Reprinted with permission from Semiconductor Times, March 2003
Copyright 2003, Pinestream Communications, Inc.
Founded in July 2001, Konarka grew out of research at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, funded by the U.S. Army, to develop portable, lightweight solar energy generators that could be worn as part of a uniform. Konarkas mission is "to become the world leader in low-cost, flexible photovoltaics." In August 2001, Zero Stage Capital provided seed funding to Konarka. In October 2002, Konarka closed $13.5 million in Series B funding led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson and including Zero Stage Capital, Ardesta, and NextGen Partners. Corporate investors ChevronTexaco and Eastman Chemical Company completed the round.
Konarka recently acquired Quantum Solar Energy Linz (QSEL), based in Linz, Austria, from Linz AG, the regional utility company. Founded in 1997, QSEL is dedicated to the development of photovoltaics based on conducting polymers. Working in collaboration with the Linz Institute for Organic Solar Cells (LIOS), the company has achieved the highest reported solar conversion efficiency for an organic cell.
LIOS was established by Dr. N. Serdar Sariciftci at Johannes Kepler University, a top scientist in the field of conducting polymers as applied to photovoltaics. As a result of the acquisition, Linz AG has become a shareholder in Konarka and Dr. N. Serdar Sariciftci has become a member of Konarkas Scientific Advisory Board.
Konarka considers organic solar cell technology complementary to its dye-based solar cell nanotechnology. Both technologies are compatible with Konarkas expertise in roll-to-roll manufacturing and low-cost processing. The organic PV technology also opens the door for a hybrid solar cell, which combines the advantages of nanocrystalline titanium dioxide with conducting polymers.
Konarka is developing a flexible, lightweight, portable solar cell that can be incorporated in building materials, appliance surfaces, clothing, and a wide range of new applications. Unlike other photovoltaic technologies, Konarkas operates under sunlight and artificial lighting conditions, as well as in a wide range of temperatures. Konarkas technology, which builds on dye-sensitized solar cell technology, integrates polymer chemistry, physics, dye technology, and nanomaterials science. The KTI-produced modules will be more versatile and lightweight than traditional photovoltaic modules that typically rely on glass to protect rigid crystalline solar cells.
Konarkas technology is based on the dye-sensitized solar cell, a technology made possible through low temperature "cold sintered" titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles. Konarka has acquired the exclusive worldwide licensing rights to this technology from the University of Massachusetts. The core of the dye-sensitized technology consists of nanometer-scale crystals of TiO2 semiconductor coated with a monolayer of light-absorbing dye and embedded in an electrolyte between the front and back electrical contacts. Konarka continues to enhance the technology at all levels, including cell and module chemistry, manufacturing and product design.
Konarka has also been granted the first licensee rights in the Americas to dye-sensitized solar cell technology from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). As a result, Konarka will be able to leverage its own intellectual property in conjunction with the EPFL license, to expedite the commercialization of its photovoltaic technology.
The EPFLs dye-sensitized technology enables photovoltaic technology to conduct energy across a broad spectrum of light, both indoors and out. Konarka is able to enhance this technology, based on the companys own inventions and its exclusive, worldwide licensing rights to proprietary processes from the University of Massachusetts. These processes will enable production at lower temperatures, which serves as the foundation for extremely low manufacturing costs.
With low cost raw materials and relatively low cost manufacturing technology and processes, deposited thin films have the potential to provide more than a 50% reduction in cost relative to traditional crystalline cell modules. Konarka has nearly a dozen patents pending for the cold sintering and the roll-to-roll manufacturing process.
Bill Beckenbaugh, Ph.D., President & CEO (previously SVP & Chief Technical Marketing Officer at Sanmina-SCI)
Paul Wormser, COO (20+ years experience with solar-oriented subsidiaries of Exxon, Mobil and RWE. He was the CEO of Advanced Energy, a supplier of power electronics to the solar and fuel cell industries, and Technology Director for Solar Design, a leader in the design of solar buildings.)
Dr. Russell Gaudiana, Ph.D., VP of R&D (previously managed the Chemical Research Division of R&D at Polaroid)
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