Konarka Technologies, Inc., announced on Oct. 8 that is has opened a roll-to-roll flexible thin film solar manufacturing, preparing for the commercialization and mass production of its thin film solar material, Power Plastic. Located in New Bedford, Mass., the 250,000 square foot building was previously the location for Polaroid Corp.'s most advanced printing technologies.
The facility has been retrofitted to immediately begin initial production of Power Plastic. Using multiple in-line processing stations with precision multi-layer manufacturing processes that are adaptable to a variety of printing and coating technologies, the facility will enable the company to further develop and advance nano-enabled polymer photovoltaic materials that are lightweight, flexible and more versatile than traditional solar materials.
"This facility has state-of-the-art printing capabilities that are ready for full operation, with the future potential to produce over a gigawatt of flexible plastic solar modules per year," commented Howard Berke, executive chairman and co-founder of Konarka. Berke noted that the facility has the capability of producing in excess of 10 million square meters of material per year. It will allow the company to produce Power Plastic for indoor, portable, outdoor and building integrated applications, says Burke.
In addition to acquiring the fully automated roll-to-roll manufacturing line, the company has also hired the leading technology and process engineering teams from Polaroid, with plans to hire over 100 additional employees as production increases toward capacity over the next two to three years.
Konarkas advanced photovoltaic technology started with the work of the late Dr. Sukant Tripathy, an internationally known polymer materials scientist, provost at UMASS Lowell and founder of the Plastic Innovation Center and Dr. Alan Heeger, Konarka's chief scientist, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2000. The ground-breaking discoveries from both founding scientists led to Konarka's underlying technology leadership, including a manufacturing process at relatively low temperatures, which enables the use of low-cost plastic substrate films. As a result of these pioneering innovations, the company has secured over $100 million from leading venture capital and private equity funds, as well as $18 million in government agency research grants from the U.S. and Europe.
"As one of the original recipients of the Solar American Initiative (SAI) awards in 2007, Konarka is furthering the U.S. Department of Energys (DOE) vision to reach its goal of making solar electricity from photovoltaics cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity," said Rick Hess, CEO, Konarka.