Plenty of scientists out there can make solar cells with 40 percent conversion efficiency. The problem is that, as Dr. Steve Fonash of Penn State puts it, “only countries could buy them.”
Fonash is co-founder of Solarity LLC, a company based at Penn State’s Innovation Park that’s less than a month away from completing a prototype for solar cells that have the efficiency of high-end cell without the high-end cost. The idea, says Fonash, is to design a solar cell that is easily mass produced, can withstand the elements, has a 30 or 40 percent conversion efficiency, all for a price that consumers can afford.
If anyone could produce such a thing, it would be Fonash. No Johnny-come-lately to the field of solar technology, his company’s patent portfolio goes back to the late 1990s, and his work with solar cells goes back even further. Fonash developed a computer code to analyze solar cells in the early 1980s and wrote a book about it called “Solar Cell Device Physics,” which is commonly referred to as the “bible of solar physics.” A revised edition is coming out next year that includes Fonash’s current solar cell research.
His company, Solarity, was founded in 2006 in preparation for a super-efficient, commercially viable solar cell. Currently, the company consists of Fonash, co-founder Doug Neidich, and three employees. He says they are very close to their goal.
“It’s based on a concept called lateral collection, a new approach that everyone around the world is exploring,” says Fonash. “It’s a very hot topic around the world, but I think we have a very unique intellectual property position. We thought of it first. Everyone is building them, but we’re very far ahead.”
Solarity recently received a $100,000 grant from Ben Franklin Technology Partners to develop solar cell prototypes; the company is now working out issues of material, production and manufacturing.
Source: Dr. Steve Fonash, Solarity LLC
Writer: John Davidson