Soraa Challenges the LED World

FEBRUARY 9, 2012 | By Green Energy and Electric

In 2007, Soraa's founders made a bet on an LED technology platform completely different than current industry practice, a technology most industry experts at the time considered to be impossible to execute. They bet on Gallium Nitride substrates for LEDs, or GaN on GaN™ LEDs rather than sapphire in its laser technology.

Fast forward 5 years, Soraa just came out with its flagship product aimed to rival and replace the traditional 50 watt halogen bulb. The company's first product is called the Soraa LED MR16 lamp, a product designed to provide the same brightness of a halogen without the need of a mechanical fan. The target market Soraa has in mind - commercial and industrial industries. Soraa claims the LED lamp payback is within months, not years. All consumers like a quick payback on their investment, it's a deal breaker in commercial and industrial retrofits.

Soraa has already been a pick for cleantech start-ups to watch in 2012. The company has considerable backing from investors. They raised $88.6 million last fall to commercialize its products, which it says achieve a high enough light output to justify using an expensive substrate like gallium nitride. According to the startup, it's pure GaN crystal is up to 1,000 times purer than using GaN on a sapphire or silicon carbide substrates. The result is a brighter light that has a uniform color and creates only one shadow.

Startups make claims all the time about the technology inside their products. Considering the folks behind Soraa, it's worth a listen. The company was founded by Shuji Nakamura, Steve DenBaars and James Speck. Nakamura, often referred to as the father of the LED, invented the blue laser and white LED. DenBaars is a professor of materials and co-director of the Solid-State Lighting Center at the University of California Santa Barbara; and Speck chairs the materials department at UC-Santa Barbara. Soraa's CEO Eric Kim was previously senior vice president for Intel's digital home group unit. If that wasn't enough - their manufacturing and design facility is housed at its headquarters in Fremont, CA, which is unique within the solid-state lighting industry.

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Andy Beck