Lux Semiconductors' System-on-Foil technology is designed to reduce the size and improve the performance of microelectronics for spacecraft, aircraft and other applications. Credit: Lux Semiconductors

SAN FRANCISCO – Lux Semiconductors, a microelectronics startup with U.S. Air Force and Space Force awards, raised $2.3 million in seed funding.

Ultratech Capital Partners led the seed round. AIN Ventures, Hemisphere Ventures and Lockheed Martin Ventures participated.

With the latest investment, New York-based Lux Semiconductors will continue development and commercialization of the company’s “System-on-Foil” process for improving microelectronics performance.

Government Funding

Initially, Lux Semiconductors’ proprietary method for integrating computer chips won funding from the Energy Department and National Science Foundation.

“Over the past couple years, government interest has been primarily from the Department of Defense and in particular the Air Force and the Space Force,” Shane McMahon, Lux Semiconductors co-founder and CEO, told SpaceNews.

Lux Semiconductors has won two Small Business Innovation Research contracts from the Air Force and one from the Space Force.

In addition, NextFlex, a consortium funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory to encourage U.S. manufacturing of flexible hybrid electronics, is funding a company project.

Chip Packaging

For decades, integrated circuit performance improved as companies devised ways to shrink transistors. Improvements in packaging chips close together can also improve performance.

“Our System-on-Foil technology is particularly good for millimeter wave and radio frequency communications payloads,” McMahon said.

Lux Semiconductors is working with Lockheed Martin Space and other prime contractors to demonstrate the benefits of flexible or conformal electronics packaging.

By wrapping electronics around an aircraft or spacecraft, “you reduce the integration complexity and save a lot of volume inside,” McMahon said.

U.S. Manufacturing

“Maintaining a secure supply of semiconductors is critical to Lockheed Martin’s supply chain that enables our customers’ national security missions,” Chris Moran, Lockheed Martin Ventures vice president and general manager, said in a statement. “Lockheed Martin has been clear in our support to expand America’s vital semiconductor industry and this investment in Lux Semiconductors demonstrates our commitment to domestic supply capabilities that are in line with our larger 21st century security vision.”

Building up domestic semiconductor capability is of strategic importance to the United States, Ultratech founder Damian Perl said in a statement. “The significant commercial potential of this technology is also compelling and we look forward to assisting Lux deliver their unique capability across a broad set of applications,” Perl added.

Lux Semiconductors has completed its first prototype, a metal substrate with high-density copper interconnects. In 2023, the company plans to move into a commercial semiconductor fabrication plant in 2023.

“We’ll also be running prototypes for a number of customers according to their designs,” McMahon said.  

Lux Semiconductors participated in the Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator in 2020.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...