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DuPont boosts solar with Innovalight acquisition

The chemicals giant buys Innovalight's "silicon ink" technology, which is added to solar manufacturing lines to up the conversion efficiency of solar cells.

DuPont today said it has bought Silicon Valley upstart Innovalight, which makes a "silicon ink" material to enhance the efficiency of solar cells.

The chemicals giant said that it intends to integrate Innovalight's technology into its existing solar photovoltaics business and expand the market for Innovalight's products. Financial terms were not disclosed.


Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Innovalight makes a black ink-like nanomaterial that is applied to silicon cells during the solar manufacturing process. Adding a silicon ink printing step can boost the efficiency of monocrystalline solar cells by up to 19 percent over the traditional process, according to Innovalight.

DuPont makes more than $1 billion a year selling materials to solar manufacturers, including silver metallization pastes attached to the front and back sides of solar cells, said Rob Cockerill, the business manager of DuPont Innovalight, a newly created group. DuPont and Innovalight had worked together before because their products complement each other. Acquiring Innovalight was "a natural step to take," Cokerill said.

Innovalight's silicon ink is called "selective emitter" technology because it enables silicon cells to capture a broader spectrum of light to convert into electricity. The technology works best with monocrystalline silicon solar cells but DuPont plans to apply it to other types of silicon solar cells, Cockerill said.

DuPont's acquisition brings the depth of a global industrial company to Innovalight, allowing it to boost production and sales, according to Innovalight founder Conrad Burke. For many green-tech companies that need capital to scale uptheir operations, large corporations are becoming one the most promising routes to grow, either through acquisitions or partnerships.

"The sheer scale and capabilities and reach that a company like DuPont brings is something we always dreamed of and now we're part of it," said Burke.

Bringing even incremental solar cell efficiency improvements with materials or manufacturing changes without huge added costs is very significant. Solar manufacturers producing gigawatts worth of solar cells can boost the output of factories and panel makers can get a competitive edge with the added efficiency.