AlN substrate specialist Crystal IS raises $10.6 million

Sept. 4, 2006
A second investment round led by Lux Capital has raised $10.6 million for the leading supplier of native aluminum nitride (AlN) substrates.
Crystal IS, a Green Island, NY-based supplier of native aluminum nitride (AlN) substrates, has successfully completed a $10.6 million second financing round. Low-defect AlN substrates can lead to the production of higher performance devices, including LEDs, based on nitride materials.

Crystal IS was founded in the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) incubator program to develop growth technology for native AlN crystals, and the manufacture of low-defect AlN substrates from these crystals. The company previously had raised $5.1 million in September 2004 to scale its technology.

Low-defect AlN substrates will enable low-cost, high-efficiency, high-reliability UV optoelectronic products, as well as high-power RF components. UV LEDs have applications in water purification, medical products and detection devices for compact explosives.

Crystal IS says that its manufacturing technique of cutting wafers from the bulk crystal can be further scaled for the production of highly affordable substrates. This should make the process suitable for future high-volume, low-cost applications such as white LED-based lighting.

In May 2006, Crystal IS released the world’s first low defect 2-inch native AlN substrates. Competing technologies can only offer small areas of less than 0.66-inch or have a high defect density.

"This round of funding will allow Crystal IS to ramp production of the 2-inch substrates and reduce prices, enabling cost-efficient high performance UV devices and opening new opportunities in current high volume consumer applications," said Crystal IS CEO Ding Day.

Crystal IS has also developed a GaN-Ready™ version of its AlN substrates, where an epitaxial layer of gallium nitride (GaN) is grown on top of the AlN substrate. The GaN-ready product can be used as a substrate for the growth of GaN-based devices such as 405nm lasers for BluRay and HD-DVD, as well as high-power LEDs. Crystal IS says this is the lowest defect-density GaN substrates on the market.

The investment was led by Lux Capital, with participation from 3i, ARCH Venture Partners, Harris & Harris Group, Credit Suisse (on behalf of the New York State Common Retirement Fund) and Taiwanese Linkmore Ltd.

Lux Capital co-founder and managing partner Josh Wolfe said that Crystal IS has "a winning combination of patented processes, proprietary materials, high-value end markets and the team to execute."