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Caltech start-up develops technology to make solar panels more efficient


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 24th, 2018

A start-up from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) aims to commercialize a method to improve the efficiency of solar panels.

ETC Solar has developed a technology that tweaks the architecture of the metal-grid layout of individual cells in solar panels, potentially improving output by roughly five percent. The technology comes from the lab of Caltech professor Harry Atwater, who serves as director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Innovation Hub.

This summer, ETC Solar won first place at the DOE’s 2018 Cleantech University Prize, a national collegiate business plan competition in Houston.

“To have been selected as a winner is a huge point of validation for the concept, both the innovation and also the impact,” says Atwater, who also co-founded ETC Solar. “It has helped us to make contacts with potential industrial partners and private equity investors.”

The start-up has received support through the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program, which provides university researchers with mentorship and resources to help bridge the gap from the lab to the marketplace.

“Manufacturers don’t adopt early technologies that easily because they say, ‘Well, my margins are so low, I don’t have room to take financial risks,’” says ETC Solar co-founder Thomas Russell. The company has worked with Caltech’s Office of Technology Transfer and Corporate Partnerships (OTTCP) to overcome this hurdle by making the technology as market-ready as possible. A prototype of the technology is expected to be completed by early 2019.

Source: Pasadena Now

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