In this edition: Silicon Inks, Quantum Dots, Organic PV, Stretched Silicon and Other Oddities with Potential.
We continue our long list of private solar firms with Next Gen PV.
Arguably some of these next gen startups could be crowbarred into the thin-film or CPV category but unproven materials, processes, and substrates land them in this miscellaneous bucket. Many of these are still in the lab, proof-of-concept stage and will never become commercialized. But one of these technologies might be the “black swan" that changes PV economics. If you know of one we’ve missed, add a comment and we’ll get it included.
3GSolar (a.k.a Orion Solar): An Israel-based solar startup funded with at least $1 million from 21 Ventures (21 Ventures has a relationship with The Quercus Trust). Orion builds flexible DSCs. Vesta Capital Corporation, traded on Canada’s TSX has signed an LOI to acquire 3G for $10M in what looks like a reverse merger to take the Israeli firm public.
Bandgap Engineering: With $1.4M in funding from NEA and MGEF, Bandgap Engineering is “nanoengineering silicon" and “putting an intermediate band in Si solar cells to improve efficiency." Their CTO has written a paper, “Intentional Interface Defects as a Means of Band Gap Engineering and the Applications to Photovoltaics."
Bloo Solar: Formerly known as Q1 NanoSystems, Bloo Solar has IP from UC Davis and builds nano-structured “bristles" layered with CdTe as the PV material although other materials can be used. The bristled substrate provides greater surface area and acceptance angle. The firm has received $100,000 from an NSF grant and are looking for their first VC round.
eQsolaris: Micro-concentrator solar cells using Kyosemi’s free-fall droplet photodiode “Sphelar" cells with an optical and electrical connection from Energy Related Devices. eQsolaris is seeking capital for a pilot production plant.
FlexCell: a-Si deposited on flexible plastic film via a very high frequency (VHF) plasma deposition technique. It received $9 million from Q-Cells in 2006.
G24i: Dye sensitized thin film solar cells headquartered in Wales and funded with $30M in 2008 from 4RAE and Morgan Stanley Principal Investments.
Heliatek: German-based organic PV startup with more than $5 million in seed and round A funding from HTGF, BASF Venture Group, Bosch and Wellington Partners.
Innovalight: A $7.5 million round B and a $28 million round C from Convexa Capital, Scatec, Apax, ARCH, H&H, Sevin Rosen and Triton for ink-like application of PV with nano-particles of silicon. DOE funding and $5 million in debt and equity from SVB.
Konarka: “Nano-enabled polymer photovoltaic materials" -- organic PV with more than $100 million in VC investment and grants since 2001 from a very long and probably impatient list of investors including 3i, DFJ, NEA, Partech, Good Energies, Vanguard Ventures, et al. The firm claims to build PV materials for portable power.
Lightwave Power: Solar energy based on nanoarrays -- large area thin-film arrays of repeating nano and micro-sized structures that can absorb, convert, and control light over a range of wavelengths, produced on flexible substrates. Founded in January 2008, their lead investor is 21 Ventures.
NanoGram: The company's third and most recent funding round of $32 million came from ATA Ventures, Bay Partners, Harris & Harris, IVP, Nth Power, Rockport Capital Partners, SBV Venture Partners, Technology Partners, Global Cleantech Capital, Masdar Clean Tech Fund, Mitsui Ventures, et al. Its laser and nanotech processes have applications in solar thin films.
NanoMas Technologies: NanoMas builds highly conductive metallic nanoparticles for use in printed electronics, conductive pastes, solar cells and IC chip packaging. They closed a $3.2M Round A in Q4 2008 with funding from BASF Venture Capital, Earthrise Capital Fund, and NanoMaterials Investors.
Nano Si: Funded by The Quercus Trust, Nano Si Solar emerged from the University of Illinois. Founder Professor Munir Nayfeh has developed particles for increasing the efficiency of solar cells.
Netcrystal: NetCrystal is using a technology developed by Peumans’ group at Stanford, funded by Wellington Partners, Siemens, and X-Seed. Netcrystal’s SBIR Phase I project is focused on the development of high-efficiency, lightweight, non-tracking, microconcentrator PV arrays based on stretched silicon. According to the SBIR document: “The stretchable silicon process can achieve accurate placement and electrical wiring of thousands of miniature solar cells in one parallel and potentially low-cost step."
