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“Perovskite” isn’t exactly a term that rolls off the tongue. Unless you are a casual reader of materials engineering literature, you’ve likely never even heard of it. There is, however, a small company in Washington that’s looking to change that, and they’re onto something big with this mineral-sized material.
“Lower the cost of solar power by about 10%. That’s our goal without really having to change the solar panel manufacturing process,” says Jared Silvia, Co-Founder and CEO of BlueDot Photonics. “We’re using perovskites to convert wasted light into useful light and that gives us more power out of the panel.”
Bluedot Photonics started from what Silvia says was a serendipitous meeting at a research conference where he and his co-founders, Dan Kroupa and Matt Crane, met. Kroupa and Crane were researchers at the University of Washington.
Kroupa’s specialization in optical spectroscopy and Crane’s experience in organic photovoltaics were a perfect fit. Combined with Silvia’s knowledge of the private sector, the team developed a coating that when applied to silicon solar panels makes them more efficient and more durable.
Bluedot Photonics is developing a process that allows them to spray the liquid coating onto the glass used in solar panels. The glass is then shipped to manufacturers where they’ll fit into the existing manufacturing process.
“It ships out as an enhanced panel with more power output,” Silvia says. The process has added benefits: “We reduce operating temperatures. We reduce UV degradation. So it all adds up to a lower cost.”
The company is working to scale up their manufacturing process, but their efforts are already drawing attention. “We’ve got an award from the Department of Energy, [and] the National Science Foundation to help boost our prospects, accelerate our R&D,” Silvia says. This past year the company has also attracted private capital investments to accelerate their push toward prototypes.
The six-person team at Bluedot Photonics demonstrates the value of investing in American ingenuity. They currently work out of a manufacturing space paid for by the State of Washington. This public-private partnership has allowed them to leverage their investments in R&D while keeping capital costs low and investing in people.
A technology with a fighting chance
Solar is a challenging industry. To address climate change, governments, non-profits, and private entities are in a dead sprint to expand its usage. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated a 23% increase in solar installation for 2020 alone. With the rapid expansion of solar, investors are looking for assurances that new installations are cost-effective.
Combined with solar’s high initial investment cost and strong competition in the sector, particularly from China, Silvia notes, “There's just a lot... that makes it a challenging industry. But this is a technology that I felt had a real chance.”
Bluedot Photonics is gearing up for that challenge and is working to develop relationships in the industry and the solar glass manufacturing base, which they see as their beachhead into the market.
“Business is creating solutions for customers that help solve a problem. At the end of the day, for me, it's all very customer-focused. Find someone who has a need and then create the solution that solves their problem," Silvia says. "If I can create enough value, we both win.”
To learn more about BlueDot Photonics’ innovative solutions, visit bluedotphotonics.com.