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University of Cambridge spin-out Porotech to disrupt optoelectronics with first gallium nitride product

University of Cambridge spin-out Porotech has unveiled a breakthrough product that could have a significant impact on augmented reality and next-generation display technology, including phones, TVs and wearables.

The company is focused on the use of gallium nitride (GaN) – the semiconductor material of the future that is poised to disrupt the electronics and optoelectronics fields.

Dr Tongtong Zhu, CEO and co-founder of Poro Technologies. Picture: Porotech
Dr Tongtong Zhu, CEO and co-founder of Poro Technologies. Picture: Porotech

Having raised a £1.5million seed investment round in April, Porotech yesterday (Tuesday) launched the world’s first commercial native red LED epiwafer for micro-LED applications.

Micro-LED display technologies offer a step change from standard display panels thanks to their optimum brightness, efficiency and image definition, as well as improved lifetime.

This is seen as critical in near-to-eye applications, such as augmented reality and head-mounted displays.

The market for these is expected to grow to tens of billions of dollars in the coming years.

But progress on micro-LEDs has been held back by the challenge of creating high-efficiency, ultra-fine-pitch red pixels – a problem Porotech has solved.

To understand how, you need to know your GaN from your AllnGaP.

Traditional red LEDs are primarily based on aluminum indium gallium phosphide (AlInGaP) materials.

Could AR glasses change how we use smartphones in future?
Could AR glasses change how we use smartphones in future?

But they show a drastic drop in efficiency as the size of the device size decreases –thanks to large carrier diffusion lengths and high surface recombination velocity.

Porotech deploys a unique production process to create a new class of porous GaN semiconductor materials. This has enabled it to create the world’s first commercially available native red indium gallium nitride (InGaN) LED epiwafer for micro-LED applications.

Porotech CEO and co-founder Dr Tongtong Zhu, pictured left, said: “Micro-LED displays using GaN-based material technology are widely seen as the only technology that can deliver displays bright and efficient enough to meet the requirements of AR.

“With AR glasses expected to one day replace smartphones – or at least reduce our interaction with the devices in our pockets – development of advanced materials to improve performance is crucial.

“Integration of AlInGaP red and indium InGaN green and blue LED displays in a module with micron-scale pixels is extremely challenging as high surface recombination velocities in AlInGaP devices make this material unsuitable for efficient micro-LEDs.

“Our breakthrough extends the emission range of InGaN LEDs to meet the performance needs of the red display, whilst delivering the ability to scale wafer size required by micro-LED semiconductor display technology.”

What does this mean? From efficient power transistors and lasers to quantum devices, sensors and solar cells, Porotech has its hands on some technology with huge potential.

The introduction of porous architectures rewrites what is possible in a host of fields and it is both robust and flexible, meaning it can be tailored to different applications, such as TV, phones and smartwatches.

The potential has not gone unnoticed. Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of the University of Cambridge, and IQ Capital Partners led the company’s seed round earlier this year, with the additional participation of Martlet Capital and a syndicate of angel investors from Cambridge Angels and Cambridge Capital Group.

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

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