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University of Cambridge spin-out Poro Technologies raises £1.5m for its semiconductor of the future technology

A University of Cambridge spin-out Poro Technologies focused on pioneering use of the ‘semiconductor material of the future’ has closed a £1.5million seed investment round.

It will use the funds to set up a pilot plant in the city and develop its first major products.

Poro Technologies co-founders, from left, CEO Dr Tongtong Zhu, CSO Professor Rachel Oliver and CTO Dr Yingjun Liu. Picture: Porotech (33407797)
Poro Technologies co-founders, from left, CEO Dr Tongtong Zhu, CSO Professor Rachel Oliver and CTO Dr Yingjun Liu. Picture: Porotech (33407797)

Porotech, as it is known, is a galium nitride (GaN) material technology developer based at South Cambridge Business Park in Sawston.

While silicon has been at heart of computer chips and microelectronics for decades, we are reaching the limit of its performance, so a viable alternative like GaN is highly attractive, particularly since it can sustain higher voltages and is more efficient.

Dr Tongtong Zhu, CEO and co-founder of Porotech, said: “Without a doubt, gallium nitride is the semiconductor material of the future. It is on the rise to revolutionise and transform the electronics industry.

“Porotech is at the forefront of this particular revolution, where we have developed the first production technique that allows the integration of porous GaN in tailored forms to significantly increase performance of real-world electronic and optoelectronic devices and applications”.

The seed round was a Cambridge affair. Co-led by Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of the University of Cambridge, and IQ Capital Partners, it also featured participation of Martlet Capital and a syndicate of angel investors from Cambridge Angels and Cambridge Capital Group.

Professor Rachel Oliver, CSO and co-founder of Porotech and director of the Cambridge Centre for Gallium Nitride at the University of Cambridge, said: “I am really excited about the potential of Porotech’s new porous gallium nitride materials and processes. Gallium nitride is a material poised to have impact across electronics and optoelectronics - from efficient power transistors to quantum devices - and the introduction of porous architectures can extend its capability in all these realms.”

GaN’s attractive properties are derived from the fact that it has a wider ‘band gap’ than silicon - a measure of the amount of energy needed to free an electron from orbit around the nucleus to become a mobile charge carrier.

This enables it to sustain higher voltages than silicon and means currents can run faster through it. Charging devices can be smaller, and less energy is lost with GaN - in fact one University of Bristol estimate suggested that replacing all current electronic devices with it would cut our power use by between 10 and 25 per cent.

Porotech has a unique production process, that enables the creation of a new class of porous GaN semiconductor materials and structures with enhanced functionality.

Porous GaN is like a semiconductor composite of solid GaN and air, and allows Porotech to engineer a wide range of material properties - optical, mechanical, thermal and electrical.

This means it has an entirely new material platform for semiconductor devices to be built upon.

The company expects its porous GaN wafers, material technologies and device solutions to redefine what is possible with GaN technologies.

Its multifunctional GaN semiconductor wafers will be targeted to their final application, enabling the cost-effective manufacture of LEDs, lasers, power electronics, quantum light sources, sensors and solar cells.

Porotech has a licensing business model, involving proving by making, which will commercialise its material platform technology and device solutions with its partners and foundry network.

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