After nearly two decades of academic research what’s next?

Start a company!
Wednesday, 3 November 2021 - 11:30 am
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Darrin Richeson
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A nearly 20-year long journey has seen my team and me take an academic curiosity from the University research lab benchtop to commercial reality. In 2002 I began my independent research journey in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Alberta.  While the Veinot Team research program has had many targets, nanomaterials based upon Group 14 elements (e.g., Si, Ge, SixGe1-x, doped carbon, etc.) have been omnipresent. Silicon quantum dots (SiQDs) were and are a key academic target for us… in the early days our interests arose simply because few methods existed that afforded SiQDs while simultaneously controlling important property defining parameters such as particle size, purity, and surface chemistry. A combination of ingenuity and serendipity saw us discover what we believed was a convenient scalable way to prepare high purity materials.  This method and the materials it provided a platform on which we could expand; over the years we developed functionalization methods, addressed scientific controversy, tailored electronic properties, and optimized optical properties; we even explored some prototype devices and applications. In essence, we followed a standard academic research path.

Fast forward to 2016 and SiQDs were suddenly more than a curiosity; our patented methods made SiQDs viable.  Their predictable and tailorable chemical and optoelectronic properties made them desirable for many real-world applications. Furthermore, the advent of Li-ion batteries, QLED displays, as well as legislation that limited use of heavy metals (e.g., Cd) found in many status quo quantum dots made SiQDs a very attractive emerging commercial opportunity.  It was a “now or never” circumstance and Applied Quantum Materials Inc. (AQM) was founded. Over the past 5 years AQM has adapted and thrived to become a global distributor of functional materials that include far more than SiQDs!