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SiOnyx and Harvard University to Commercialize Black Silicon

Published on October 14, 2008 at 10:26 AM

Harvard University's Office of Technology Development (OTD) and SiOnyx, Inc. today announced that SiOnyx has exclusively licensed Harvard's portfolio of black silicon patents.

Black silicon, a novel laser implant technique that radically alters the photonic properties of semiconductor devices, was discovered by Harvard’s Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, who holds a joint appointment in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

A highly light-absorbent material, black silicon absorbs nearly twice the visible light of regular silicon and detects infrared light that is normally invisible to silicon based devices, a capability that allows for dramatic performance enhancements in applications ranging from simple light detection to advanced digital imaging and solar energy.

In consideration for licensing the patents, Harvard has received an equity position in SiOnyx and will receive downstream royalties. SiOnyx also recently raised $11 million in funding from Harris & Harris, Polaris Venture Partners and RedShift Ventures.

SiOnyx is producing devices that represent the first and only known, low cost, highly scalable platform for hyper-spectral imaging. The SiOnyx implant is compatible with established semiconductor manufacturing processes and introduces no new material. The company’s patented process employs femtosecond laser processing of the target material resulting in an extremely thin (300nm) photoconduction layer applicable to both biased (detection) and photovoltaic (power generation) applications.

”Black silicon addresses the fundamental pain point in all photonics systems, the sensitivity to light,” said Stephen Saylor, president and CEO of SiOnyx, Inc. “By demonstrating that the black silicon process cost effectively scales within the established semiconductor device manufacturing infrastructure, SiOnyx is poised to transform the $10B+ light detection, imaging and photovoltaic markets by offering device manufactures a path to smaller, lighter and more efficient photonic systems.”

“Black silicon is a truly groundbreaking technology, and one that we are thrilled to have emanate from our lab at Harvard,” said Mazur. “With guidance and support from Harvard’s Office of Technology Development, we’ve been able to successfully put it on a path to commercialization – one that I am confident will lead to significant opportunity for the technology and SiOnyx.”

SiOnyx joins a growing list of Harvard spinouts, including Nano-Terra, SiEnergy, and Sirtris Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SIRT). Since 2005, more than twenty companies have spun out of Harvard, several raising funding from leading venture capital firms including Alloy Ventures, Fidelity Biosciences, Flagship Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Novartis Bioventure Fund, Oxford Bioscience Partners, Polaris Venture Partners and more.

"The technical advances represented by black silicon and the exciting steps being taken to develop it for commercial applications serve as even more evidence of the entrepreneurial energy that continues to gel and accelerate at Harvard," said Isaac T. Kohlberg, Harvard University's Senior Associate Provost and Chief Technology Development Officer. “The story of black silicon and SiOnyx is an excellent example of Harvard's commitment to transfer promising, early-stage technology out of our research enterprise so it can be developed and utilized for the good of society."

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