Hybrid and electric cars that are lighter and have longer range. Laptops without a converter “brick” that plugs into the wall outlet. Solar panels that lose much less energy when they link to the electrical power grid.
Those are some of the products that Transphorm, a Southern California startup that officially “emerged from stealth” Wednesday, hopes to create with its new power conversion technology. The company announced it has raised $20 million in a third round of funding led by Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital and Lux Capital, bringing its total venture funding to $38 million.
Transphorm says it has technology provides a 90 percent improvement in the efficiency of converting between alternating current to direct current electricity — a step necessary to power everything from massive computer data centers to a plug-in hybrid.
Rather than converters based on silicon, one of the most abundant elements on the planet, Transphorm’s technology is based on gallium nitride, a material that must be artificially manufactured. Nevertheless, “it is a miracle material for power conversion” that can make the electrical grids of the U.S. and the developing world dramatically more efficient over the next 20 to 25 years, Mishra said.
Transphorm plans to unveil its first products at an energy conference in Texas next month, but Mishra said the company initially plans to focus on power conversion for power-hungry data centers. Transphorm has also received a $2.95 million grant from the federal government’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which funds research in advanced energy technology.
Later, if all things go as expected, automobile manufacturers, computer makers, photovoltaic manufacturers and other companies that make products that convert between AC and DC power could use the startup’s technology, driving down the initially higher cost of gallium nitride technology.
Power conversion works via rapidly switching circuits, which enable the transformation of electricity from one form to another. Transphorm’s efficiency breakthrough comes in the form of a revolutionary material known as Gallium Nitride, or “GaN”, which switches at far higher frequencies than traditional components. This superior material, coupled with innovative circuit design, enables the world’s most efficient, most compact, and most cost-effective power conversion technology.