Nanosys Raises $25 Million, Unveils Three-Pronged Deal with Samsung

8/10/10Follow @wroush

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controlled compound under the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) directive, and to sell the QuantumRail to manufacturers who market hardware in Europe and other regions that follow the ROHS limits, Nanosys will ultimately need to eliminate cadmium from its chemistry.

Hartlove says Nanosys has a way to do this. Essentially, it will get the same efficiencies out of future quantum dot crystals by creating graded layers of indium phosphide and zinc sulfide. But that’s a tricky process that hasn’t been done economically on a nanometer scale, and Samsung has agreed to help fund the necessary R&D.

Finally, Samsung is paying Nanosys for a license to nano-engineered structures that the company investigated with the goal of making photovoltaic panels more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity. When Hartlove joined the company in 2008 and reviewed its intellectual property portfolio, he chose not to pursue the solar technology for commercialization within Nanosys, because “it didn’t make sense to us to jump in when a number of other companies were already in product,” he says. But Nanosys did form a wholly owned division called QD Soleil around the solar patents, with the goal of either selling the division or licensing its technology. That’s what Samsung is doing now.

“Samsung has made an announcement that they are going to spend $20 billion to go into the renewable energy and green technology fields, and they have a very aggressive plan in solar,” says Hartlove. “They are looking to invest heavily in that area to try to catch up quickly, and by licensing some technology from us, they believe they can do that. It’s mutually beneficial in that it gives them access to good nanoscale technologies in terms of wavelength conversion and efficiency improvements that they are going to be able to put into their products as they bring solar panels to market. And for us it’s a way to see the technology actually get deployed in a field we were not planning to enter ourselves.”

As I recounted in my July profile of Nanosys, Hartlove spent part of his own career in South Korea, turning around a struggling specialty semiconductor company called MagnaChip and orienting it toward more mainstream customers. He says the relationships he formed in Korea laid the foundation for the agreements announced today.

“I have known Samsung senior management people since about 2003,” Hartlove says. “I have been dealing with a lot of the same folks now, through this process. Knowing the Samsung company culture and business culture and how they are approaching these markets has been very helpful in securing this deal.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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