Lausanne-based Startup With ‘All-Nitride-Core’ is Further Bolstering Switzerland as QC Powerhouse

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Photo by Bruno Thethe on Unsplash

Small Country, Big Ideas

As a publication focussed on the quantum computing (QC) industry, TQD has covered its fair share of startups from Switzerland: stories on Miraex, ChemAlive SA and Terra Quantum have shown that the small country of just over eight million people is as innovative as its western European neighbours like France, Germany and Austria. According to our sizeable dataset compiled over the last year, there are eight Swiss companies within the scope of QC — an impressive number considering the population of the country, yet not surprising given the business-friendly attitude of the Swiss government.

And there’s no doubt, as the technology begins to prove its value across multiple industries, more startups will come into being.

One such company that has capitalized on this atmosphere is Ligentec (short for Light Generating Technologies), a B2B startup that manufactures photonic integrated circuits (PICs).

Ligentec’s Amazing Chip

Founded in 2016 by Michael Zervas, Michael Geiselmann and Tobias Kippenberg, Ligentec’s HQ is at the innovation park of the Swiss Federal École Polytechnique in Lausanne. Working on applications across numerous high-tech sectors, the startup was set up to produce more reliable PICS (chips), allowing manufacturers in the laser detection and ranging (LiDAR), biosensors and AI industries to raise their game and build more innovative products and usher in, what the founders believe, the fourth industrial revolution of autonomous cars and robots… Oh, and sorry, quantum computers, too.

So what’s the big deal with Ligentec’s chips from everybody else’s?

Well, let me tell you — the team’s unique ‘all-nitride-core’ offering, that’s what, which could make silicon nitride a boon in photonics for the future.

When questioned by Forbes in an article from 2019, cofounder Michael Zervas’ reply had the following flavour: “This material allows us to create chips of unprecedented thickness. When we use photons, which mean light, loss of propagation is 10 times less important with silicon nitride than with other materials. We can then miniaturize a lot of optical components and integrate them on a chip of the size of a fingertip, which is 5 times smaller than standard integrated circuits.”

But for now, we have to focus on what’s important. On the people who founded Ligentec, the people who have taken it to where it is and who will, hopefully, be there when an IPO or plaudits appear on the horizon.

Our customers benefit from a clear path to volume production while obtaining the small quantities of wafers with the performance, short turn around and high yield required at the early stage of proof of concept.

— Ligentec

First co-founder Michael Zervas, the managing director at Ligentec, has a Ph.D. from EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) in nanotechnology. With experience as an entrepreneur, manager and engineer, Zervas’ leadership skills will be crucial for Lingentec’s development.

With a Ph.D. from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya — BarcelonaTech (UPC), Michael Geiselmann is joint-managing director with Zervas at Ligentec. An expert in photonic integrated circuits, he has also spent time as a senior research engineer at EPFL, as well as holding a fellowship at the Swiss institution.

 

Finally, we have Tobias Kippenberg, a member of the Ligentec board. Gaining a prestigious Ph.D. in applied physics from Caltech, he went on to do his habilitation in experimental physics from the Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich.

Ligentec’s PICs technology, with an amazing 2500nm of silicon nitride thickness, offering extremely low propagation loss, could change the photonics industry from this day forth. With this, QC may also benefit, with Ligentec becoming a pioneer in the industry.