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Sol Chip -- Integrated VLSI-PV Devices  
Founded: Jan 2009
Status: Private
Source: Semiconductor Times, 10/12
Amot building, 157 Yaffo Street
Tel: +972.4.8216942
Fax: +972.4.8216942

Sol Chip was founded in 2009 to develop integrated VLSI-PV CleanTech devices that will derive power from solar energy, based on proprietary IP and patents. The company has 7 employees.

Sol Chip has raised $1 million from the Office of the Chief Scientist and The Trendlines Group, through its Mofet B’Yehuda Innovation Accelerator. In early 2012, the company closed a $1M Series A round, half from the Israel Electric Corporation (for the development of a wireless power-grid sensor) and the balance from a U.S. investment bank and several private investors. The company plans to seek an additional $2M by the beginning of 2013, at which time several customers will have already run their beta testing, which will bring Sol Chip to breakeven by 2014.

Sol Chip’s technology addresses the needs of remote or mobile devices that operate autonomously by prolonging battery life, reducing environmental hazard, and improving battery-charging technology. Sol Chip’s Solar Battery™ harvests light energy to extend battery life, replace batteries in some applications, reduce system cost and reduce silicon real estate by nearly 50%.

Sol Chip’s technology integrates the components required to harvest and supply solar energy to low-power applications in a single battery unit. The technology utilizes a low-cost manufacturing flow, further increasing efficiency and decreasing design complexity, while reducing cost. The device size is optimized to the size of the PV so that the required power is harvested from light. All electronics are designed to match a low cost manufacturing process, thus providing a low cost and very competitive solution.

The device will enable the supply of continuous power over an extended time period to low-power systems and devices. The solution will integrate solar energy technology with electronic devices, without changing the device area. The core technology enables the integration of standard solar energy technology with existing VLSI technology.

The Sol Chip device is essentially a single-chip solar cell with integrated battery management and charging circuitry. The device can charge super-capacitors or rechargeable batteries and has a patent-pending architecture that provides higher efficiency with an extremely lean and cost saving implementation. Sol Chip does not integrate the energy storage element, but will be able to integrate additional circuitry into the chip such as MCU and/or wireless sensors and more.

Examples of wireless sensor applications that can benefit from Sol Chip’s solution include outdoor humidity sensors in a nursery field, herd monitoring sensors, and security sensors on fences. In all such cases, the sensor is sealed to protect it from water and moisture, and thus the battery cannot be replaced. With standard batteries, these sensors typically work for a limited time and then the entire sensor has to be replaced. By using the SolChip™ Energy Harvester, this same sensor can work for more than 10 years, while eliminating the need to replace the battery.

The addressable market is estimated at $10 billion in 2020, with many segments growing more than 10% per year, according to the company. Initial target segments include wireless sensors and wireless sensor networks (WSN), smart power grids, smart houses and cities, active RFID, smart cards, and GPS locators. The estimated combined value of these segments in 2015 is over $1.2 billion.

Other alternative energy sources (e.g. vibration, RF, thermal) have lower power efficiency compared to PV, assuming that the product is exposed to light. Power management devices do not combine all the elements into small, reliable and highly efficient product. Solar module assemblies are typically much larger and address requirement for higher power.

As far as Sol Chip is aware of, it is the only company that will provide a fully integrated solution that combines the PV (small Photovoltaic solar panel) together with all the power management electronics (MPPT, charger, regulator and more) for a solar energy harvesting system, all in single integrated monolithic chip. Sol Chip’s product is much smaller and addresses the need for a low power energy source, while providing high voltage output (up to 8.4V) directly from the PV.

Sol Chip has completed the development of its solar battery and manufactured its first unit. Samples of the SolChip™ Energy Harvester, the company’s first product, will be delivered to beta customers by the end of this year, with full production anticipated by mid-2013. The company has started a R&D project based on their existing process know-how at the Fraunhofer-Institut in Germany. The company plans to run the pilot production to increase its knowledge before entering the market. Sol Chip is also in contact with foundries for high volume manufacturing.

The company has received a conditional PO of $1.3 million for 2012 and 2013, for its first product. Sol Chip has also signed engagement letters and started design with three customers for three different applications: a world leader in drip and micro irrigation where the technology would allow sprinkler systems to work almost indefinitely, without the need to change batteries, a herd management company, and a Wireless Mesh Networks company. Sol Chip is also working with the Israel Electric Company on power grid monitoring sensors.

Shani Keysar, Ph.D., Founder & CEO (20 years in the semiconductor Industry at Technion, IDC, and Tower Semi)

Rami Friedlander, Founder & VP Business Development and Applications (25 years executive management experience at Zoran, WSI, Nvidia, and Marvell)

Ofer Navon, Director of Process Development (12 years experience at Tower Semi)

Zack Sharon, Sales & Marketing Director (15 years management experience in the semiconductor industry)

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