power conversion. Current solutions in these markets were designed for a world where energy was essentially free. That has changed by 180 degrees. Energy has become the foremost economic, environmental and security issue of our time. Energy Efficiency is a part of the energy solution that is readily applicable and this critical message is getting out now. Enhancing energy efficiency by “Redefining Power Conversion” is what Transphorm is doing. Further advancements in silicon, the semiconductor that supplies power conversion solutions today, are limited now due to the fact that this technology has reached its physical limits due to material properties. Gallium Nitride, the same material that is behind the LED lighting, is the new semiconductor material that our team has pioneered for power conversion and will allow this unnecessary remaining waste to be reduced by up to 90 percent. I firmly believe that we are at the cusp of a second semiconductor revolution based on Gallium Nitride.
Referring to the power conversion industry, I believe that a complete Gallium Nitride-based eco-system will develop symbiotic with the Silicon and GaN LED infrastructure that will deliver amazing power conversion efficiencies at Silicon-like costs. This will eliminate the need for over 300 coal-fired power plants in the U.S. and save over $40 billion in wasted electrical energy costs. The impact is of course magnified in power hungry countries like India; here you cannot build plants fast enough, so eliminating unnecessary waste is not only cool but essential.
Again referring to the industry that I am versed in, a big challenge that entrepreneurs face is the capital intensive nature of the business and the reduced number of VCs that have the stomach for it. The turbulent financial markets in the U.S. and Europe make customers risk averse to deploying new technologies which can prolong the valley of death for start-ups. The creativity, passion and faith that entrepreneurs bring to the table will solve many of the problems in the compressed time scales in which they must be solved. In addition to innovative value-added solutions, getting the correct, sophisticated, patient financial partners is key to success.
The author is the CEO & Co-Founder of Transphorm