Tuesday, December 25, 2007

3GSolar and nanotechnology-based solar power

Israel21c reports on the latest news from 3GSolar, a Jerusalem-based developer of low-cost photovoltaic solar energy modules. Orionsolar is a portfolio company of 21 Ventures.

According to the company's CEO, Barry Breen, 3GSolar's use of nanotechnology could make solar power cost-competitive with power produced by traditional oil and coal sources. The company's technology uses nano-sized cells, coated with an organic dye engineered to react when hit by sunlight to produce energy more efficiently, effectively, and cheaply, than current solar systems. The system includes cells consisting of titanium oxide layers coated with the organic dye and connected to a battery.

The key is in the nano-sized chunks of titanium oxide. "At sizes as small as 10 nanometers, the laws of physics take some interesting turns," says Breen. "We have discovered that when light hits titanium oxide particles of this size coated with our dye, a great deal of energy is produced. It's like photosynthesis. Just as a plant produces nourishment for itself when exposed to sunlight, our cells produce energy, converted to electricity."

The energy produced by the reaction is shunted into a charge controller, and then transferred to a battery, where it is stored. 3GSolar's system, he says, is more efficient, since the dye technology can be used even under low lighting situations, guaranteeing a greater power yield as it continues to gather energy even during the early morning or late afternoon hours. And 3GSolar's dye cell system produces power much more cheaply; module production costs are about half that of silicon photovoltaics, while the cost to put up a manufacturing line is a small fraction of those of silicon based photovoltaic systems, he adds.

Breen, who has a degree in nuclear engineering from MIT, began managing 3GSolar half a year ago, guiding the company's dozen employees into perfecting the innovative technology, which was developed in coordination with Bar Ilan University. It's been patented, and according to Breen, it's almost ready for prime time.

3GSolar's systems, which should be commercially available within a year, will be manufactured in Israel. The company plans to initially take on electrification projects in the Third World, providing power to homes and businesses in Africa, Asia and South America.