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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wichita-based Nitride Solutions awarded $150,000 grant

By Jerry Siebenmark
The Wichita Eagle

Nitride Solutions, a Wichita-based firm developing a less costly way to produce aluminum nitride substrates, said Tuesday it has been awarded a $150,000 National Science Foundation grant.

The grant is from the NSF’s Phase I Small Business Innovation Research program and will be used to commercialize Nitride Solutions’ process.

Aluminum nitride substrates are used in solid-state electronics, light-emitting diodes and ultraviolet laser diodes.

The grant is on top of $2.5 million that the company has raised from private equity investors, including Midwest Venture Alliance, Mid-America Angels, Nebraska Angels and Aurora UV.

Jeremy Jones, Nitride’s CEO, said Tuesday that this was the third time his company has applied for an innovation research grant – each time with a different agency.

“We see it as a validation that an agency like NSF can see technical merit” in Nitride’s process, Jones said Tuesday.

He said the company, 3333 W. Pawnee, has its equipment up and running and has successfully produced the aluminum nitride substrate “crystals” that it eventually plans to sell to customers that manufacture such products as consumer and industrial lighting, Blu-ray players and flat-screen televisions.

He hopes to be producing 2-inch diameter crystals and selling them in volume to manufacturers by the end of the year.

Jones said the company first applied for an innovation research grant with the Department of Energy in 2009, and its second effort targeted grants made by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He said success came as Nitride Solutions reached a point at which it could show its concept was viable.

“I think that was really instrumental in terms of giving us credibility and getting the NSF grant,” he said.

If Nitride Solutions reaches certain milestones within six months of receiving the Phase I SBIR grant — which will happen July 1 — it will be eligible to compete for a Phase II grant of up to $500,000, Jones said.

Jones said the money will be used in part to support a new employee, Troy Baker, Nitride’s research and development director. Baker did his doctoral work at the University of California Santa Barbara under professor Shuji Nakamura, who is credited with the invention of nitride-based LEDs and laser diodes.

The company has a total of seven employees.

Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or jsiebenmark@wichitaeagle.com.

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