May 22, 2014

Student Startup Corrects Material Defects for More Affordable LED Lighting

By: Jodi Ackerman Frank

Source: cleantechNYconnect

With the phasing out of the outmoded incandescent light bulb in countries around the world and the public more aware than ever of the energy savings and long lifetime of light emitting diodes (LEDs), the LED industry for general lighting has experienced a wave of explosive growth in recent years.

Still, the expense to produce LEDs — thus the upfront cost to customers — has hampered more widespread consumer use. One major issue is that the semiconducting materials of which LEDs are made typically have large numbers of defects that have to be fixed,resulting in the high cost of the finished product.

Goodlight, an early-stage startup company founded by three doctoral candidates at the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE), has developed a low-cost technology thatcorrects this defect problem.

The startup recently won $10,000 as the first-place winner in the Energy/Sustainability categoryin the final round of the New York Business Plan Competition that took place at CNSE. The company also has beenawarded a $50,000 grant from SUNY’sTechnology Accelerator Fund program.

The company works closely with CNSE’s Incubators for Collaborating & Leveraging Energy And Nanotechnology (iCLEAN), one of six cleantech incubators around the State funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

The Technology

When an LED circuit is turned on, electrons move through the semiconductormaterial to produce light. Unfortunately, the defects in the semiconductor serve as the most favorable pathway for the electrons to travel. But when electrons pass through the damaged parts of the material, the LED produces little or no light. Companies deal with the problem largely by using more expensive substrate materials on which the LEDs are grown,decreasing the number of defects but also bumping up production costs.

Goodlight has developed a process that enhances the quality of the semiconductor simply by rerouting the electrons away from the deformed parts of the material. This is done in part by immersing the LED wafers in a chemical solution, which isolates the materials’ defects, creating a barrier that prevents the electrons from passing through.

"Our technology allows us to get light out of LEDs with a large number of defects and allows manufacturers to make affordable devices on material that previously would have been thrown away," said company Chief Technology OfficerJack Bulmer.

Essentially, Goodlight’s technology is an extra step that can be integrated into the existing LED production process. LED manufacturing is divided into four distinct stages: growth, fabrication, testing and binning, and packaging.

Goodlight’s technology is applied after the growth stage, which the company says allows it to target manufacturers that develop LED products from start to finish onsite. The company can also serve the manufacturers that focus only on developing the LED semiconductor materials, which are then shipped off to other companies for assembly and packaging.

The startup is seeking $1 million to establish a better prototype for lab researchand to finance an independent processing facility. This facility would be housed in CNSE’s Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Complex at RiverBend,which is being constructed in Buffalo, NY. The announcement for the state-of-the-art anchor hub complex for high-tech and green-energy businesses was made by Governor Cuomoin late 2013. The two buildings totaling 275,000 square feet of high-tech space are expected to be ready for occupancy by 2015.