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For LED startup, red means go


At traffic lights, red means stop. For Quanlight, a Jacobs School startup developing new light emitting diodes (LEDs) for traffic lights and many other applications, red means go.

The new yellow-amber-red (YAR) LEDs from Quanlight may also be used in LCD backlighting, architectural displays, theatrical lighting and signs.

Quanlight's chief technical officer is Vladimir Odnoblyudov, an electrical engineer who earned his Ph.D. from UCSD in 2006. His journey from graduate student to Quanlight CTO provides an inside look at the Jacobs School experience.

When Odnoblyudov came to UCSD, he started working on an emerging class of compound semiconductors called dilute nitrides. He had studied similar materials back in Russia and saw great promise in work done in the labs of Charles Tu, an associate dean and electrical engineering professor at the Jacobs School.

Vladimir Odnoblyudov, left, and Charles Tu
Vladimir Odnoblyudov, left, and Charles Tu

In 2004, Odnoblyudov and Tu won pre-commercialization funding from the Jacobs School's William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement. This funding supported their efforts to further define and study the fundamental properties of the indium-galium-nitride-phosphide (InGaNP) compound semiconductor system that make it an attractive material for building better YAR LEDs.

For this work, Odnoblyudov won the 2005 and 2006 ECE Outstanding Student Poster at Research Expo - the Jacobs School's annual graduate-research showcase and competition.

At the 2006 Research Expo, Odnoblyudov approached Neil Senturia, principal of Blackbird Ventures and a serial entrepreneur who Odnoblyudov recognized from a talk at the von Liebig Center.

After their first conversation, Odnoblyudov returned with a business plan that he had developed for a von Liebig entrepreneurship class.

"I was impressed by the quick response and by the business plan," says Senturia."I did due diligence, and felt the technology and financials were interesting. But I was really betting on Vladimir , a man who demonstrated to me both the desire and the ability to walk through walls."

While Odnoblyudov has not yet been seen walking through an actual wall, he is hard at work on Quanlight's LEDs. They have a novel structure and will shine brighter while using the same amount of power, cost less to manufacture and provide better overall color stability than today's YAR LEDs.

"In addition, our YAR LEDs maintain their efficiency as heat increases much better than the competition," Odnoblyudov says during a phone interview from Quanlight's crystal growing facilities near Manchester, NH.

In December 2007, Quanlight expects to have a product ready for potential customers. In the meantime, it has hired two more recent Jacobs School Ph.D.s - David Keogh and Kevin Tetz.

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