13 March 2020
Odyssey names former MACOM executive Alex Behfar as executive chairman & acting CEO
Odyssey Semiconductor Inc, which is developing high-voltage power switching components and systems based on proprietary gallium nitride (GaN) processing technology, has appointed Alex Behfar (a member of the board of directors since June 2019) as executive chairman & acting CEO.
The appointment comes as Odyssey’s GaN foundry in Ithaca, NY, USA is in the final stage of being transformed into a facility for GaN transistor fabrication and development. The foundry is nearly fully operational.
Former chairman & CEO Dr Richard Brown has been named chief technical officer, and will oversee efforts to accelerate the development of a prototype of the firm’s technology to produce GaN-based high-voltage switching power conversion devices and systems that may quickly supplant silicon carbide (SiC) as the dominant premium power-switching device material, it is believed.
Behfar has over 30 years of experience in the semiconductor industry. He currently serves as a mentor for Cornell University’s Praxis Center for Venture Development and is president of technical and business consulting firm Ulexus Consulting. From January 2016 to January 2019, Behfar served as MACOM’s senior VP & chief scientist, Photonics. From December 2014 to January 2016, he was MACOM’s senior VP & general manager, Photonic Solutions. In 2000, Behfar founded BinOptics Corp, a supplier of indium phosphide (InP) lasers for data centers, mobile backhaul, silicon photonics and access networks, and served as its chairman & CEO from inception through to its $230m acquisition by MACOM in December 2014. Prior to BinOptics, he worked at IBM for more than 10 years in various capacities, including Laser Enterprise, where he designed the first commercially viable high-power 830nm and 980nm gallium arsenide (GaAs)-based lasers. Laser Enterprise was later sold by IBM to Uniphase and is now part of II-VI Inc. He also served as IBM’s worldwide cross-functional Intellectual Assets Program Manager for optoelectronics and telecommunications.
Behfar has been awarded over 50 US patents. He holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University and a B.Sc. in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from King's College, University of London.
Brown has 18 years of experience in the design and fabrication of semiconductor devices, specializing in GaN and related materials. Prior to Odyssey, he was a visiting scientist at Cornell University, where he worked on developing GaN-based transistors for radio-frequency communications applications. He was also a founding member and device scientist at Avogy Inc, a company funded by Khosla Ventures. Brown holds a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Cornell University.
GaN-based systems outperform silicon and SiC-based systems due to the superior material properties of GaN. To date, GaN devices have proven difficult to process using standard semiconductor processing methods. Odyssey says that it has developed a novel processing modification that will allow GaN to be processed in a manner that, for the first time, will make production of high-voltage GaN power switching devices viable.
The premium power switching device market - which is described as applications where silicon-based systems perform insufficiently - is projected to reach over $3.5bn by 2025 and is currently dominated by silicon carbide. This growth is driven largely by the rapid adoption of electric vehicles (EV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and the growing number of installations of renewables such as solar and wind power as well as increased demand for more efficient industrial motor drives.