QuantaSol gets $2.7 million for solar-cell development

LONDON, ENGLAND-Solar-cell specialist QuantaSol has received a $2.7 million dollar investment from Imperial Innovations Group (also in London, England), a technology commercialization and investment company.

LONDON, ENGLAND-Solar-cell specialist QuantaSol has received a $2.7 million dollar investment from Imperial Innovations Group (also in London, England), a technology commercialization and investment company. The round included investment of $610,000 by Imperial Innovations-on a milestone basis-and significant sums from Low Carbon Accelerator, NetScientific, and Numis Corporation. Following the investment, Imperial Innovations owns a 24% stake in the company.

Formed in 2006, QuantaSol is a spin-off from Imperial College, London. The company will use the funds to produce prototypes of its quantum-well photovoltaic (QWPV) cells and to engage with potential customers for these solar PV cells. It also plans to provide solar photovoltaic cells for use in concentrating PV (CPV) systems for the fast-growing utility-scale solar-power generation market.

According to Imperial Innovations, CPV systems use relatively inexpensive optics such as mirrors or lenses to concentrate or focus light from a broad collection area onto a much smaller area of active semiconductor PV cell material. Since the PV semiconductor material usually dominates the costs of a solar PV system, reducing the amount of PV material required to capture a given amount of sunlight leads to substantially lower system cost and cost per watt of output. QuantaSol’s “third generation” cells are based on Gallium arsenide (GaAs) and other III-V semiconductor materials. These materials are more expensive than silicon, which is commonly used for flat panel PV, but have more than double the photovoltaic efficiency. QuantaSol plans to manufacture single and multi-junction concentrator solar cells with efficiency levels of up to 40%.

Researchers involved in developing the technology include professor Keith Barnham from Imperial College London, Massimo Mazzer from the National Research Council of Italy, and John Roberts from the University of Sheffield. QuantaSol has also put in place a management team which includes CEO Kevin Arthur who has twenty-three years of international business development and operational experience in semiconductor manufacturing companies and technology start-ups.

Arthur said, “We are very grateful for the support that we have received from Imperial Innovations, and are looking forward to working with them and the rest of the investor group to take QuantaSol forward to become a major global supplier of third-generation, high-efficiency solar cells.”

Solar-energy market stays hot

Good news in funding and contract awards continues to be the norm for companies in the solar-energy market. It was just announced that Trina Solar (Changzhou, China) won several European contracts for its microcrystalline solar modules including three contracts in Italy to be awarded over a three-year period (6 MW with Enerpoint, 22-33 MW with Tecnospot, and 20 MW with Enereco), as well as a two-year contract to supply 40 MW of solar modules to IBC Solar in Germany.

In addition to conventional silicon-based photovoltaic installations, advances in PV cells using other semiconductors (besides QuantaSol’s GaAs QWPV cells) are being made by companies like Ascent Solar Technologies (Littleton, CO), which uses a copper-indium-gallium-selenium compound to produce thin-film PV modules on plastic substrates. Ascent Solar just earned $20 million from a conversion of Class A public warrants that will help fund its roll-to-roll rapid prototyping process in preparation for the commencement of manufacturing operations on a 1.5 MW pilot production plant scheduled for completion by the end of 2007. Ascent’s goal is to construct four 25 MW scale production lines, the first of which is scheduled for completion in 2009.

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