Vitex Lights Up with $24M

San Jose, Calif.-based Vitex Systems raised a $24 million Series B round last week, bringing total funds raised to date to over $43 million.

Battelle Memorial Laboratories, Mitsubishi, and Tokki Corp. of Japan participated in the funding.

The Series B round will remain open for an additional 60 days to accommodate a number of other interested investors. Additional details surrounding the funding were not disclosed.

Vitex – incubated at Battelle and spun off as an independent company in 1999 – develops coating products and technology for the encapsulation of organic light emitting diodes (OLED) flat panel displays. Vitex holds more than 100 patents in the field and has a technology sharing arrangement with investor Tokki, which builds the thin film manufacturing equipment incorporating Vitex technology.

Vitex President Malcolm Thomson says that his company’s technology will eventually allow mass production of flat, flexible OLED displays with a projected market size of $2.2 billion annually by 2006.

There are close to 100 companies developing materials, devices, components or products relating to OLED, according to Kimberly Allen of Stanford Resources in Santa Clara, Calif.

Allen says that OLED displays have been available in the form of car-stereo displays since 1999 and in cell phones since 2000.

But Allen points to an important implementation of OLEDs during the past year, when the first active matrix color OLED was used for the display back on a digital camera and she says there is a potential for OLEDs to replaced liquid crystal displays over time in phones, computers and TVs.

With a market of that size, Thomson says that his firm has an opportunity to become an equipment supplier for the display industry analogous to the role Applied Materials plays in supplying equipment to the semiconductor industry.

Darren Bischoff Sr., marketing manager for E Ink Corp. of Cambridge, Mass., says that Vitex’s technology is welcome among developers of non-OLED displays because Vitex’s underlying goal is to provide flexible encapsulation of a thin film displays. E Ink – which has raised more than $90 million since 1997 from Motorola Ventures, Atlas Venture, Solstice Capital and Hearst Corp., among others – makes flexible monochrome displays.

Still, Bischoff cautions that true flexibility is a long way off and something that the OLED industry must achieve if it has any hope to displace LCDs.