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cleantech insights

Rubicon rides LED boom

Emma Ritch

Shares of Franklin Park, Ill.-based Rubicon Technologies (Nasdaq:RBCN) hit a 52-week high today following a report from Canaccord Adams analyst Jed Dorsheimer that doubled the price target for the LED-component maker.

The stock closed at $15.68, slightly down from the high, but still reflecting a 44 percent gain during the past two weeks. Dorsheimer set a new price target of $22, up from $11, and changed his rating from ‘hold’ to ‘buy’.

Dorsheimer attributed the outlook to the boom in demand for LED backlight for liquid crystal display televisions.

“The faster-than-expected ramp of LED LCD backlighting, which began a few months ago, caught the LED manufacturers off guard,” he said in the report.

Earlier this year, LED makers’ production rates were at less than 30 percent of their capacity after year-over-year pricing declines of 50 percent, he said. Now, costs have stabilized and the manufacturers are at nearly 100 percent utilization of production facilities, he said.

Rubicon makes a sapphire crystal used in the production of LEDs. Dorsheimer said Rubicon is likely using more than 80 percent of its factory capacity, up from 60 percent at the end of the second quarter.

The likely impact in the LED industry is that …

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Has Calera become Khosla’s ‘favorite child’?

Emma Ritch

Vinod Khosla just might have let it slip which of his cleantech investments he thinks has the best chance at success.

When asked to pick the top company in the cleantech portfolio of Khosla Ventures, the firm’s founder told the audience at the Always On Going Green Conference in Sausalito, Calif., that he couldn’t choose (see Kleiner Perkins hints at plug-in car launch this week).

“That’s like asking ‘Which one of your four kids is your favorite?’,” Khosla joked, adding that when he invested in Google he had no idea how successful the company would be.

Khosla followed up the remark by singling out one portfolio company, Los Gatos, Calif.-based Calera, as the “only currently viable solution for carbon sequestration.”

Calera CEO Brent Constantz said at the conference that his company’s technology treats flue gas from coal-fired power plants with sea water and brine water to make an aggregate, which can be mixed in place of Portland Cement to produce concrete.

Each ton of the aggregate material represents half a ton of captured carbon dioxide. Additionally, the ton of Portland Cement that is replaced would have produced one ton of carbon dioxide emissions, Constantz said.

“Calera is really the …

Energy efficiency at the atom level

Emma Ritch

Researchers at Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM (NYSE:IBM) announced they have used an atomic force microscope to look inside a molecule, representing some of the highest-resolution insight into the electronic and chemical properties of the world’s smallest building blocks.

The findings could be used to understand and chart charge distribution at the atom level, offering potential applications in improving the energy efficiency of computing components and the conversion of solar energy to electricity, said Fabian Mohn, an IBM scientist, in an interview with the Cleantech Group today.

“The significance of the research is more in opening up possibilities for further research, not so much direct application,” he said. “It’s a new technique of investigating atomic or molecular systems.”

The nanotechnology researchers at IBM’s Zurich lab in Switzerland compared the findings to an x-ray that provides an image of bones and organs inside a human. Similarly, the non-contact atomic force microscopy shows the atomic structures of individual molecules, offering the opportunity to study the electronic and chemical properties.

The imaging of the pentacene molecule was conducted in an ultrahigh vacuum at extremely low temperatures, around -268 degrees Celsius (-451 Fahrenheit). The scientists were able to look through the electron cloud to …

Up in arms against EU’s ban on indandescents

Emma Ritch

The European Union enacted its ban today on incandescent light bulbs, allowing shops to sell their current supply but not buy or import more of them.