LEONARDTOWN, Md. – A solar energy startup company has licensed the U.S. Navy’s patented solar cell technology to supply an expanding market for commercial solar panel installations and unmanned aerial vehicles.
SolarCube and the Naval Research Laboratory signed the license agreement in June 2018 for the lab’s patented “spray deposition method for inorganic nanocrystal solar cells” technology.
Last week, the company won a competitive $100,000 technology product development grant through the Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program. The funding will directly support the research and development work led by Dr. Troy Townsend, the technology’s principle inventor, now at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
The solar manufacturing technique uses nanomaterials to allow photovoltaic solar modules to be manufactured using an affordable, ink-jet like printing process, said Jeff Croisetiere, chief operations officer at SolarCube.
“There’s a substantial weight saving, which is a key advantage for large roof structures that have concerns with the weight per square foot. Plus, they work better than traditional panels on ballasted roofs,” Croisetiere told TechLink.
Townsend developed the base technology at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in 2014 and has proven the process with a working nanocrystal prototype and is on the company’s advisory board.
“Of all the renewable energy options, solar is the only one with enough potential to exceed even our future global power demand,” Townsend said. “Solar power is a really nice financial benefit for homeowners. But not for everyone else. In order to make it more accessible, we need to drive the price way down and seamlessly integrate it into our everyday life.”
TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary, assisted SolarCube with development of the required commercialization plan and patent license application.
The new solar cells are flexible and can be rolled for efficient shipping, but they also absorb a frequency of light different from standard panels, which means they can improve the energy production of existing solar farms when installed on top of the existing panels.