24 February 2011

Transphorm emerges from stealth mode prior to launching GaN power modules

At a private event at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View in Silicon Valley, Transphorm Inc of Goleta, CA, near Santa Barbara, CA, USA has emerged from stealth mode as it prepares to launch compact power conversion devices and modules based on gallium nitride (GaN) technology, offering increased conversion efficiency.

Last May, the firm completed a $20.2m Series C financing round led by Google Ventures, joined by existing investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital and Lux Capital (with Google Ventures partner Wesley Chan, Kleiner partner Randy Komisar and Foundation partner Richard Redelfs all becoming board directors). This brought total capital raised from all three rounds to $38m.

Transphorm was co-founded in 2007 by CEO Umesh Mishra, a professor of electrical & computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), together with his former student Primit Parikh as president. The management team also includes (as vice presidents) Yifeng Wu Ph.D. (Product Development), Jim Hartman (Wafer Fab Manufacturing), Heber Clement (Backend Manufacturing), Carl Blake (Marketing) and Dan Hauck (Worldwide Sales). The firm has 75 employees, including a core staff of researchers from Mishra’s lab at UCSB.

Existing silicon-based power converters can be up to 90% efficient, so 10% of energy is lost (e.g. as waste heat). Transphorm says that the hundreds of terawatts of lost energy across the electrical grid is equivalent to 318 coal-fired power plants and costs the US economy $40bn annually. The firm reckons that its power modules can eliminate up to 90% of these losses (boosting efficiency into the upper 90% range), saving energy across the grid. Also, Transphorm claims that its custom-designed power modules easy to embed in virtually any electrical system, from consumer electronics products to computer servers, HVAC equipment, industrial motor drives, and inverters for solar panels and electric vehicles. It aims to sells the modules to power equipment manufacturers.

“Why put up with needless energy waste in every electrical system and device, when we can quickly and cost-effectively design products that are inherently energy efficient?,” says Mishra. “Transphorm’s next-generation power modules cut waste, increase efficiency, reduce system size and simplify overall product design,” he claims.

“Solving the enormous problem of power waste will create immediate, long-term shared value for Transphorm’s customers and investors,” reckons Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Randy Komisar. “It was imperative for our firm to get behind Transphorm because it is the first company with a viable, commercial-scale solution to energy losses associated with high-voltage power conversion.” In contrast, most firms that use GaN are working on low-voltage conversion, comments Mishra.

“Since we deliver a complete solution from the original materials through [circuit design and device fabrication] to the final modules, we are in a position to rapidly innovate and deliver product in quick response to demand,” states Parikh. “We look forward to helping our partners open a new era in ultra-efficient and compact power conversion,” he adds.

Transphorm is already supplying test converter modules to customers in the areas of computer servers, photovoltaic inverters, and motor drives for building systems.

“We recognize the need to innovate to uncover new opportunities for optimal energy efficiency,” says Toshihiro Sawa, managing director, Technology & Development Division of Japan-based motion control firm Yaskawa Electric Corp. “The time is right to develop power conversion technologies that can cut power waste and reduce excess heat, and Transphorm provides a viable solution,” he adds.

“It is imperative that power conversion efficiency be increased both to cut unnecessary losses and to save energy, but also to reduce waste heat which has negative impact on volume, weight, cost and reliability,” says Dr Leo Casey, chief technology officer of Satcon Corp. “The innovations made by Transphorm offer an attractive solution to this problem.”

Transphorm will unveil its first product at the Applied Power Electronics Conference & Exposition (APEC 2011) in Fort Worth, TX (6–10 March).

See related items:

GaN power device market to reach $350m in 2015

Tags: GaN power modules GaN

Visit: www.transphormusa.com

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