MIT Solar Startup Out of Lab, Looking for $50M

A startup out of MIT called 1366 Technologies, which is developing new ways to manufacture and design silicon-based solar cells, has moved out of the lab and into a pilot facility and plans to show off next week its work on a solar cell architecture that measures 6 inches by 6 inches. 1366 Tech CEO Frank van Mierlo tells us that the architecture “is the last proving point before commercial production.” And to move into commercial manufacturing van Mierlo tells us that the company plans to raise a round of $50 million in funding later this year.

1366 Tech was founded in 2007 by van Mierlo and MIT Professor Emanuel Sachs. Sachs is well-known for developing the string ribbon solar manufacturing technology, which has brought down the cost and raised the efficiency of solar panel production and has been the key to Evergreen Solar’s success. In March, 1366 Tech started talking about its technology and announced that it had raised $12.4 million in funding from North Bridge Venture Partners and Polaris Venture Partners.

The company’s innovation is a new solar cell architecture with a silicon crystal surface that keeps light bouncing around inside the cell until it’s absorbed. “We do a better job of capturing and and trapping light and converting it to electricity,” van Mierlo explained. That can lead to solar cells with a 19 percent efficiency rate and a manufacturing cost some 25 percent lower than traditional multi-crystalline solar cells. Many solar companies have been turning to alternative non-silicon materials to create cells, as there’s been a shortage of silicon over the past couple of years and the price of silicon has been high. 1366 Tech has been working on new ways to use standard silicon, which could end up being a smart bet as the silicon supply shortage looks to be easing up over the next few months, and the price of silicon will likely be coming down soon.