NewCyte: An array of vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes form 3D solar cells from researchers at Georgia Tech. The research is sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the AFRL, and Intellectual Property Partners. MBE is used to coat the nanotubes with CdTe and CdS which act as the p-type and n-type PV layers.
OmniPV: fka UltraDots, funded by Morgenthaler Ventures and InterWest Partners. The firm uses a thin layer of a non-silicon material to harness solar energy. Ultradots, OmniPV’s predecessor had patents in using nanoparticles and QDs for authentication purposes.
Photon Synergy: Pre-VC startup developing “nano solar technology." Silicon nanocrystals?
Plextronics: Printed organic solar cells using active-layer solar inks with more than $22 million in funding from The Solvay Group, Firelake Capital, Birchmere Ventures, Draper Triangle Ventures, Newlin Investment, Applied Ventures et al.
QuNano: Sweden’s QuNano raised a 6.1 million Round A in 2006 from Provider Venture Partners, Teknoinvest, BTG, LU Innovation, et al. Its heterostructured nanowire technology has applications in PV. This PV technology was spun-out in 2008 as a new firm, Sol Voltaics, with additional investment from Scatec targeting CPV applications for their advanced nanostructured III-V materials.
SiOnyx: Funded by Harris & Harris, Polaris Ventures, and RedShift Ventures -- SiOnyx’ “black silicon" creates shallow junction photonics with possible applications in PV. Their laser process induces atomistic changes to Si detector materials with significant increase in optoelectronic response.
Semprius: Transfer printing technology for semiconductor devices including solar cells with a $4.1 million Series A in early 2007 from Arch Venture Partners, Intersouth Partners, and Illinois Ventures. Strategic investment from Applied Materials added in mid 2007.
Solaroad: Solar power generation from a-Si and thermionic temperature-activated materials.
Solaris Nanosciences: DSSCs via Solaris' “NanoAntenna" (plasmon?) materials with funding from Yellowstone Capital, et al.
Solarmer: Organic solar cells on flexible plastic with an 8 percent efficiency target using UCLA-developed technology. Acquired by AMREL in 2007.
Solasta – Solasta is a DOE funded, pre-VC firm attempting to develop high efficiency solar by separating the path traveled by light from the path traveled by electrons using nanostructures.
Solexant: IR nanostructures (QDs) integrated into thin film solar cells to increase efficiency and reduce cost with $4.3 million in its 2007 Round A funding and an $18.1 million Round B from X/Seed Capital, Firelake, Medley Partners and Trident Capital in November 2008.
Solexel: Funded by KPCB and Technology Partners, Solexel is in stealth but here’s a guess –- the company develops microfabrication and MEMS technology to integrate mechanical features and microelectronics on a silicon surface for PV applications. These patents, invented by Mehrdad Moslehi describe a 3D thin-film solar cell (TFSC) fabricated with a reusable template substrate. And these filings describe a pyramidal 3D TFSC.
StarSolar: Pre-VC start-up, winner of MIT competition working on photonic crystals in solar cells.
Stion (a.k.a. NStructures): $6 million first round in 2006, $15 million second round in 2007 from Khosla Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures, Moser Baer PV, General Catalyst, and Lightspeed Venture Partners. A stealthy high-efficiency thin-film startup using unnamed materials deposited in vacuum based on the work of Dr. Howard Lee.
Sunlight Photonics: Integrating photonic crystals into existing silicon production.
Vanguard Solar: Funded by its founders and a federal grant, Vanguard produces thin film PV material using CdSe on carbon nanotubes. The proposed manufacturing process is roll-to-roll at room temperature in a Chemical Bath Deposition process. The firm is working with Batelle, Chasm Tech, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
Voxtel: DOE-funded nanocrystal quantum dots with applications in PV devices.
Wakonda: “Virtual Single Crystal" high-efficiency, thin-film solar cells using III-V semiconductors on flexible metal foils. Wakonda claims to be able to produce a Ge film on a flexible metal substrate to replace expensive Ge crystal wafer substrate. The company raised a $9.5 million round A from ATV, General Catalyst, Polaris, Applied Ventures and MGEF. Here’s a link to one of Wakonda’s patents.