Canadian Manufacturing

SDTC invest $5.4M in Halifax firm working on breakthrough ultra-thin solar cells

Metamaterial Technologies is developing solar cells 70 per cent thinner than those on the market today; they could be integrated into planes and cars to slash transportation emissions


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Researchers and companies have already begun integrating solar technology into vehicles such as planes and cars on a limited basis. Solar Impulse 2, which flew around the world, seen here. Solar Impulse

DARTMOUTH, N.S.—An East Coast materials company working on a new type of lightweight, highly efficient solar cell is getting a major boost from Ottawa.

Federal government officials were at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia’s Metamaterial Technologies Inc. Oct. 12 to announced approximately $5.4 million in funding for a research project aimed at developing a potentially revolutionary technology for powering vehicles using ultra-thin solar cells.

The cleantech firm says its patented new metaSOLAR cells can collect and utilize light from all directions—including wide angles—and perform at a higher efficiency than other products currently on the market.

The federal investment, awarded through Sustainable Development Technology Canada, is part of a $17.9 million effort to commercialize the product. Other partners on the project include ENEL Green Power, U.S. defence firm Lockheed Martin and institutions such as the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

“This investment allows us to accelerate and expand our research and development for the transportation industry,” George Palikaras, Metamaterial’s founder and CEO, said in a statement, also noting that the transportation sector already accounts for about 19 per cent of global energy use. Energy use in the transportation industry and the associated emissions are expected to climb 80 per cent by 2050.

Vehicles able to use solar power for some of their energy needs, however, could reduce emissions that go along with nearly every form of transportation today.

Mark Brongersma, a professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University collaborating on the project said the company’s technology has the potential to shrink the thickness of typical solar cells by about 70 per cent without losing any of their efficiency.

“At that thickness, typical cells would become around 10 percent efficient and MTI’s technology is not only capable maintaining above 20 percent efficiency but the entire solar cell would become flexible enough to bend and put on curved surfaces,” he said.

“This technology has the potential to take solar cell efficiency to a new level.”


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