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CoolCAD Electronics, LLC Wins Phase II SBIR NASA Contract

CoolCAD process technician Mitchell Gross gets ready to load a SiC wafer for oxidation into CoolCAD's high-temperature furnace facility.
CoolCAD process technician Mitchell Gross gets ready to load a SiC wafer for oxidation into CoolCAD's high-temperature furnace facility.

CoolCAD Electronics, LLC, which is a University of Maryland Mtech Company, has been awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovative Research contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This is an extremely competitive award. Only three other companies in the entire state of Maryland received Phase II SBIR contracts from NASA in the 2017 competition. The award is for $750,000. CoolCAD won the contract thanks to their cutting edge work in silicon carbide-based (SiC) wide bandgap electronics. CoolCAD envisions itself as being the next Intel, not for silicon-based electronics, but for electronics fabricated out of SiC. This new semiconductor will allow for electronics to work at temperatures above 500oC (932 oF),  voltages higher than 10,000V and light wavelengths in ultraviolet range.

CoolCAD was founded in 2009 by University of Maryland ECE Professor Neil Goldsman and ECE graduate and Research Professor Akin Akturk. The company began as a computer aided design (CAD) house for the development of electronic circuits for use at cryogenic temperatures found in outer space or in the new field of quantum computing. Next, Goldsman and Akturk were joined by fellow UMD graduate Dr. Siddharth Potbhare, and applied their expertise to the new wide bandgap semiconductor material SiC, and developed CAD tools for electronics composed of this revolutionary material.  In addition to Drs. Goldsman and Akturk, University of Maryland graduates Dr. Zeynep Dilli and Brendan Cusack round out the technical management team at CoolCAD, while the business team is headed by CPA Lisa Sachar. The CoolCAD staff also includes other graduates from UMD, and numerous Maryland student interns have benefitted from hands-on part-time employment at CoolCAD.

While CoolCAD started out as a software CAD company, Goldsman and Akturk found that they could expand their business even more by producing SiC-based electronics themselves. The CoolCAD team then took the big step of developing the capability of processing, fabricating, as well as designing their own SiC electronic chips. This makes CoolCAD a member of a small group of elite companies in the world that have developed this novel capability. It is this unique capability that made CoolCAD attractive to NASA for answers to their needs in high-temperature electronics for space missions such as the exploration of Venus, for the needs in imaging of stars that emit not just visible light, but ultraviolet light as well, and for monitoring Earth’s environment, especially the delicate ozone layer. In addition to working with NASA, markets for CoolCAD’s high-temperature electronics include the automobile industry, energy generation,  geothermal development and industrial furnace control. For their SiC ultraviolet optoelectronics, CoolCAD’s main application is in providing monitoring for water purification by ultraviolet light that obviates the need of chemical additives such as chlorine. The overall market for all these applications is many billions of dollars. CoolCAD is working hard to satisfy these new, highly lucrative opportunities and provide good jobs for Maryland grads and the state in general.

 

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April 3, 2017


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