Maui Business

Hawai’i’s Nalu Scientific Awarded $1.5 Million for Microchip Research & Development

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Nalu Scientificʻs high density digitizer system on a 32-channel prototype microchip is capable of reading out fast sensor arrays with a billionth of a second accuracy. Photo Courtesy: Nalu Scientific

Hawai’i-based tech firm Nalu Scientific has received three federal research and development grants for its work on specialized ultra-fast data acquisition circuitry.

The most recent award is a $1.15 million Phase II Small Business Innovative Research grant from the US Department of Energy. The funding will support the design and fabrication of Nalu Scientific’s high-density digitizer system-on-chip, or HDSoC.

The chip can enable capturing hundreds of channels of data at resolutions of a billionth of a second. Although designed to support particle physics experiments, the ultra-fast chip has many other applications, including astrophysics, medical imaging and diagnosis, and LiDAR, the sensor technology behind self-driving cars.


The ultra-fast chip project is a continuation of research and development that Nalu Scientific has worked on since its founding in 2016.

Having successfully delivered a 32-channel prototype in Phase I, Nalu Scientific is now working toward developing a commercially viable 64-channel waveform sampling chip that has an integrated readout and can be adjusted for sensor biases.

“Modern sensors with applications in measuring fundamental properties of matter require advanced electronics for fast processing from many independent sources,” said Nalu Scientific Founder & CEO Isar Mostafanezhad. “Our solution provides a low-cost, low-power but high-performance electronic processing microchip with applications in fundamental research as well as commercial applications.”


The other two Department of Energy grants are for Phase I projects, with $200,000 going to each:

  • STRAWZ: Streaming Autonomous Waveform-Digitizer With Zero-Suppression
  • HiPAREX: High Performance Amplified Readout Electronics for X-Ray Spectroscopy

Similar to the ultra-fast chip project, STRAWZ proposes ultra-fast and very precise data acquisition and processing via an advanced digitizer chip, this one featuring zero suppression and self-triggering.

HiPAREX, meanwhile, is aimed at enhancing X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy, which is used to measure and analyze materials and chemical reactions. The proposed system would have integrated digital readout circuitry and prioritize a compact enclosure to allow it to be pleased closer to the experiment.


“The future of basic science, engineering and medical discoveries depend upon user-friendly electronic lab tools with ever more precise timing measurements,” Mostafanezhad said. “Our technology provides low-cost, low-power, turn-key solutions usable by scientists and engineers.”

The Phase I awards received by Nalu Scientific are part of $37 million in funding provided to 139 small businesses in 32 states. The Phase II award was part of a $115 million funding opportunity recently announced for fiscal year 2021.

“By investing directly in small businesses, including diverse entrepreneurs, we can foster the creative ideas that will transform our nation’s energy sector; address the climate crisis; and build an equitable clean energy economy,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

These three recent awards follow a $400,000 grant awarded to Nalu Scientific for ocean scanning technology last month. In 2020, the firm received $2.3 million for ongoing research into ultrafast image capture and data processing in August, and $2.8 million in October for five other Nalu Scientific projects.

Altogether, the company has raised nearly $12 million since its founding in 2016.


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