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Friday, October 31, 2014
Ohio State spinoff TeraProbes seeks to disrupt chip-testing market
Ohio State University
Kubilay Sertel says he's come up with a faster, cheaper process for testing silicon computer chips.
An Ohio State University spinoff is using part of a $100,000 Ohio Third Frontier grant to build more prototypes for a try-it-you'll-like-it approach to disrupting a monopoly in testing silicon computer chips.
TeraProbes Inc. has one working prototype and will build two more of a system that uses terahertz waves, which are just below infrared in frequency, to send and receive signals to test the performance of tiny transistors on the silicon wafers. It will then lend those to prospective customers.
A single vendor now controls the market for the testing, said Kubilay Sertel, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.
"We're trying to disrupt that," he said, with a process that's faster, cheaper and doesn't damage the chips themselves as the current method does.
It sounds like going from monks with fountain pens to a photocopier: Today, a Ph.D. researcher uses a physical probe, just 25 microns across, to touch the chip under a microscope, on specialized vibration-control equipment. Both probe and chip typically are damaged by the contact.
"Our system, you can set it up on your coffee table," Sertel said. "It's much quicker. It can be completely automated."
Ohio State on Friday named Sertel the early career innovator of the year in its annual research awards. Innovator of the year was Dr. Ali Rezai, a neurosurgeon who has pioneered methods of deep brain stimulation and started many spinoff device companies. The student innovator is David Maung, a doctoral student in computer science and engineering who developed a video game for use in physical therapy for paralysis in one side of the body.
Sertel's research in terahertz imaging also formed the base technology for the camera-like device of Traycer Systems Inc., which has attracted some $7.5 million in investor support. He does not have a stake or active role in that company.
The executive team, two university faculty and a doctoral student, are trying to recruit one of their business advisers as CEO.
The company has projected $6 million in revenue within three years.
"The TeraProbes concept should enable faster quality testing and lower cost and should be available at a time when the market demand is increasing," outside evaluators said in a report to the Third Frontier Commission.