Soraa, the Khosla Ventures-backed startup that uses the semiconductor gallium nitride rather than sapphire in its LED and laser technology, came out of stealth mode Tuesday and unveiled its flagship product aimed to rival and replace the traditional 50-watt halogen bulb.
Soraa, one of my picks for cleantech startups to watch in 2012, calls its LED technology disruptive. And while we’ve have to wait and see if that plays out, the company has a target and a market in mind. The Fremont, Calif.-based 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. Soraa also says its LED lamp has a payback within months, not years. All consumers like a quick payback on their investment. It’s especially important for commercial and industrial companies — the market Soraa is targeting first.
Soraa says it achieves a high enough light output to justify using an expensive substrate like gallium nitride (GaN). According to the startup, its 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. A Gan on Gan LED light also handles more electric current per area than other LEDs.
Startups make claims all the time about the tech 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.
The company also has considerable backing from investors. It raised $88.6 million last fall to commercialize its products. Overall, investors have sunk $100 million into the startup.
Another interesting tidbit. The company’s manufacturing and design facility are all housed at its headquarters in Fremont, Calif., which I’ve been told is unique within the solid-state lighting industry.