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4 November 2009


Momentive wins $4.5m ARPA-E grant for solid-state lighting

Specialty materials firm Momentive Performance Materials Inc of Albany, NY, USA is to receive $4.5m in funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to continue the development of technology for low-cost production of LEDs used in solid-state lighting (SSL) as well as for increased LED light source performance. Although LED-based lighting can consume 75% less energy and have a longer lifetime than common lighting options, it is currently more expensive to produce than conventional lighting. Momentive will add about 20% of its own money to the DOE’s funding for the project.

Momentive’s proposal is one of only 37 research projects selected (out of almost 3700 submissions) to receive a total of $151m in a first round of funding awarded on 26 October through the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. ARPA-E was established under the America Competes Act of 2007, and in April President Obama announced $400m in initial funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“We are honored to be among the first recipients of this innovative funding program and its inspiring mission of working toward a low-cost, secure and low-carbon energy future for the US,” says chief technology officer Eric Thaler. The DOE has estimated that by 2025, with appropriate R&D funding, the displacement of incandescent and fluorescent lighting sources with SSL could result in a 29% cut in US energy consumption for lighting. LED-based lighting is also more versatile than conventional lighting, as it can be integrated into a variety of structures, components and design elements for widespread use.

Based on Momentive's platform technology and initiated by Momentive, the two-year energy research project brings together a team of companies specializing in ammonothermal bulk gallium nitride (GaN) crystal growth technology, high-pressure/high-temperature reactor development, and LED device testing and development to produce a high-pressure ammonothermal process for the inexpensive production of high-quality, single-crystal GaN substrates at high growth rates.

Collaborating with Momentive on the project are Soraa Inc of Goleta, CA and Advanced Photonic Crystals LLC of Fort Mill, SC. Solid-state lighting startup Soraa was founded by GaN materials and device researchers at University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) including Steve DenBaars and Shuji Nakamura, and in February 2008 raised investment from Khosla Ventures. Advanced Photonic Crystals is a manufacturer of solid-state crystals for laser, photonics and optoelectronics applications, with proprietary technology licensed exclusively from Clemson University and expertise in high-pressure autoclave engineering and crystal growth.

“The grant will allow us to help develop the commercial-scale technology, processes and equipment needed for the cost-effective, mass production of energy-efficient LEDs,” says Thaler. “This, in turn, should help facilitate a game-changing transition from current lighting technology to solid-state lighting,” he adds.

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