National Semiconductor has acquired Act Solar to expand its offerings of devices designed to minimize energy lost during solar electricity production.

National Semi, a long-time maker of power management chips for cell phones and other electronic equipment, has been eyeing the solar market for a while. It’s been developing a chipset that it says could improve the harvesting of the power produced by a system of solar panels, particularly in instances when some of the panels aren't able to perform well as a result of being in the shade or covered by debris. The company plans to launch the chipset, under the brand SolarMagic, at the Intersolar conference in Munich on May 27, said LuAnn Jenkins, a National Semi spokeswoman.

Buying Act Solar is a quick way for Santa Clara, Calif.-based National Semi to boost its product portfolio.  Act Solar, founded in 2006 and located in Santa Clara, has developed a device that sets out to maximize each solar energy system’s power production.

Both companies' technologies aim to solve the same problems. Called PowerString, Act Solar’s technology could help out panels that aren’t producing as well as they could because they are in the shade or covered by dust, the company said. The PowerString device re-circulates a tiny amount of energy throughout the solar panel array, so that the inverter responsible for converting the direct current from the panels to alternating current could easily make use the electricity produced by the underperforming panels.

Act Solar claimed that its technology could extract 40 percent to 80 percent more power over the lifetime of a solar energy system (The results were based on field tests and historical modeling).

National Semi declined to say how much it paid for Act Solar. Jenkins said it was an all-cash transaction.