Microwave communications systems offer high-speed line-of-sight wireless data transmission for applications such as mobile telephony products, satellite broadcasting and defense communications. Components of the vacuum tubes that generate microwaves contain beryllia (BeO), which was recently listed as a hazardous material by the Environmental Protection Agency. That classification has necessitated the development of an alternative material.
Sienna Technologies, Inc. (STI), Woodinville, had developed a ceramic material based on aluminum nitride (AlN) that could substitute for BeO, but the company lacked the equipment and technology to test the material’s performance under microwave frequencies. STI teamed with Yasuo Kuga, UW Electrical Engineering Dept., on an FTI project that would accomplish this objective.
“Timing was everything on this project,” says Ender Savrun, president of STI. “Professor Kuga and his team came through beautifully for us. Not only did we get access to equipment we needed, but Kuga came up with a measuring technique that validated our product.”
The company realized sales from the product before the project was officially over, including a $600,000 contract with the Navy to develop vacuum tube components for defense communications. The Navy also contributed $100,000 toward Kuga’s efforts to make the measurement technique user-friendlier.
Company growth has been another result of the project. A six-person company at the start of the project, STI recently hired two more employees and plans to add two more within the next three months. According to Savrun, “This is only the beginning.”
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