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A little Polish company you’ve never heard of is beating the tech titans in a key technology of the 21st century

Want to revolutionize the electronics industry, become a multimillionaire, and earn your place as an immortal in the tech pantheon? Your job is simple: Figure out a cost-effective way to make really good, reasonably large crystals of pure gallium nitride.

With such crystals as the foundation for the growth of devices made of the same material, manufacturers would have a far richer yield of the violet lasers on which the opto­electronics industry increasingly depends. For example, the short wavelengths of these lasers are needed to read the hyperfine, data-rich line that rings the discs in Blu-ray players and in the latest game machines. Better gallium nitride would also let automakers make the power-handling circuitry in their hybrid electric vehicles more efficient, improving mileage and possibly even affordability. And with a fabulously good crystal foundation, LEDs could perform better, speeding the demise of the century-old incandescent bulb.

So far, though, gallium nitride crystals of good size and archangelic purity have been beyond the grasp of all but one of the companies that have worked for years to create them. That company’s based not in Japan, Korea, or even the United States, but in Poland. Meet Ammono, the greatest success story in materials science you’ve never heard of.