Sector: Clean Tech, Product
Year Launched: 2020
Founders: Sahar Sam (pictured), CSO, and Fabian de la Fuente, CEO
Unique Selling Proposition: Improved solar cells: Solaires’ perovskite solar cells are akin to cell phones, while silicon solar cells are best compared to a landline.
Strategy: To supply perovskite-derived components for different uses, Solaires has to be certain that the mineral is stable and long-lasting.
Sahar Sam and her research team are close to bringing what could be a game-changing product to the market.
“Our technology is a future technology,” says Sam, who graduated from the University of Victoria in 2015 with a Ph.D in mechanical engineering. “I can’t say it will happen tomorrow, but when it does, it could take over the silicon market.”
Sam, Fabian de la Fuente and 21 employees work at UVic and Simon Fraser University. Their focus is perovskite, a mineral made of calcium titanate that can be recast for use in electrical, optical and physical domains.
Using the mineral, the Solaires team has created the trademarked Solar Ink™, which is used to fabricate perovskite film that can then be transformed into solar cells. Via roll-to-roll manufacturing, perovskite solar cells are lightweight, flexible, energy-efficient and transparent. They are not the rigid solar cells associated with solar energy.
“Our motivation is to generate energy from any surface, not just the roof,” says Sam.
Because the solar cells are transparent, they can be used for windows, blinds, on top of vehicles or even airplanes.
“Perovskite will be the new generation of solar cells,” Sam predicts.
They will also be manufactured in a much more sustainable fashion.
Today’s silicon solar cells are sourced from sand that needs to be mined and purified. The processes require vast quantities of water and the fabrication generates large amounts of greenhouse gases. While solar panels are touted as green, their production, mostly in Southeast Asia, isn’t, and the value chain is long.
The ink, meanwhile, requires less time to produce, at a reduced cost, and it can be applied to rigid and flexible surfaces.
Solaires’ Solar Ink™ is being tested in universities and businesses in at least six countries, including Canada, says Sam. She expects to “ink” contracts once specific requirements by customers are met.
“We are very happy with their response,” says Sam. “We are achieving very good performance and want to continue all the way to commercial products.”