CLICK HERE: free registration for Semiconductor Today and Semiconductor Today ASIACLICK HERE: free registration for Semiconductor Today and Semiconductor Today ASIA

Join our LinkedIn group!

Follow ST on Twitter

17 July 2013

MicroPower gains exclusive use of MBE reactor at Texas State to produce thermoelectric devices

Texas State University (in San Marcos) has announced an agreement granting MicroPower Global Ltd (which was established in 2008 and is developing thermoelectric devices for energy conservation, energy harvesting and refrigeration) exclusive use of a molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) system.

Operating at 200-600°C, MicroPower Global’s semiconductor chips can convert heat directly into electricity three times more efficiently than before, it is claimed, enabling waste heat recovery and hence energy savings in industrial and consumer applications. The firm says that, in the course of verification by the scientific community and third-party labs the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), its process was used and tested on two materials – mercury cadmium telluride and indium antimonide. However, lead telluride was selected as the material of choice for its first commercial products, and ultimately to meet the requirements of waste heat markets.

Use of the MBE system at Texas State’s Multifunctional Materials Laboratory building in San Marcos will enable the firm to begin production of its chips. The V100 MBE system (which is dedicated to lead salts), which has two reaction chambers, will continue to be owned by Texas State, with MicroPower paying a monthly fee once operational. Total production capacity using both chambers would equate to about 1.3 million cm2 worth of MicroPower chips annually (double the initial capacity that the firm had projected).

“We are pleased to continue our relationship with MicroPower [after first partnering in 2009] as the company enters an exciting new phase,” says Texas State’s chief research officer Bill Covington. “The level of commercial experience on offer to students is important to us, and several of our graduates have already become full-time MicroPower employees - as the company grows we very much hope this trend continues.”

Overseen by Texas State professors Tom Myers and Ravi Droopad, the MBE system will be moved by the end of the summer from its present location on campus to Texas State’s 38-acre Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Park (which opened its first building last November). Initially, MicroPower will have use of about 3500 square feet of dedicated and shared space at the 20,000-square-foot STAR One facility (which serves as a technology accelerator for start-up and early-stage businesses, providing tenants access to secure wet labs, clean space, conference room, and office space). MicroPower hence has the potential to expand, enabling it to move into early production at a facility specifically designed for its initial manufacturing needs.

In addition, MicroPower has also agreed terms with the university for the operation of a new research chamber, due to be installed this month on the development MBE system in the Roy F. Mitte science building on campus. Currently used for the growth of ‘barriers’ on MicroPower chips, this should significantly accelerate development capabilities.

“These agreements provide us with a great opportunity to accelerate our development, and in the near future to move seamlessly into production with much less capital expenditure than is typically associated with the transition to manufacturing,” comments MicroPower’s chairman Max Lewinsohn. “Our key challenge at this stage is to secure the necessary funding to enable us to ramp up our operations and be able to cater for the high level of interest we are experiencing.”

As well as pursuing traditional forms of financing, on 15 July MicroPower launched a crowdfunding campaign via Kickstarter, in order to give members of the public who are interested in energy savings and reducing emissions the opportunity to support the venture. The minimum target is $250,000, which would enable MicroPower to produce 100,000 sample chips – enough to distribute to a range of potential end-users (from automotive manufacturers and power companies to battery makers and consumer goods producers). “We’re also now at a stage where our technology is ready to enter the commercial world – the efficiency of our MicroPower Chips is at a level that is suitable for early applications and all we need is additional funding to allow us to ramp up our operations,” says Lewinsohn. “Now is the right time to spread the word about our technology and the role it can play, and a crowdfunding campaign is an excellent way of letting people know what we’re all about,” he adds. If the target is not reached, none of the money is drawn from those who pledged support (via debit/credit card).

“To date, all of our investment has come from private placements, and we continue to pursue this avenue via discussions with further private investors and family offices,” says Lewinsohn. “We’re also looking at other avenues – such as strategic partnerships by industry or geography, each of which allows us to reach a different audience.”

Tags: MBE lead telluride




See Latest IssueRSS Feed