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SolFilm Technology from Sol Voltaics: An Interview with CEO Erik Smith About this Disruptive Solar Panel Technology

SolFilm. solar panel

Sol Voltaics is trying to apply their breakthrough nanotechnology to enhance the effectivity of photo voltaic panels the world over. Boasting a 50% effectivity enchancment when the light-weight nanowire SolFilm is utilized to panels, this Sweden-based firm is positioned to revolutionize the potential of photo voltaic installations all over the place.

This interview with the corporate’s CEO faucets into his considering on the photo voltaic market and the way their strategy to skinny movie know-how will fulfill guarantees lengthy made by researchers.

Regardless of widespread want to buck to advertise solar energy globally, many constraints nonetheless encompass solar energy, whether or not they be political, financial, or institutional. A non-controversial strategy to make progress outdoors of those roadblocks is to advance the know-how. Whereas such technological progress typically takes immense funding and assets, which aren’t straightforward to return by, when breakthroughs in renewable applied sciences do emerge from this R&D they are often embraced the world over with out a lot debate.

Sol Voltaics is displaying that common fact, notably with their nanotechnology referred to as SolFilm. This firm is pushed to take their improvements to advance the effectivity of photo voltaic panels the world over. By including their light-weight nanowire SolFilm know-how, Sol Voltaics boasts that this cost-effective and easy-to-install materials can enhance panel effectivity by a mind-blowing 50% (protected to say that may symbolize the most important even single bounce within the effectivity of mainstream solar energy).

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What precisely is SolFilm? Based on the corporate, it’s a “light-weight photonic movie consisting of high-efficiency, gallium arsenide PV nanowires [that] converts excessive power daylight immediately into energy and is clear for infra-red mild. The infra-red mild might be transformed into energy…enabling a far larger energy conversion effectivity than present in present modern typical modules.” That’s fairly a mouthful, and the extra technical amongst us can learn extra from their just lately revealed scientific paper, however primarily allows present photo voltaic panels to supply considerably extra power. Better of all, Sol Voltaics will guarantee photo voltaic panel producers might combine their product with out a lot value or effort– SolFilm can be utilized alone as a alternative for skinny movie/silicon cells within the manufacture of photo voltaic panels, and even higher, they are often stacked on prime of the traditional PV module (in the course of the latter levels of producing) to create an much more high-efficiency product.

I just lately had a chance to ask a couple of inquiries to Erik Smith, CEO of Sol Voltaics, about this know-how that may inevitably be a real disruptor of the solar energy business.

Sol Voltaics

Matt Chester: Erik, I needed to first thanks for making your self out there to reply my questions on Sol Voltaics, the thrilling SolFilm improvement, and the photo voltaic market usually. I’ve learn an honest quantity about SolFilm in your web site, in Forbes, and different publications, and the longer term seems vibrant. However earlier than moving into the longer term, I needed to get a way of the previous. Are you able to present a fast overview about how Sol Voltaics acquired right here?

Erik Smith: Sol Voltaics was based in 2011. Our roots are firmly embedded in Lund, Sweden, and Lund College. The College’s NanoLund group is likely one of the worldwide pioneers of nanoscience and nanotechnology.

World-renowned nanotechnologist Lars Samuelson is a scientific founding father of the corporate and the vice director of NanoLund. Sol Voltaics’ mental property is predicated on a mixture of Professor Samuelson’s 25 years of Silicon (Si) and III-V nanowire analysis and Sol Voltaics-generated IP. I’ve spent over 20 years in know-how improvement and management in photo voltaic, semiconductor gear, and supplies and international contract manufacturing. Our wider group is a nexus of science and business. It is vital that the managers perceive not solely their scientific fields, but in addition the necessities of being in an organization with the last word goal of offering a product. The corporate consists of 55 individuals representing 15 totally different nationalities.

