UW Startup, Soluxra, to Form Around Organic Solar Cell Technology
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improve the efficiency of organic solar cells, which currently convert about 6 percent of incoming solar energy into electricity—Jen’s goal is to hit 10 percent efficiency.
Jen and his colleagues hope to officially launch the company, called Soluxra, this summer. It will be housed at first on the UW campus in a new building designed for interdisciplinary research and startups affiliated with the university.
The UW’s TechTransfer office has been working closely with Jen to help get the technology ready for commercialization. LaunchPad, the office’s program to help UW-related startups, has paired Jen with an experienced entrepreneurial advisor and several MBA students to help him create a business plan. He and the other researchers involved in the project have had several meetings with potential investors, Jen said, but the company is still in the early planning stages. Jen, who will take the role of chief scientist in Soluxra, has been involved in four previous startups.
The inspiration for the thin-film polymer solar cells came from an earlier technology created by Jen’s group—flat light-emitting diodes made out of a similar thin polymer. The material could be used like wallpaper on your walls or ceiling to create a continuous light source. Jen said he realized by flipping things around—instead of energy in, light out, it would be light in, energy out—he could generate solar-based electricity using a similar technology.
Commercialization possibilities are always in the back of Jen’s mind, he said. “When I conduct research, instead of just innovation and novelty, I always think about the potential application that can be derived from the study, to translate innovative research and generate something useful for mankind.”