LONDON — Displays are getting plenty of attention from investors this week in Europe, with two firms announcing funding for developing their next generation technologies: one working on a 3D LED technology based on nanowires, the other at an earlier stage looking at new reflective technology enabling low cost, printable dynamic displays.
In France, Aledia, a developer and manufacturer of 3D LEDs for display applications based on its gallium-nitride-nanowires-on-silicon platform, closed a $37 million series C financing round with Intel Capital as a new investor, bringing its total funding to date to around 67 million euros (about $83 million at current exchange rates).
Meanwhile, in the UK, Bodle Technologies, an Oxford University spinout that says it aims to transform how and where we interact with displays, attracted about $8.5 million in series A funding.
Both companies have teams with strong management pedigrees from previous experience in optical technologies – Aledia with experience from Bookham, and Bodle with Cambridge Display Technologies.
Aledia is targeting greater efficiency and brightness for mobile displays, as well as emerging requirements for virtual reality and augmented reality displays. Giorgio Anania, CEO, chairman and co-founder of Aledia, said that current generation 2D LEDs face major difficulties in manufacturing, and that its nanowire technology aims to overcome those challenges.
"If you succeed in developing this technology for creating complex mobile displays, then it is a $75 billion market just in this sub-sector," Anania said.
He said that for a 4K display, for example, which requires 24 million pixels, it can be difficult to create monolithic displays since 2D LED manufacturing naturally will have some defects — so you can’t be certain of the yield.
"The whole industry is struggling with achieving 99.99999 percent yield," Anania said. "But we will be able to avoid the issue because each sub-pixel is made up of a number of nanowires, and hence we have a certain element of redundancy built-in. In particular, when manufacturing below 10 microns, the efficiency with 2D LED drops, whilst this isn’t the case with nanowires."
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Aledia is developing a new generation of LEDs that are manufactured on large-diameter silicon wafers (200mm/8-inch, scalable to 300mm/12 inch) and targeted at mobile display applications.
Aledia says its LED technology will lead to displays that are more energy-efficient, much brighter and manufacturable at moderate cost. The silicon-based technology also is well suited for the integration of electronics.
"Today, more than 3 billion people interface to the internet with mobile displays, and LED technology is expected to be used in a majority of these displays in the next few years," Anania said. "The unique advantages that 3D LED technology delivers position it as the driver of a once-in-a-generation shift."
Anania said the financing and collaboration deal with Intel underscores interest in the company's 3D nanowire-on-silicon technology is getting in the mobile-display market and from leading global technology-investment firms.
Aledia's LEDs for mobile displays are manufactured on large-diameter silicon wafers. Each rectangle on the wafer is a complete display.
The funding will be used to significantly accelerate the speed of its LED technology development, including acquiring critical equipment. Anania said it is working on some demonstrators this year to illustrate the color quality, behaviour and efficiency of their technology. In addition, Aledia is working on next-generation displays with several large industrial partners. The company is also developing large/existing displays (smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.) as well as smaller, newer displays for VR/AR/MR and smartwatch applications, using its megapixel integrated silicon chips.
In addition to Intel Capital, the majority of existing Aledia investors participated in the series C round, including Braemar Energy Ventures, Demeter, the Ecotechnologies Fund of Bpifrance, (the French national industrial bank), IKEA Group, the venture capital arm of IKEA, Sofinnova Partners and Supernova Invest.
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