Solar startup Ampulse of Golden, Colorado is winding down its operations, according to sources. Calls to the CEO and the firm's VC investors have not been returned.
When we reported on the 150+ VC-funded solar startups in the last few years, we were clear that the majority would not survive and the shakeout would be painful. The loss of the ten-employee startup Ampulse is just a small step in this necessary consolidation.
Ampulse wanted to deposit a thin layer of monocrystalline silicon on a copper foil. Armed with substrate and buffer technology from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Hot-Wire Chemical Vapor Deposition epitaxial silicon processing from NREL, Ampulse aimed to grow high-efficiency monocrystalline cells directly from silane gas.
The firm received more than $10 million from Globespan Capital Partners, El Dorado Ventures, Battelle Ventures and the DOE.
The firm was founded in 2008 when solar panels and silicon were a bit more expensive. In 2009, investor Daniel Leff of Globespan Capital said that Ampulse was on a “radically different cost curve" and would still outshine competitors even with the cheaper silicon and their push to improve efficiencies.
People close to the company observed very slow progress over the last few years and an inability of the Ampulse approach to support high (or even moderate) efficiencies.
Despite the apparent demise of Ampulse, the value proposition of cheaper and more efficient crystalline silicon remains valid. Although the cost of solar panels has plummeted, silicon remains a significant cost in the solar panel Bill of Materials. If less silicon can be used, if cells can be made more efficient, or if processing steps can be eliminated, there is still an opportunity for industry and entrepreneurs.
GTM Research just released a detailed report on new c-Si technologies, and report author Andrew Gabor speaks at length on the topic in this podcast. The report (and our ongoing online coverage) explores the benefits of thin silicon, ion implant technology, and other kerfless technologies, as well as diamond saws, encapsulants and new cell architectures.