Start-up Solasta seeks growth in solar nanowires

The company, now backed by Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, is raising money for next-generation solar cell technology built around arrays of "nanocoax" wires.

BOSTON--Solasta, a quiet Boston-area company, says it's a few steps ahead of the many researchers trying to design flexible solar cells using nanotechnology.

The company is now in the process of seeking a Series B round of venture capital in the range of $20 million with a target of starting production by the end of next year, said chief technology officer and co-founder Michael Naughton here on Friday.

An array of carbon nanotubes that next-generation solar companies plan to use on solar cells. Solasta

Solasta was spun out of Boston College and raised a $6 million Series A round in 2006 from venture capital company Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers in a deal led by famed technologist Bill Joy. It has also received grants from the Department of Energy.

There are a number of researchers developing next-generation photovoltaic materials using nanoscale cylinders called carbon nanotubes. The idea is to create very thin solar cells with these tiny wires in order to lower the manufacturing cost.

Solasta is developing a "platform" for putting these nanowires onto different solar cell materials, said Naughton who presented at the Fifth Annual Conference on Clean Energy. The goal is to create a method where these solar cells can be produced with high-volume processes, such as roll-to-roll manufacturing, to keep the costs down.

The company has done initial testing with amorphous silicon, but also plans to test its process with thin-film materials cadmium telluride and CIGS, a combination of copper, indium, gallium, and selenide, Naughton said.

He said Solasta is developing a process, which it calls "nanocoax," to make nanowires that optimize both light capture and the conductivity of electricity. "It's a little bit like a coaxial cable with semiconductors," he said. For more on Solasta, see here.

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