BridgeLux Is Ideally Typical of Next Push in Solid State Lighting

The solid state lighting (SSL) industry is deeply rooted in the compound semi
(CS) industry. If you haven’t been around compound semi circles recently, you
might think that SSL looks like the classic overnight success. Not so. Like
so many of the compounds (GaAs for example), today’s and tomorrow’s GaN-based
LEDs that are of the caliber truly robust enough to replace incandescents in
general lighting applications are the result of over 20 years of collective
work, rooted heavily in MOCVD, the manufacturing platforms that first came to
light back in the mid-1980s. When hearing about the recent personnel additions
to a USA/Asian company named BridgeLux (ref: Aug.
29 coverage
), the significance of those roots came to light. The caliber
of people now being recruited into the still-nascent SSL industry is very

BridgeLux (www.bridgelux.com) stands
out as the ideally typical young USA company in the SSL field, full of veteran
expertise. I think of BridgeLux as a leading indicator of the real progress
going on deep inside the SSL industry. If you don’t already know BridgeLux,
they’re a Northern California-based company that’s moving forward especially
quickly right now. The company was first established in 2003 as eLite Optoelectronics
by former Emcore blue spectrum LED expert, Heng Liu who continues to serve as
CTO. Then our longtime friend and colleague, Robert (Bob) Walker, also formerly
from Emcore and the man who has served diligently as our perennial co-chair
for our annual BLUE SSL Suppliers Forum in Taiwan, took over the CEO
reins last year. They’ve been on a dramatic climb ever since. You can view
bios and pictures of the senior
management team
on their website.

BridgeLux obviously knows what it takes to make truly SSL-worthy blue spectrum
LEDs and they’re proving high volume capability by already shipping millions
of high-end InGaN LED chips per year into the SSL market out of their manufacturing
facility in Taiwan. They currently have 25 people in residence at the Sunnyvale
headquarters in the USA (i.e. “Silicon Valley), with 15 in Taiwan.
Key people most recently added to the BridgeLux roster include Dave Bour as
Chief Scientist, Gloria Fan as CFO, and Ghulam Hasain as a senior scientist.
They join a cadre of other relative newcomers to the BridgeLux team that includes
MOCVD-expert Jeff Ramer (also formerly of Emcore’s R&D Lab) and Steve
Lester, who made quite a name for himself in high power InGaN chip development
while at Agilent (and before that, HP). The collective goal of this especially
strong team is simple… to help enabling the SSL industry by getting the manufacturing
costs of very high yield, truly SSL-worthy blue spectrum LEDs to an affordable and
easily reproducible level.

Luxeon High Power

The addition of Dave Bour as Chief Scientist should contribute significantly to achieving
that goal. Dave’s coming back to the compounds after a brief stint at Applied
Materials (AMAT), hopefully bringing with him the silicon mindset that traditionally
enables lower cost manufacturing. Dave, a GaN expert, originally hailed from
Agilent, where he attained the prestigious honor of becoming an Agilent Fellow
in 2000 (as well as being an IEEE Fellow). He’s published over 200 articles
and has 60 USA patents to his name. My hunch is that the resulting synergy of
Dave plus Heng Liu, Jeff Ramer, Steve Lester and Ghulam Hasain will be something
worth watching.

Many of us knew Steve Lester from his Agilent days, and others knew him from
the University of Texas at Austin, earning his PhD in 1987. Ghulam
Hasnain was formerly VP of advanced technology with LuxNet and brings over 20
years of experience in optoelectronics and holds several patents. Jeff Ramer
and Heng Liu have strong industry histories, separately working at Emcore developing the original
nitride reactors. To do that, they necessarily had to become superb nitride
growers. Jeff, who helped teach our classic InP
101 video workshop
at the 2001 Outlook conference (newly renamed CS Vision
and totally a CS Online Inc. event now), proved at that he’s an all-round
compound semi MOCVD expert and a gifted grower. After Jeff went to Veeco with
the sale of Emcore’s TurboDisc division to Veeco, he worked on a new
design of the GaN platform to achieve record uniformity for the critical InGaN
active region, which dramatically improved the yield of LED devices.

With the team Bob Walker has now put together, we can expect to see noteworthy
yield improvement out of BridgeLux that will help the entire SSL industry. And
the addition of Gloria Fan basically represents the caliber of person we really
want to attract to the SSL industry. She brings over 15 years management experience
to BridgeLux, having served as VP of finance at UTStarcom, most recently serving
as their VP of global business operations where she oversaw the company’s IPO
soon after that company scored the title of one of Business Week‘s 100
hot growth companies in 2002.

Why do I feel BridgeLux to be ideally typical of what’s going on right now?
Because they’ve either attracted especially talented people new to the SSL field,
or they’ve enticed re-entries who originally made their mark in blue spectrum
R&D. And that’s the kind of talent it will take to get the manufacturing
costs down where they need to be. The pattern is very much like what we’ve seen
over the years at Cree: employing the best people in the field and concentrating
on lowering costs and increasing yields. My hunch is that will require a more
silicon-like manufacturing mindset to get there, which could explain why silicon
pros are being attracted to the compound semi industry each day, especially
as things stay rather tight in the overall tech sector. The prospects of being
on the groundfloor of seeing InGaN LEDs take over first, compact florescents,
then halogens, and eventually incandescent lighting applications, is the obvious

Where BridgeLux goes, the SSL industry is likely to follow, and that directly
benefits many throughout the CS supply chain. And we can’t forget one other
addition to the BridgeLux team, my friend Anita Draa, who served with Bob Walker
when he ran Emcore’s Pacific Rim sales team. Anita’s now helping with BridgeLux
marketing and herself holds a Ph.D. in chemistry. Now that’s my kind of “Marcom”
(marketing communication) expert! She understands all levels of the challenge.
A lot of those MOCVD platforms out there were originally sold by Bob and Anita.
And many more were perfected by the steady and excellent work of Jeff Ramer
and Heng Liu. As to what’s specifically going on behind the scenes at BridgeLux,
and why they’re able to attract such high caliber people, all I can say is…
Stay Tuned.

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