Power conversion startup Transphorm has added yet another high-profile investor to its list of backers: George Soros’ investment fund Quantum Strategic Partners. On Thursday Transphorm announced that it has raised another $25 million from Quantum Strategic Partners, as well as existing investors Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, Lux Capital and Foundation Capital. Transphorm has now raised $63 million.
Four-year-old Transphorm makes energy-efficient power conversion devices out of the semiconductor material gallium nitride that can eliminate up to 90 percent of electric conversion losses. The devices are meant to compete with less-energy-efficient silicon-based power conversion gear. Using silicon for converting power for electronics, HVAC systems and computing has reached its limit, according to the CEO of startup Transphorm, Umesh Mishra.
In March Transphorm launched its first product: power diodes made of gallium nitride that can be embedded in power converters. Power diodes are a necessary component of all electronics and are made of a semiconductor material — in most cases silicon — that conducts electrons in one direction.
Transphorm plans to make various devices that its manufacturing customers can turn into converters, power supplies, PV, motor drives and hybrid car components. In particular, Transphorm’s power diodes could be a good fit for power supply equipment makers that sell their wares to data centers.
Transphorm didn’t invent gallium nitride as a semiconductor; other companies have been tinkering with the material for years. But most companies that use gallium nitride are working on low-voltage conversion, while Transphorm is looking to crack high-voltage conversion. In terms of how much more the technology will cost compared to the standard on the market today, Mishra has said that “no new technology is cheap.”
Check out our video interview with Transphorm, one of our 10 Big Ideas winners at Green:Net 2011: