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Solar synergy: Toronto's QD Solar acquired by SunDensity

Combined technology from both companies can elevate solar panel efficiency to 40% range

Dan Shea, the chief commercial officer and general manager of SunDensity Canada. (Courtesy SunDensity Inc.)

Rochester, N.Y.-based SunDensity Inc. has acquired Toronto's QD Solar Inc., renaming it SunDensity Canada, to align both companies on technologies and products that amplify solar panel efficiency.

SunDensity Canada is the developer of a solar cell which includes a layer of a mineral called perovskite. The addition of perovskite can elevate the efficiency of an average solar panel from the low-20 per cent range to over 40 per cent.

“If you combine SunDensity’s technology with our technology, then I think you have the possibility to get into the mid-40 per cent range,” Dan Shea, the chief commercial officer and general manager of SunDensity Canada and CEO of QD Solar, told Sustainable Biz Canada in an interview.

SunDensity is developing coatings that improve the efficiency of solar panels and increase the reflectivity of windows and glass, helping to lower energy costs and carbon emissions by reducing heat gain.

The acquisition will combine the technological expertise of both companies, as commercialization plans are being finalized, Shea said.

Shared origins

Founded in 2014, SunDensity Canada is based on research from The University of Toronto. The company was fostered in the Luminate business accelerator located in Rochester, where the staff became familiar with SunDensity.

Shea said QD Solar saw an opportunity to improve the effectiveness of SunDensity’s products with its chemical deposition process, and was asked by SunDensity to take its “recipe” and apply the chemical deposition to improve results. The experience helped both companies realize they are highly compatible.

SunDensity decided to acquire QD Solar because of its expertise in chemical deposition. Rather than attempt to develop the talent in-house or hire other experts in the field, an acquisition made more sense, Shea said.

SunDensity Canada’s products are prototypes and have not reached commercialization, Shea explained. Similarly, SunDensity does not have customers but has “many” engagements with solar cell and glass manufacturers “very anxious to get this technology into production.”

Research will continue on the photovoltaic side in Toronto, while SunDensity will maintain operations in Rochester to develop and commercialize its coatings.

SunDensity Canada is an “ideal candidate” for Canadian federal grants from organizations such as Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Shea said.

Decisions on what will be manufactured and where will be made in the next 18 to 24 months. An important question to consider will be whether manufacturing will be done in Canada or the U.S, or in both.

SunDensity and its Canadian subsidiary combined have approximately 25 staff members, with most located in the U.S.

Shea said the company will be pursuing a funding round, and will announce partnerships with solar cell or glass manufacturers.

Solar synergy

Perovskite performs better than silicon at absorbing the photons in the ultraviolet and visible spectrums, according to SunDensity Canada. It is also behind quantum dots: nanoscale semiconductor particles that absorb the photons in the near-infrared and infrared spectrums that pass through the perovskite layer.

A single layer of perovskite solar cells can raise the efficiency of a silicon solar panel to 28 per cent to 29 per cent. If applied on top of a silicon solar panel, it further increases to the low- to mid-30 per cent range. Three layers of perovskite combined with quantum dots (giving the company its original name of QD) can cross 40 per cent efficiency, Shea explained.

SunDensity’s Photonic Smart Coating is able to convert the sun’s ultraviolet and blue light, which are not absorbed by silicon solar panels, into red and near-infrared light, increasing the efficiency of the panels.

Combining the technologies from both companies has the possibility of raising the efficiency of a solar panel to the mid-40 per cent range, Shea explained.

"We are excited to formalize the acquisition of QD Solar to explore applications of its ground-breaking solar solutions," Henry Schek, SunDensity’s CEO, said in a release. "This agreement is another step forward in our strategy to become a global leader in solar efficiency solutions."

Editor's Note: Sustainable Biz Canada has updated this article to correct the name of Luminate business accelerator. We apologize for the error.

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