Alternative energy sources are a big step on the way to a sustainable power grid, but efficient power conversion is just as important. Enter Transphorm, a startup that emerged from stealth mode this week with $38 million in funding from Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Foundation Capital, and Lux Capital.
Inefficient electric power conversion causes hundreds of terawatts of energy—the equivalent of 318 coal-fired plants—to be lost across the electrical grid each year. It's a problem that costs the U.S. economy $40 billion annually, and drastically cuts down on the usefulness of clean energy sources.
Transphorm wants to virtually eliminate the issue with power modules that can be embedded in any electrical system—including consumer electronics, industrial motor drives, and solar panel inverters—and sold to power-equipment manufacturers. The company claims that its modules slash up to 90% of all electric conversion losses.
Power conversion works via rapidly switching circuits, which enable the transformation of electricity from one form to another. Transphorm's efficiency breakthrough comes in the form of a revolutionary material known as Gallium Nitride, or "GaN," which switches at far higher frequencies than traditional components. This superior material, coupled with innovative circuit design, enables the world's most efficient, most compact, and most cost-effective power conversion technology.
"Solving the enormous problem of power waste will create immediate, long-term shared value for Transphorm’s customers and investors," said Randy Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, in a statement. "It was imperative for our firm to get behind Transphorm because it is the first company with a viable, commercial-scale solution to energy losses associated with high-voltage power conversion."
Transphorm is staying mum on most of the details of its technology, but the startup plans to reveal its first product in early March. Stay tuned.