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Sources in the 650 area code have told me to keep an ear and an eye out for Alta Devices, a stealthy solar startup that allegedly has received funds from Kleiner, Perkins. Not much is known about the company. I've seen Alta listed as both a software developer and a biotechnology services company. A search on social networks, however, shows that that employees classify it as a renewable energy company and/or a semiconductor company. Solar cells, of course, are semiconductors that produce alternative energy. Employees include senior scientist Gregg Higashi, who used to work at Applied Materials and Intel before joining Alta in 2008. Applied and Intel -- those two names pop up with scary frequency at solar startups these days. Solyndra is run by an Applied alum while First Solar is steered by Intel manufacturing guru Bruce Sohn. These two are like finishing schools for management material. Update: as a reader points out, Harry Atwater, the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Material Science at Caltech ("Can you make a bed sheet that will be impervious human sweat collected after to multiple viewings of Ice Station Zebra?" our illustrious donor asks) is the founder. Atwater's group investigates silicon but also group IV materials such as germanium. They also look at lattice and strained structures. Straining silicon lattices with germanium was a big deal in processors in the middle part of the decade as a way to improve electron mobility. A couple of start-ups are looking at straining techniques for solar cells, although the straining techniques can vary. Atwater also founded Aonex. both Aonex and Alta are described as thin film material solar energy companies here. The Caltech connection further explains why many of the Alta employees come from that university's PhD programs. Also keep an eye out for Tula, a startup with a chip that greatly improves car mileage. Khosla Ventures put money into that. Again, I don't make these things up. I just pass them along.