Bengaluru startup that makes silicon replacement for chips to scale production

NoPo Nanotechnologies, which makes an advanced material that can replace silicon in semiconductors and batteries and is supplying samples to chipmakers in Taiwan and Japan, is scaling up production capacity, its founders told ET.

Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), which Bengaluru-based NoPo makes, have applications of a wide range, from EV battery manufacturing, where the material can improve energy density, to design of semiconductors.

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The company is developing single chiral SWCNTs which provide tight band gap control for electronic applications. The material has the potential to become part of advanced semiconductor designs, the company’s cofounders, Arunima Patel and Gadhadar Reddy, told ET.

With a latest funding of $3 million from Axilor VenturesMicelio Funds and Inflexor Ventures, NoPo is looking to set up a plant in Bengaluru or nearby Hosur to service global battery manufacturers (whose requirement is in thousands of tonnes per annum) and further developing its offerings for electronics and semiconductor customers.

Currently, the company’s pilot unit is located in Bengaluru’s Electronics City, which can only provide evaluation material.

“This material is useful in semiconductors and EV batteries. We have counted more than 120 applications that globally researchers are making using this material. Its strength is one of its unique properties,” Patel said.

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Patel claimed NoPo is the only company in India that has figured out how to make this material. “Globally there are not more than six or seven players who know how to make this material,” she said.It competes with players from Russia, Korea, and China. As a peer, the company counts Russia’s Ocsial, an industrial manufacturer of single wall carbon nanotubes.

“We have been supplying this material for the last five or six years largely to semiconductor companies. One of the largest semiconductor companies in the world is a customer, which is using this material to develop the next generation of chips, which will be in the quantum computing zone,” she said, adding that a non-disclosure agreement forbids her from disclosing the name.

“They’re trying to reduce the band gap and make smaller chips which will go into smaller electronics and make for faster processors,” Patel said.

If a company is working on a high-energy-density silicon battery, like Tesla for example, then this material becomes an integral part of the battery, she said.

Silicon can crack while charging and discharging, and consequently batteries cannot be stable. “This is where our product comes into play. Single walled carbon nanotubes make batteries much more stable to perform,” she said.

The company is now supplying evaluation material to global original equipment manufacturers. “The largest battery provider in the world is currently evaluating our material,” she said.

“With this funding round we will be able to service customers globally,” she said.

While there are three EV battery customers the company is working with in India, on the semiconductor front, any design company which is looking at making smaller nodes who are looking at their own fabrication is a potential customer, she said.

The company is currently working with one chip company in Taiwan and another in Japan. Started in 2011, it now has 30 employees.


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