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Published: Thursday, 3/24/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Firm seeks power windows

Xunlight subsidiary workson solar energy from glass

BY SHEENA HARRISON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Scientist Victor Plotnikov, left, and technician John Stayancho measure the performance of a solar module using a solar simulator. Scientist Victor Plotnikov, left, and technician John Stayancho measure the performance of a solar module using a solar simulator.
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A subsidiary of Xunlight Corp. is developing technology that would allow glass windows to generate solar power.

Xunlight 26 Solar LLC, founded in 2007, has four employees and shares offices with its Toledo parent company. The "26" references parts of the periodic table of elements that include cadmium and telluride, a critical ingredient of Xunlight 26's solar power technology.

The business has developed a process for placing a thin coating of cadmium telluride on plastic polymers. Xunlight 26 founder and Chief Technology Officer Al Compaan said the technology is similar to the coating process that Xunlight Corp. uses on stainless steel when making its thin-film solar modules, which use silicon instead of cadmium telluride.

The lightweight coating is translucent, which means it can generate electricity while allowing light to shine through windows. Though the tinted coating provides about 75 percent to 85 percent of the power of a traditional solar module -- about 75 watts of energy for a square meter-sized window in full sun -- large buildings typically have more windows than roof space, which could make up for the difference, Mr. Compaan said.

"We have some important market niches that are available to us because it's lightweight, flexible and semi-transparent," said Mr. Compaan, who retired as a physics professor from the University of Toledo.

Thin-film cadmium telluride coatings for windows are an emerging trend in the solar industry, said Seth Masia, spokesman for the American Solar Energy Society in Colorado. The technology is cheaper than silicon solar modules, and it can be incorporated with other energy efficient window coatings.

"It shouldn't be terribly expensive to do," Mr. Masia said. "You have to buy the glass anyway."

Xunlight 26's technology has not begun selling on the commercial market, and Mr. Compaan did not provide a pricing estimate for the company's product. He envisions that his firm will work with window makers to include the coating in their products.

The company is seeking investments to advance its research and development. It received a $997,000 grant in 2008 from the state's Third Frontier program, and is now competing for funding through General Electric's Ecomagination program, which invests in clean energy technology.

Norm Chagnon, interim director of technology and innovation for the state development department, said Xunlight 26's work adds strength to northwest Ohio's solar sector.

"They're really representing the next generation ... and giving us another platform of investment for future growth in that industry," he said.

Mr. Compaan, 67, is a veteran of northwest Ohio's solar industry. He worked with Toledo glass manufacturing pioneer Harold McMaster in developing cadmium telluride technology, which is the basis for First Solar Inc.'s solar panels.

He met Xunlight Corp. founder and CEO Xunming Deng through their faculty positions at UT, where Mr. Deng developed Xunlight Corp.'s processes.

At least one other local company is working to develop similar window technology. Toledo-based DyeTec Solar Inc., a joint venture between Australian solar company Dyesol Ltd. and Toledo-based Pilkington North America Inc., is working on solar power-producing windows that use Pilkington glass. The company received a $950,000 Third Frontier grant this month.

Contact Sheena Harrison at: sharrison@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.



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