The impetus for the founding of Sol Voltaics was the invention of Aerotaxy by Dr. Samuelson. Aerotaxy is a steady move manufacturing course of that permits Sol Voltaics to supply gallium arsenide (GaAs) photo voltaic cell nanowires at a really low value. The power to convey GaAs, one of the best photo voltaic materials on the planet, to market at a low value was the concept attracted the buyers. Since being based, Sol Voltaics has raised $64 million of complete funding, with 20% coming from non-dilutive sources.

Chester: Persevering with with that thread, how does SolFilm issue into the entire story of Sol Voltaics? Was the SolFilm know-how the rationale behind Sol Voltaics being shaped, or is it one in a line of a number of merchandise? Are there different improvements into which you’re trying to department out? 

Smith: Sol Voltaics was shaped to understand the huge photo voltaic power potential of GaAs by way of nanotechnology. GaAs has super photo voltaic energy-generating properties and holds the single-junction conversion effectivity report. Additionally it is a particularly strong and dependable materials. It has been used for a few years in concentrated photo voltaic PV methods and in area purposes. Nevertheless, till now, the excessive value of GaAs has prevented it from being manufactured right into a scalable, economically acceptable product for the mass solar energy market. Via our patented Aerotaxy course of and the nanophotonic results of the nanowires, we’re capable of produce a highly-efficient, low-cost GaAs PV cell referred to as SolFilm.

SolFilm would be the first business product produced by Sol Voltaics. However given the power of Aerotaxy to supply quite a few sorts of refined nanowires and our capacity to align and arrange these nanowires, we see huge potential to use these two core applied sciences to different purposes.

Chester: What are the most important hurdles dealing with Sol Voltaics immediately? Do they arrive from the know-how aspect, the economics or market aspect, any kind of political obstacles, or one thing else?

Smith: As with many start-ups, acquiring funding is all the time an impediment to deliver product to market. Nevertheless, we’re in an excellent place as a result of we’ve demonstrated all the important thing technological points of SolFilm. The subsequent spherical of funding will probably be used for course of optimization to supply prototype samples. That is the ultimate stage earlier than we will commercially manufacture SolFilm.

The SolFilm Know-how

Chester: I discovered that your advertising supplies give a terrific ‘elevator pitch’ abstract of the SolFilm know-how. Usually, do you discover individuals get on board and perceive what you’re making an attempt to do shortly, or do you discover that folks get a bit misplaced within the weeds of understanding the tech?

Smith: For these inside the photo voltaic market, notably cell and module producers, they perceive our worth proposition and the advantages of SolFilm in a short time. The photo voltaic business has an pressing have to innovate and convey to market applied sciences that may allow higher module efficiencies. The business has seen solely incremental will increase in efficiencies over the previous 10 years. SolFilm’s nice success has been the power to scale back prices to the purpose the place, in lots of areas, it’s aggressive with conventional power sources. To make sure the world complies with COP21 targets, innovation is paramount at acceptable prices. SolFilm represents a know-how that may assist meet these targets and catapult mainstream photo voltaic module efficiencies in the direction of 30%.

Chester: A number of corporations have come in recent times promising skinny movie know-how that would present a breakthrough within the photo voltaic area, however little progress has been made and buyers have been immune to guess on the know-how. What makes SolFilm totally different? How will the story play out this time?

Smith: One key distinction for Sol Voltaics is our patented Aerotaxy course of. Aerotaxy supplies a low-cost path to bringing the well-accepted, sought-after GaAs materials to the marketplace. Aerotaxy generates GaAs PV nanowires inside seconds, at yields comparable with semiconductor business requirements, and may produce them on a steady foundation. A second key to our low value is the nanophotonic properties of nanowires. Appearing like waveguides, one solely must cowl the module with 20% nanowires. That is the optimum mild gathering density. These two crucial points of SolFilm allow us to convey efficiencies within the higher 20% vary at a comparable value per Watt peak (Wp) to plain low-cost silicon modules.

SolFilm, nanowire

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Lastly, it is very important word that most of the places the place photo voltaic is and can proceed to be deployed are in excessive temperature areas. The temperature coefficient of GaAs as a cloth is considerably higher than silicon. In a area just like the Center East, this could translate to 15-20% extra energy output with the identical effectivity module as a result of GaAs degrades considerably lower than silicon in excessive warmth.

