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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Nanosolar - printable solar panels

Palo Alto based nanotechnology company Nanosolar has been working since 2002 on building low-cost "thin-film" solar panels that are literally printed onto flexible sheets; dramatically reducing production, distribution and installation costs.

Prominent Nanosolar investors

  • U.S. Department of Energy - $20M award
  • Benchmark Capital - VC behind eBay
  • Mohr Davidow Ventures - VC behind Rambus
  • Mitsui & Co
  • OnPoint Technologies - US Army equity fund
  • Stanford University
  • Swiss Re
  • GLG Partners
  • LGT Capital Group
  • SAC Capital
  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google)
  • Nanosolar's Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide (CIGS) thin film has comparable efficiencies to regular multicrystalline silicon cells. However, the cost per watt for CIGS will be about 1/5th that of regular solar cells, making it comparable in cost to grid generated power at under $2 per watt.

    Instead of using expensive vacuum based thin-film deposition processes, Nanosolar developed a nanoparticle ink that enables them to use a much simpler and higher yield printing process for depositing the solar cell's semiconductor onto a low-cost foil substrate; using a continuous roll-to-roll printing process. This enables the production of high-power high-current panels with significantly lower costs.

    • Ink

      Nanosolar has developed a proprietary ink that makes it possible to simply print the semiconductor of the solar cell. The homogeneous mix of nanoparticles in the ink ensures that the atomic ratios of the elements are correct wherever the ink is printed, even across large areas of deposition. This contrasts to vacuum deposition processes where the various materials sources have to be "atomically" synchronized.

    • Printing

      Printing is simpler, faster and more cost efficient than other semiconductor techniques. Using a process that can work in plain air without the need of vacuum deposition enables Nanosolar to significantly cut the costs of manufacture.

    • Substrate

      A thin-film solar cell consists of an absorber layer (the semiconductor) sandwiched in between a top and a bottom electrode layer. The thin films of the Nanosolar cell are deposited directly onto a highly conductive copper foil electrode, which is not only much simpler than electrodes used on glass or stainless steel substrates, it can carry 5-10 times more current than other thin-film cells.

    • Roll-to-roll processing

      Rolls that are meters wide and kilometers long can be processed efficiently with high throughput in equipment with significantly lower capital cost than current wafer-based methods.

    • Patents

      Nanosolar has over 180 patents issued, licensed, or pending regarding all critical aspects of nanostructured solar cell materials and relevant product and equipment designs.

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