UbiQD President: We’re looking for partner to bring QD photovoltaic windows to market

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The new QD-based technology can be integrated directly into windows, turning them into daytime power sources. At 80 per cent transmittance, the windows concentrate about 3 per cent of the incident light for conversion into electricity. Photo: Flickr

Hunter McDaniel, President of UbiQD, today confirmed his company is looking for a commercial partner to bring quantum dot-based photovoltaic windows to market, as it seeks to commercialise the results of a research collaboration between Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and University of Milan-Bicocca (UNIMIB).

The research institutions recently confirmed they were able to use non-toxic quantum dots to create a luminescent solar concentrator (LSC), a device that generates electricity from solar radiation.

The technology can be integrated directly into windows, turning them into daytime power sources. At 80 per cent transmittance, the windows concentrate about 3 per cent of the incident light for conversion into electricity.

UbiQD, whose President and founder was also part of the research team, says he is now working on securing a commercial partner in the industry to bring these windows to market.

Hunter McDaniel, President of UbiQD, said: “We want to partner with a company in the window business. The plan is for UbiQD to supply materials and coatings technology to a window manufacturer. In that scenario, the LSCs wouldn’t be branded as a UbiQD product, most likely.”

Quantum dot-based LSCs have been developed before, but they were deemed unsuitable for real-world applications because they contained cadmium, a toxic heavy metal, whose use has been regulated by the European Union. The quantum dots in this new device are non-toxic, and produced from copper, indium, selenium and sulfur.

“Until now, luminescent solar concentrators have been an intriguing concept from an academic/research perspective. Overcoming the major drawbacks with previous concepts, namely toxicity, color perception, and near-IR luminescence, we think the concept is now ready for commercialization,” added McDaniel.

UbiQD already licenses technology from LANL and MIT to produce non-toxic quantum dots at a commercial scale, and although it doesn’t at this stage license the solar window patents, it said it is capable of doing so if it secures a partner.

The firm also believes it would be possible in the future to directly apply the quantum dot-based LSC material to windows in the form of a coating, rather than having to integrate it within the glass.

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“LSC manufacturing is done by a polymerization process in which a monomer (LMA) is crosslinked within a mold using a UV initiator. A better, more easily scaled approach, which is covered in the patents, is to apply a coating to existing glass windows. In both cases, one challenge is getting cheap thin strips of solar cells to apply at the edge since those are not currently mass produced,” he added.

One of the difficulties the firm may face in bringing these windows to market is the current high cost of manufacturing quantum dots, something recently highlighted in a report by P&S Market Research.

UbiQD believes, however, it is in a stronger position than most.

“The raw materials needed to make our QDs are about an order of magnitude cheaper than for indium phosphide (the only other relevant cadmium-free QD material),” said McDaniel.

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