1366 Technologies claims that its small multicrystalline solar cells are 27% more efficient than conventional cells while keeping costs about the same. It also announced its first round of funding of $12.4 million from Venture capitalists co-led by North Bridge Venture Partners and Polaris Venture Partners.
The company's efficiency and cost claims are based on results from small solar cells (about two centimeters across) made in the lab of professor of mechanical engineering Emanuel Sachs, who is one of the company's founders.
1366 Technologies is building a pilot-scale manufacturing plant that will make full-sized solar cells (about 15 centimeters across) that should yield results in about a year.
Sachs says that current solar cells cost about $2.10 per watt generated. When manufactured at a commercial scale, the first cells incorporating his new technology will cost $1.65 per watt while planned improvements will reduce the cost to about $1.30 a watt.
The company's solar cells include three key innovations to improve efficiency:
- A method for adding texture to the surface of the cells that allows the silicon to absorb more light.
- A method for making the current collecting wires as small as one-fifth the width of the wires that are typically used, while improving their conductivity.
- A new Light-Capturing Ribbon that increases the efficiency of a solar module by reflecting light back onto the surface of the cell. This grooved ribbon replaces the traditional wires used to interconnect solar cells.
Professor Sachs previously invented the String ribbon™ wafer technology being commercialized at Evergreen Solar, a leading developer of solar energy products. Sachs is joined by 1366 Technologies co-founder and investor, Frank van Mierlo, who serves as the company’s president. Harvard Business School professor Joseph Lassiter rounds out the board of directors, all of whom hold degrees from MIT.