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  • Fibers Boost Solar Cells
Jul 2007
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., July 24, 2007 -- A North Carolina startup plans to develop solar cells based on a novel architecture that uses nanotechnology and optical fibers to dramatically boost their efficiency.

The new solar cell technology, a result of research at New Mexico State University (NMSU) and Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, N.C., will be commercially developed by FiberCell, which has received startup funding from Wake Forest and Connecticut-based NanoHoldings. NMSU and Wake Forest are joint owners of the patent on the solar cell technology developed by the researchers, said Maureen Camunez, NMSU’s director of intellectual property and technology transfer.

NMSU owns a small equity share of the startup company; Wake Forest and NanoHoldings are the majority owners. The universities and the inventors will share in royalties from licensing the technology.

The technology stems from research conducted by faculty member Seamus Curran and graduate student James Dewald of NMSU’s physics department, in collaboration with researchers at Wake Forest University’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials. Curran recently accepted a faculty position at the University of Houston.

“This is an exciting example of the potential for commercializing intellectual property developed at the university,” said Kevin Boberg, associate dean of business and CEO of Arrowhead Center Inc., an NMSU corporation that promotes economic development and technology transfer.

The research lays the groundwork for examining new ways to design nanostructures for even more efficient solar cells, Curran said.

“This is a fundamental start in the research of novel architectures that we will continue for the next few years, and I’m sure will result in further significant intellectual property development in both devices and materials,” Curran said.

Wake Forest and NanoHoldings also have created another startup company, PlexiLight, to develop an ultrathin and energy-efficient lighting source that uses nanotechnology to produce visible light directly. rather than as a by-product of heating a filament or gas. Both companies will be located in Winston-Salem.

“The reason that we were attracted to both of these technologies is that they are fundamentally different and fundamentally more efficient than anything else we know about out there,” said Daryl Boudreaux, a partner of NanoHoldings who will be president of both startups. “They give us a platform from which we can development numerous products.”

Both companies are researching prototypes of various applications for the new technologies.

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The use of atoms, molecules and molecular-scale structures to enhance existing technology and develop new materials and devices. The goal of this technology is to manipulate atomic and molecular particles to create devices that are thousands of times smaller and faster than those of the current microtechnologies.
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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