Photodetector Startup Targeting Wearables Demand

Article By : Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

Photodetector startup ElFys has raised €3 million in a second round of funding, led by Samsung Venture Investment, to ramp up production.

As the wearable-device market continues to grow at a rapid pace, Finnish photodetector startup ElFys has raised €3 million in a second round of funding to ramp up production.

elfys Black Silicon Induced Junction Photodiode
(Source: ElFys)

ElFys was founded in 2017 to commercialize a patented photodetector technology invented by a group of researchers at Aalto University in Espoo, Finland. It provides black silicon induced-junction photodiodes that are claimed to provide superior sensitivity over wide spectral range, especially in the ultraviolet as well as ultra-wide viewing angle.

“Our photodetector has a surface structure with virtually no reflection, meaning that all incoming light gets collected across the optical spectrum,” Mikko A. Juntunen, CEO of ElFys, told EE Times Europe. “State-of-the-art photodiodes have a flat surface, and even with anti-reflective treatments, they reflect a considerable portion of incoming light. Additionally, we can record all the light collected using an induced junction, whereas the traditional solution is implanted junction.”

Production ramp-up

The health-care wearable-device market is the driving force of the overall wearables market.

In 2020, the number of wearables shipped worldwide increased to 259.63 million units, with sports, fitness, and wellness trackers accounting for 112.15 million and smartwatches accounting for 74.30 million, according to ABI Research. In 2021, 304.69 million wearables were shipped worldwide. In 2022, the wearables market is expected to reach 344.9 million shipments globally, logging a compound annual growth rate of 13.2%.

“With health continuing to be at the forefront of use cases for wearables, the health-care wearables market reached 37.3 million shipments in 2021 and is expected to [rise to] 107.43 million shipments worldwide in 2026,” Filomena Iovino, research analyst for 5G devices, smartphones, and wearables at ABI, told EE Times Europe.

In light of this market trend, ElFys has completed two rounds of financing of €3 million in one year to accelerate its production of photodetectors.

Led by Samsung Venture Investment, the second round of financing includes the participation of existing investors like Voima Ventures and Oura Health.

“These two rounds are for the same purpose,” said Juntunen.

ElFys currently produces its photodetectors at the Micronova Nanofabrication Center in Espoo, but it is not suitable for continuous volume manufacturing, according to Juntunen. The startup will continue to produce relatively low-volume applications, including analytical instrumentation. Micronova is part of OtaNano, Finland’s national research infrastructure for micro- and nanotechnology, and is run jointly by VTT Technical Research Center of Finland and Aalto University.

“The wearable consumer market requires photodiodes in millions of units a month, and to be able to provide these, we build manufacturing capability together with well-known commercial semiconductor-processing factories,” said Juntunen. Names remained undisclosed.

Photodetector applications include camera image sensors, fiber optic links, blood particle analyzers, spectrometers, LiDARs and encoders, medical computed tomography imaging, and airport X-ray security scanners. “Photodetectors are used everywhere and most often without us realizing they are there,” said Juntunen. “Basically, any application measuring light could potentially be improved using our technology.”

The Espoo-based startup is now focused on the wearables market and serves analytical instrumentation. “We are keeping our eyes open for other opportunities, but as a startup, obviously, we need to focus,” said Juntunen. “Our photodetector provides either a higher signal-to-noise ratio, lower power consumption, translating into longer battery life, or facilitates the use of a smaller area for light detection, translating into smaller devices.”

Juntunen would not name wearables customers but indicated that “their feedback and commitment are strong enough to justify the investments we are making now.”

In the instrumentation sector, however, ElFys provides photodetectors to Finland-based Satron Instruments.


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