Lightwave Power Gets $13M from Quercus Trust, 21 Ventures

Solar startup Lightwave Power said today it has closed a Series A round of just over $13 million, with Quercus Trust leading the investment and 21 Ventures co-investing. Lightwave co-founder Lawrence Kaufman told us the funding began in June, just six months after the company launched and began licensing technology from MicroContinuum, a decade-old developer of “roll-to-roll processes,” often used for making electronics on rolls of flexible plastic or metal foil.

Lightwave, which shares its Cambridge, Mass. office and half of its founding team with MicroContinuum, combines roll-to-roll processing, nanotechnology and photovoltaics — much like Nanosolar, a relative heavyweight in the market Lightwave wants to enter. The company is working on large, flexible films that it says can be added to existing solar cells at low cost for efficiency of up to 85 percent. Kaufman said the films, stamped with arrays of repeating metals, would be “helpers” for silicon crystal, amorphous silicon, or other solar cells, and could be licensed to companies like Nanosolar.

Lightwave is also working on optical antennas that, like solar panels and unlike the films, would turn solar energy into electricity — rather than being “stuck on anyone else’s solar cells,” Kaufman said. As explained in a straightforward video on the MicroContinuum site (at the bottom of this page), these thin sheets, made with plastic and common metals, are printed with arrays of nano-antennas that can capture infrared radiation. Think TV antennas, but much smaller so they pick up much smaller wavelengths.

The deal announced today marks yet another step into the solar sector for David Gelbaum’s quiet Quercus Trust, at least three-quarters of whose holdings lie in solar technology. We’re waiting to see if Lightwave will keep pace with its Quercus-funded brethren, which now includes Sencera, GridPoint and Open Energy.