Funding News: Plextronics, Organic Semiconductors

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Plextronics, a Pittsburgh, Pa.-based startup developing organic semiconductors for thin film solar and lighting applications, says it raised $20.6 million in a Series B funding, in a round led by Solvay North American Investments, a member of Solvay Group (SVYSY), a chemical and pharmaceutical group headquartered in Brussels. The funding will be used for R&D, manufacturing, as well as sales and marketing activities, as Plextronics looks to expand its global operations.

The round also included additional investment from the company’s prior investors — Firelake Capital Management, Birchmere Ventures, Draper Triangle Ventures and Newlin Investment Company.

Organic semiconductors, made out of plastic-like polymers, are attractive to the solar and electronics industry because they’re cheap compared with their inorganic, silicon and metal counterparts. The ones being developed by Plextronics can also be printed onto organic substrates using a simple inkjet printing process, which makes it possible to use them in a variety of applications, from illuminating flexible displays to lighting you might be able to literally paint on your wall one day.

But organic semiconductors are also not the most efficient electricity conductors. That’s a challenge Plextronics is taking on.

We wrote about Plextronics earlier this month, when the company was touting a “world record” for their organic solar cell efficiency of 5.4 percent (that is, the amount of sunlight that gets converted into electricity using their semiconductors). In comparison, inorganic thin-film solar (that is, solar technology that uses little or no silicon) has achieved 6 to 10 percent efficiency levels.

Founded in 2002 with technology developed at Carnegie Mellon University, Plextronics raised a $13.1 million Series A round in 2006. The company has raised a total of $37 million in equity capital over the last five years.

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