In 2012, Vincent Lee received his PhD in electrical engineering from Columbia University, where he began working on a way to create exponentially brighter head-worn micro-display technologies than what currently exists.
Today, Lee’s idea is at the heart of Lumiode, a Harlem, New York-based company that selected the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center’s 5,000-square foot NanoFabrication Facility for its nanofabrication research and development work.
After working in Columbia University’s clean room and considering several commercial facilities, Lee decided to move Lumiode’s R&D work to the ASRC. The draw: the suite of state of the art equipment combined with flexibility and cost.
“There are only two academic facilities with a clean room in New York – Columbia and the CUNY ASRC,” says Lee, Lumiode’s chief executive officer. “And the external places with the equipment we need tend to be more expensive and have longer timelines.”
In addition, Lee, 31, says that the ability to run their own processes on production runs of any quantity made the ASRC particularly attractive. Staff at commercial facilities typically execute the processes and have minimum requirements for production runs.
Lumiode relies heavily on all of ASRC’s nanofabrication facility, and the microscopy suite to develop its semiconductors, which have layers of silicon on top of the LEDs (light emitting diodes). Lee says that while current display technologies generate 1,000 cd/m2 (candela per meter square is the measure of luminance), Lumiode’s aim is to generate between from 100,000 – 1,000,000 cd/m2.
Lumiode is currently working to commercialize its product for augmented reality applications in industrial, military, and consumer use-cases.
The five-person company—made up of three material scientists and two electrical engineers—has received funding from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research program as well as an initial round of venture capital from a Delaware-based firm.
While Silicon Valley may be the center of the technology sector, Lee says he never considered moving his company to California. And, ironically, being based in New York has been a draw for people from across the country.
Last year, when Sibel Leblebici, a material scientist, was looking to relocate from California to New York, she came across Lumiode, one of the few semiconductor companies in the United States, let alone New York City. Fortunately, they were hiring, and Leblebici moved east from Berkeley in October to become the company’s second research and development engineer.
“This was a great opportunity to work with a small, growing company,” Leblebici says.
Lumiode is now looking to expand further with the addition of new team members. If you know of anyone, Lumiode and ASRC, the research facility on the hill with the great vista of New York City, are calling.