LED business news: Crystal and Asahi Kasei, Epistar and Lextar, and Seoul UV-C

June 24, 2020
UV LED makers Crystal IS and Asahi Kasei contribute to a UV Accelerator, while Epistar and Lextar form a mini/micro LED joint venture and Seoul Semiconductor supplies UV-C LEDs to appliance maker.

Crystal IS and Asahi Kasei have announced the UV Accelerator — a venture funding program focused on the use of ultraviolet (UV) energy in the UV-C band (100–280-nm) to fight viral or bacterial infection including the coronavirus. Epistar and Lextar have announced plans for a joint venture focused on emerging mini and micro LED technology for directly-emissive display and TV applications. Seoul Semiconductor has announced a deal with Gree Electric Appliances of China to utilize Seoul Viosys UV-C LEDs.

UV Accelerator

The UV Accelerator program is intended to bring more innovative minds into the germicidal fight. The program was certainly prompted in part by the coronavirus pandemic. UV-C radiation is clearly capable of inactivating the virus, although safely and effectively applying UV-C in a system remains a difficult task. We hosted a webcast on the topic recently, and the speaker Bob Karlicek, director of the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, covered the germicidal aspects of UV and the challenges involved.

Crystal is no neophyte in the disinfection space. The company has been one of the pioneers in UV-C LED manufacturing and has a unique value proposition based on the homogeneous approach to manufacturing — growing AlN (aluminum nitride) epitaxial layers on an AlN substrate. The company was originally venture funded and was acquired by Japan-based industrial conglomerate Asahi Kasei back in 2012.

As we learned in the aforementioned webcast, much of the germicidal UV activity is currently using legacy mercury lamps. But LEDs will ultimately usurp the market. Crystal has done an excellent job in developing new use cases for UV-C LEDs relative to legacy lamps — for example, based on the fact that mercury lamps must be left powered on while LEDs can be pulsed on and off — and the company contributed an article to LEDs Magazine on the topic a couple of years back proclaiming that the technology was suitable for commercial deployment even as it continued to mature.

Dr. Steven Berger, PhD, managing director of Asahi Kasei Americas, is managing the UV Accelerator. Berger was once the CEO of Crystal. Asahi Kasei will offer up to $250,000 investment per company selected with a compelling proposal of an air or surface disinfection concept. Interested parties can submit applications online. And Crystal will provide engineering assistance to selected companies.

UV in air conditioning

Also in the UV-C LED space, we have news from LED maker Seoul Semiconductor that a major Chinese manufacturer will utilize Seoul Viosys LEDs in air conditioning units. The new Gree Fresh Air units will embed the UV-C components internally and disinfect all air that passes through the unit.

“Since air conditioning systems operate by circulating indoor air drawn in and discharged again, aerosol transmission is a concern when using these systems. In South Korea, health authorities rolled out a new guideline for citizens to prevent aerosol transmission, which included advising people to open windows every two hours when using their air conditioners,” said Chae Hon Kim, executive vice president of Seoul Viosys. “We offer an optimized solution to simultaneously enable disinfection of viruses in air, as well as air purification by disinfecting the air drawn into air conditioner and eliminating viruses in air using Violeds technology. As more applications adopt the Violeds technology to support healthy life, the cost of UV LEDs is anticipated to be reduced to a level closer to visible white LEDs.”

Mini and micro LEDs

Meanwhile, transitioning to a completely different application space, Epistar and Lextar will continue to operate as independent companies while they pursue legacy solid-state lighting applications, but will also collaborate in a yet-to-be-named joint venture. As we have covered in several articles of late, mini and micro LEDs are critical in evolving video display technology that delivers another leap in realism from the best OLED and LCD-based displays currently on the market.

The announcement from Epistar and Lextar was about as vague a press release as one might find in the technology space, and that characterization only starts with the lack of a name for the new venture. It is referred to as Company A in the press release. The value of the new company is being established such that one share is worth a half share of Epistar stock or a quarter share of Lextar stock. The duo is creating a steering committee to guide the new entity.

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About the Author

Maury Wright | Editor in Chief

Maury Wright is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade. Wright first wrote for LEDs Magazine as a contractor in 2010, and took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2012. He has broad experience in technology areas ranging from microprocessors to digital media to wireless networks that he gained over 30 years in the trade press. Wright has experience running global editorial operations, such as during his tenure as worldwide editorial director of EDN Magazine, and has been instrumental in launching publication websites going back to the earliest days of the Internet. Wright has won numerous industry awards, including multiple ASBPE national awards for B2B journalism excellence, and has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Auburn University.