CRC Crystal Research Corp., a Mesa-based crystal manufacturing company, said it has received a commitment of $10 million in financing to develop a manufacturing facility in the Valley.
The funding from Auctus Private Equity Fund LLC of Boston will allow the company to make industrial crystals that go into equipment for homeland security, oil exploration, medical imaging and other uses, said CRC Chief Executive Dr. Kiril Pandelisev.
“The market is huge,” he said. “In homeland security alone, every port, every airport and the entire border needs to be fortified with these sensors.”
The funding, which would give Auctus a minority stake in the company, is contingent on approval by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. If regulatory approvals aren’t delayed, the factory could be running within a few months and employ about 10 people initially, Pandelisev said.
“As the company grows, we could reach about 130 employees by year five,” he said.
The crystals are used in scintillation devices that detect radiation and thus can potentially determine if nuclear weapons are being smuggled into the country, he said. The crystals create a flash of light when struck by gamma rays, and that light can be converted to a digital signal, he said.
The same sort of radiation detection is useful in exploratory oil drilling and creating medical images of the human body, he said.
Also, the company is in talks with telescope makers to produce crystals that can be used in making lenses, he said.
Pandelisev believes he has a competitive advantage using a patented Single Crystal Technology manufacturing method that produces crystals more quickly and with fewer defects than the current industry standard.
Pandelisev said he has spent about $3 million developing his own crystal-growing equipment to be housed in the new factory.
He plans to buy or lease 5,000 to 10,000 square feet for the plant, and he is looking at several potential sites in Gilbert, Phoenix and the Falcon Field area of northeast Mesa.
Dr. Don M. Jackson, a physics professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott and a member of the CRC board, said the new manufacturing technology is coming online at a time when market interest in those crystals are growing.
“There are devices on the market, but there are not many crystal providers,” he said.
Jackson added the company’s ability to attract funding in the current market indicates its potential.
“When you do that in a tough market, somebody recognizes what you have,” he said.
Pandelisev added that he isn’t worried about starting in the middle of an economic downtown because “if the government is your customer, there is no recession.”