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Written by Alex St. Urbain

When you think of solar technology, you think of a large, rigid solar panel on the roof of a building. That is a thing of the past as MC10 Inc. is a company that is leading the way in using flexible photovoltaic cells as a new way to capture good clean energy.  This new technology is a way to create solar panels using transparent and incredibly thin silicon micro-cells that can be placed on virtually any surface.

MC10 is based on the research between George M. Whitesides, a world renowned chemist and professor at Harvard University, and Dr. John Rogers of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  Years ago Dr. Rogers began researching an alternative to using the rigid silicon solar panels that have dominated the technology. His determination to find a more flexible alternative has led to recent advances in the process of silicon fabrication. One such example is the ability of the cells to be transparent which will allow them to be placed in all kinds of windows.

This solar technology can be placed on backpacks, clothing, cars, and even pens. The new lightweight photovoltaic cells can also lead to large cost savings in shipping and installation. Depending on the way the cells are arranged, the panel is able to work with high and low voltage devices. If this technology succeeds, the cells could be printed on rolls that could be used for many different purposes and solve many of the current energy problems.

MC10 has also submitted a few solar concepts to GE’s Ecomagination Competition, a $200 million dollar innovation experiment where students, businesses and innovators share ideas to create a new and more intelligent power grid. The goal is to have the new grid use more renewable sources of energy in order to meet growing needs. In an effort to make this technology available, MC 10 has recently licensed this technology to Semprius, a semiconductor company based in North Carolina.  This company was selected for a $3 million dollar subcontract with the US department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).  With the help of this contract, the solar technology company plans to commercialize within the next few years.

 


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