Senergen, we barely knew ye.
Senergen Devices never got to unstealth. The Fremont, Calif.-based company received more than $5 million from VantagePoint Venture Partners et al. in November of 2007. According to an ex-employee, VantagePoint shut them down in March. LinkedIn lists them as closed, the corporate website is offline and their phone is disconnected. According to a VantagePoint Venture Partners spokesperson, Senergen Devices has ceased operations.
Senergen is also listed as a portfolio company of investor Trident Capital. Mark Platshon invested while at Trident. Brad Mattson was the VantagePoint representative on Senergen's board.
According to the ex-employee, the firm was "depositing silane onto free-form metallurgical-grade silicon substrates made via thermal spraying."
There is still a link on the VantagePoint website that describes the firm as follows: "Senergen Devices is a solar cell manufacturing company that plans to produce solar cells made from traditional silicon materials at very low costs. Senergen does not use silicon wafers as the solar cell substrate. Instead, it uses silicon in other forms to deposit the films on less expensive, readily available substrates. Senergen has demonstrated it can bypass the expensive polysilicon manufacturing process by taking silicon tetrachloride and depositing it on various substrates using a high temperature plasma beam."
The investor site also describes the firm as being "committed to radically altering the fundamental economics of electricity produced from solar energy." That commitment seems to have waned.
I would propose that a company based on fabricating low-cost silicon might have seemed to have value when silicon was expensive. Apparently, the start-up and its investors did not foresee the price of a commodity like silicon feedstock dropping when production capacity was inevitably added.
Pravin Jain is listed as Senergen's CEO on LinkedIn. Before Senergen he had founded a communications company acquired by Enron.
Another founder, one Dr. Sanjai Sinha, was the CTO through January 2009 and was described as having experience in technology development for the Siemens Process for UHP polysilicon deposition, PECVD for a-Si films and alloys, and single crystalline, polycrystalline and a-Si solar cells, according to BusinessWeek. Here's a relevant patent produced by the good doctor.
Here's some production equipment designed by Bob Nafzinger for Senergen.
Expect this type of thing to happen quite frequently in the next 24 months as scores of VC-funded solar startups run out of money and investors run out of enthusiasm -- the grim flip-side of the solar investment bubble.