Netcrystal has developed a MEMS-stylesolartechnology that lets photovoltaic silicon stretch and expand to cover large areas. Netcrystal's CEO, Bala Padmakumar, claims that the device's efficiency will rival and exceed that of the mighty SunPower (~19%) while beating the price claims of the mightily-hyped Nanosolar ($.99/watt).
The technology and IP originate with work done at Stanford University by Peter Peumans who is now Netcrystal's Chief Science Officer. Interconnected nodes of PV silicon surrounded by coiled silicon are fabricated in a relatively standard DRIE process upon a flexible polymer substrate. The substrate is then mechanically stretched to expand many times resulting in distributed PV zones which are already connected by the now uncoiled silicon - ostensibly eliminating the wafer to wafer interconnection now performed on panels using crystalline silicon.
Padmakumar is the principal investigator of a recently awarded $99,000 SBIR Phase I project focused on the development of high-efficiency, lightweight, non-tracking 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."
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