Winning display

Winning display

BY LINDA BAKER

0613 FOB Amorphyx
John Brewer, CEO of Amorphyx, telecommuting at Public Domain in Portland.
// Photo by Adam Wickham

For the past two decades, the liquid display industry has revolved around thin film transistors: semiconductor devices that are manufactured on one of the two glass panels that make up an LCD display. Now a Corvallis-based startup, Amorphyx, has developed an alternative to the transistor, which acts as a dimmer switch controlling the amount of light coming through the display screen. The materials innovation is called the “amorphous metal thin-film diode,” and the advantages range from its flexible properties — think bendable mobile phones — to improved picture quality and environmental efficiencies, says chief executive John Brewer, also an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI). Most of the research in the $120 billion LCD sector involves tweaking the thin film transistor to make it work better, Brewer says. “We’re coming in and saying, ‘Just get rid of the semiconductor altogether.’” Using technology based on doctoral research by Intel veteran and Amorphyx CTO Bill Cowell, the design team is refining the metal-diode application so it will plug into existing manufacturing processes. The startup is also in conversation with several companies about commercializing the innovation. Nevertheless, Amorphyx’s “revolutionary” approach is making the process a bit of a hard sell with manufacturers, admits Brewer. “They’ve said, ‘We can do that. It’s really cool.’ But still, they’re skeptical.”

COMPANY: Amorphyx

PRODUCT: Liquid display technology

CEO: John Brewer

HEADQUARTERS: Corvallis

LAUNCHED: 2012

CUT TO THE CHASE: “Despite the fanfare that the software gets, hardware begets software. Without hardware, you don’t get any software. We’re working on stuff that allows you to watch Netflix while attending the boring Chinese opera.”

BACK OFFICE: Raised a total of $480,000 from ONAMI gap fund and OSU Venture Development Fund. “Amoprhyx is an Oregon story,” says Brewer. “Not a lot of states give scientists enough funding to get out
of the research lab.”