Innovalight, the Sunnyvale, Calif. company that liquid-processes light-absorbing materials (other than silicon) into nano-size particles for so-called solar ink, says its technology is only three to five years from becoming a reality.
Spun out of the University of Texas at Austin, the company has lofty goals to make solar cells both paintable and sprayable. That way building developers could coat massive surfaces — entire roofs even — with energy-generating compounds of copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). To give you a sense of how small these nano-particle cells are, they are reportedly 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.
The last time VentureBeat reported on Innovalight, it had just nabbed $5 million in financing from Silicon Valley Bank and Leader Ventures for continued development. So far, the company has used it to test prototypes. Results today are somewhat disappointing, with the cells converting only 1 percent of the sunlight absorbed into usable electricity. In order to compete with standard solar panels (some of which are 25 percent efficient), it will have to hit a target of 15 percent at minimum. The company says it will start looking at commercialization once it achieves 10 percent.
But Innovalight’s goal from the start has been to produce a creative and more cost-effective option of solar users, and it seems undeterred. In fact, it’s already looking ahead. Its founder, Brian Korgel says he anticipates semi-transparent solar inks that can one day be used to paint windows, cooling interiors while generating energy. It also earns brownie points for using CIGS solar modules, which are not only less expensive than silicon, but less harmful to the environment.
Innovalight’s investors include Apax Partners, ARCH Venture Partners, Harris & Harris Group, Sevin Rosen Funds and Triton Ventures. Over a year ago, the company’s CEO wrote a guest column for VentureBeat, which you can read here.