Goleta-based Transphorm, an energy-efficiency company spun out of UC Santa Barbara, said it has been granted two patents that it believes could cover as much as 60 percent of its target market in power-conversion electronics.
Transphorm’s products use a substance called gallium nitride, or GaN, to increase the efficiency and shrink the size of the electronics that convert power from the grid into a useable form for devices. Its two key breakthroughs have been to grow just enough of the pricey GaN crystals on cheap conventional silicon wafers to be cost competitive and the ability to handle the high voltages found in computer servers, solar panels and other heavy-duty uses.
Founded by UCSB professor Umesh Mishra and longtime business partner Primit Parikh, Transphorm has raised about $110 million from funds connected to Google, George Soros and major Japanese firms, among others. The company has said it has more than 100 employees in Goleta.
Transphorm said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted it two patents in late last month. Patent No. 8,816,751, titled “Inductive Load Power Switching Circuits,” was granted Aug. 26, and application No. 13/887,204, titled “Bridge Circuits and Their Components,” was allowed Aug. 27.
An allowed patent application typically is granted after the company pays its fees. Transphorm said counterpart patents to the two U.S. ones have issued in China and Taiwan and are being pursued in several other countries.
Transphorm said that the patents both involve what are known as half bridges, which are the building blocks of most power-conversion electronics. The company said it has about 450 patents or patent applications, all around GaN power conversion.
“Transphorm’s patent portfolio comprises fundamental IP in all key areas, ranging from material growth of GaN-on-Silicon, device structures and fabrication, and packaging and circuits, with a particularly far-reaching impact on the use of GaN in applications,” Parikh said in a statement. “No matter how other GaN providers manufacture their products, they will have to consider Transphorm’s GaN bridge circuit patent family for bridge applications, by far the largest market segment for high voltage GaN.”
Late last year, Transphorm partnered with Tokyo electronics giant and one-time rival Fujitsu Ltd. to create a new company in Japan.
Transphorm, Fujitsu and Fujitsu Semiconductor reached an agreement to merge their GaN power supply lines of business into one entity. As part of the transaction, Fujitsu and its semiconductor subsidiary both took minority stakes in Transphorm in exchange for creating a new company in Japan that will be capable of high-volume production based on Transphorm’s technology.
More recently, the company lined up distributors in Europe and said that it had partnered with India’s Tata Power Solar to create some of the most efficient power converters for that country’s solar industry.