A World-Class Team Building World-Class Technology

Our Leadership Team

Rick Schwerdtfeger, CEO

Rick Schwerdtfeger

Chief Executive Officer

Rick deploys next-generation semiconductor equipment.

Starting his career in photovoltaic and  semiconductor technology, Rick completed his PhD at NREL where he produced the largest CIGS crystals at that time (1995) and developed novel experimental crystal growth techniques and equipment for producing single-crystal and multi-crystalline silicon. He then transitioned to Alpha Spectra to commercialize large-scale Sodium Iodide crystals for radiation detection. Moving then to Saint Gobain, he led the development of the largest CaF2 furnaces in the world for semiconductor lithography lenses.

Between 2007 – 2016, Rick co-founded ARC Energy with Kedar Gupta to commercialize and scale a next-gen sapphire furnace technology. Rick commercialized his furnace design which produced the world’s largest sapphire crystals at 302kg (2015). He built out ARC’s equipment supply chain, moved to Shanghai and developed the customer support organization.  Within five years, ARC’s sales backlog reached $500 million. He was then recruited by Pica Solar to design a pilot for their novel silicon wafer passivation technique as COO.

The National Science Foundation then solicited Rick to direct several SBIR topic areas, including photovoltaics, where he grew a portfolio of 135 companies including Leading Edge. Convinced that FSM™ was the first major silicon crystal growth breakthrough in over 30 years, Rick has advised Leading Edge since its inception. Leveraging his strong track record, Rick joined Leading Edge to transition the company from development to the new industry leader in wafer technology.

Nathan Stoddard, CTO

Nathan Stoddard

Chief Technology Officer

Nathan makes solar innovations happen.

Nathan has innovated three different solar wafer technologies from concept to pilot production. Starting at BP Solar, Nathan invented and brought the cast-mono process to 50 MW production – which had the promise to deliver single-crystal performance using low-cost casting technology. He was then recruited to the original 1366 Technologies team to architect their Direct Wafer technology – which had promise to reduce the all-in cost of multi wafers by 50 percent. Most recently at SolarWorld, he invented and developed from blue-sky concept to pilot-ready the first 450 mm float-zone style single crystal technology. This NeoGrowth process yielded superior wafer quality to that of CZ, while promising competitive wire-sawn costs for the solar industry.

After two decades pioneering new technologies in the solar industry, Nathan is a preeminent figure at the crossroads of the solar and crystal growth communities. In recognition for his contributions to the advancement of silicon technologies, he was awarded the inaugural Gosele Prize and the Tallows Chandler Award. He has chaired the Crystallize Silicon Solar Cell Conference (CSSC) and the Crystalline Silicon program for the 37th IEEE PVSC conference. To date, he has over 50 publications between the Journal of Crystal Growth, Physical Review Letters, and Progress in Photovoltaics and numerous patents.

After SolarWorld, Nathan became a principal engineer and department lead at II-VI to develop next-gen sapphire technologies. Intrigued by early discussions with Peter Kellerman and Alison Greenlee (former 1366 colleague), Nathan started consulting for Leading Edge at its inception.  Once it became clear that Leading Edge’s FSM process had the potential to outperform NeoGrowth, Nathan left his secure, DoD-financed position and recommitted to his lifelong passion for developing next-gen solar energy technologies. He sees FSM as the ultimate solution to the solar industry’s cost, quality, and carbon-intensity challenges and works tirelessly to enable a sustainable and carbon-neutral world.

Alison Greenlee, CCO

Alison Greenlee

Founder, Company Advisor

Alison commercializes high-impact energy technologies.

While completing four degrees at MIT, Alison worked with MIT faculty developing next-generation energy technologies – including Ely Sachs, Alex Slocum, Jeff Grossman, and John Hart. During a one-year hiatus, she worked as a crystal growth process engineer at Sachs’ 1366 Technologies before returning to MIT to start her own lab. As a Tata Fellow, she initiated a research program with Dow Corning and later Total Energy S.A. to support her thesis work on FSM technology. She also raised money for solar technology projects by winning pitch competitions – specifically DOEN Green Energy Challenge and MassCEC Catalyst Award.

After her doctorate, she co-founded Sandymount Technologies (SMNT) to revolutionize the beer supply chain. SMNT’s process extracts water from beer to form a concentrate that ships for 75 percent lower cost and rehydrates to form the original product with no flavor artifact. Starting from a 1-beer lab demonstration at MIT, the founders raised the company’s first financing, built-out and permitted a facility, got process approval from the federal government, and developed a commercial tool for executing pilots with major brewers.

Peter Kellerman – the inventor of FSM technology – then reached out to Alison. Applied Materials had decided to exit the solar industry and thus mothballed all ongoing solar projects – including FSM. Alison and Peter then co-founded Leading Edge, negotiated the purchase of FSM intellectual property, and kicked-off operations in 2018. Serving as CEO, Alison architected the company’s original financing by soliciting over $5M of federal grants (Department of Energy and National Science Foundation) and raising $6M from venture capital firms and solar industry veterans. Recognizing that this orphaned technology could become this century’s standard for substrate manufacturing, Alison founded Leading Edge to commercially realize FSM’s potential.

Peter Kellerman Photo

Peter Kellerman

Founder, Chief Technology Officer Emeritus

Peter develops the science of breakthrough technology.

After completing his PhD in statistical thermodynamics for phase transitions, Peter started a distinguished career in developing original semiconductor technologies in ion beam, plasma sources, and thermal control devices. Peter has held roles at Eaton Corp (now Axcelis Technologies) and Varian Semiconductor (now Applied Materials) and became Director of Ion Beam Physics and Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff. To date, he has been granted over 30 original patents and authored 10 publications. 

In 2008, Peter started investigating how to rapidly grow large, single crystal material for the solar industry. Working with crystal growth experts (Tom Surek, Jeff Derby, Marty Glicksman, and Brian Helenbrook) and ex-Evergreen and Schott engineers, Peter discovered the novel stabilization mechanisms that now enable the Floating Silicon Method (FSM) process and developed the first production tool.

In 2016, Applied Materials decided to “shelve” the FSM program along with its other solar businesses and reallocate resources to display technologies. Committed to commercializing FSM technology, Peter then left Applied Materials to form Leading Edge. After performing key demos and scoping the requirements for a commercial tool, Peter engaged Nathan Stoddard to take over the CTO responsibilities in 2019. Peter now supports efforts to develop the physics and understanding needed to push the limits of FSM.

Board of Directors & Advisors

David Buzby

David S. Buzby

Board Chair
Private Impact Investor

Temple Fennel

Co-Founder & Managing Director
Clean Energy Ventures

Matthew Nordan

Managing Director
Prime Impact Fund