One other essential level of distinction is our affiliation and continued collaboration with the College of Lund and NanoLund. The depth of nanowire understanding at NanoLund along side its means to provide a stream of fantastic scientists to Sol Voltaics makes it a really useful associate.

Chester: A fundamental software for SolFilms is to combine instantly into present PV module strains. Have you ever had any pushback from the PV cell producers about your product and its integration technique?

Smith: We now have quite a few letters of intent from the PV business to combine our SolFilm into modules. The mixing is an very simple course of that requires nearly no alternation of the manufacturing course of. To execute these LOIs, our job is to supply full-size samples.

Chester: As a result of the know-how applies proper to the cell, it looks like SolFilm is equally relevant to utility-scale photo voltaic, residential rooftop photo voltaic, and another photo voltaic set up. That is clearly invaluable on your market to be so extensive, however are there any particular purposes the place SolFilm is particularly appropriate and the good points are much more spectacular?

Smith: We see huge potential for SolFilm in utility-, commercial-, and residential-scale photo voltaic. We consider residential and business photo voltaic are notably well-suited for SolFilm due to the considerably elevated energy the cells can generate per sq. meter of rooftop, thus decreasing the general value per watt of the system. Its wonderful all-black aesthetic and warmth resiliency are additionally key advantages.

SolFilm, solar panel

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Market Urge for food for SolFilm

Chester: The know-how looks like a recreation changer, however higher tech can’t do a lot until it’s efficiently carried out out there. With that in thoughts, what’s the present market of SolFilm? Is the know-how nonetheless within the improvement part or are there any modules in business operation at this time?

Smith: Our know-how continues to be within the optimization part, so there are not any business tasks that includes SolFilm. We’ve LOIs and NDAs with all the most important photo voltaic module producers, all of whom are interested by adopting SolFilm. We’re working towards delivery samples to our companions by the top of 2019.

Chester: The photo voltaic business is infamous for being sluggish to vary and undertake new know-how. What kind of suggestions have you ever gotten from the photo voltaic group– skepticism and doubt or pleasure on the potential to disrupt the market?

Smith: Given the pressing want for innovation on the cell and module degree, the overwhelming majority of module producers are eager about and excited concerning the prospect of SolFilm.

The photo voltaic business has been conscious of the properties and potential of GaAs in PV for a few years because it has been efficiently deployed on concentrator PV tasks and in outer area. We’re on the trail to turning into the primary firm manufacturing mainstream GaAs photo voltaic know-how at low value, which has generated vital anticipation of SolFilm within the business.

The increase that a GaAs materials in tandem conjunction with Si/CIGS can also be well-known. The document is 33% effectivity on this mixture. It’s our job to show the product. We now have proven that the method of SolFilm works, and we have now demonstrated with a world-record nanowire cell that nanowires could make good photo voltaic cells. We now want the funds to optimize and scale the shape issue. It’s extra a matter of when it’ll occur than if it’ll occur.

Chester: I’ve seen you speak about how robust the photo voltaic market, each business and residential, is and the way that exhibits the excessive, excessive ceiling of Sol Voltaics’ market potential. Are you seeing a future the place SolFilm is in a lot of the world’s photo voltaic panels? What kind of rollout technique would get you to that time?

Smith: There are a selection of rollout methods we will take. The excellent news is that the terrestrial photo voltaic panel market is already $40 billion a yr. So, there’s loads of room for progress.


For extra info on Sol Voltaics’ continued developments, go to their web site for normal updates and comply with them on LinkedIn.

Concerning the writer: Matt Chester is an power analyst in Washington DC, studied engineering and science & know-how coverage on the College of Virginia, and operates the Chester Power and Coverage weblog and web site to share information, insights, and recommendation within the fields of power coverage, power know-how, and extra. For extra fast hits along with posts on this weblog, comply with him on Twitter @ChesterEnergy.

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