Sustainability and beauty: meet the next generation customisable solar cells!

EIT InnoEnergy PhD candidate, Yocefu Hattori

Power devices (such as smart glass, sensors and smart wearables) are a huge market with particular requirements – reliability and high aesthetic value. EIT InnoEnergy supported start-up, Peafowl Solar Power, has not only developed a solar cell to meet these needs but found a way to make them absorb light better while being environmentally friendly – to further their extensive market applications.

This innovative company, a spinoff from Uppsala University, hit the ground running last year and are already in seed investment rounds and have co-development projects in the works with smart glass companies. EIT InnoEnergy PhD candidate, Yocefu Hattori, joined the Peafowl team to work on his PhD research on plasmonic metal nanoparticles – which fits in perfectly to help create higher efficiency for Peafowl’s technology.

We spoke with Peafowl co-founder Jacinto Sá to find out more about this ground-breaking plasmonic solar cell technology and how EIT InnoEnergy is helping them get to market, as well as Yocefu to see  how his time spent in the PhD programme prepared him for this collaboration. With Peafowl on the verge of entering the market, it’s a pivotal time for the start-up team. Let’s hear what’s been happening!

Strong yet beautiful solutions

Jacinto says, “We are focusing on power devices since most of these applications need a power solution with high aesthetical value. One option is the colourless transparent solar cell, but we can also deliver colour cells, which enhance the device’s market appeal. We are actively working on a new generation of solar cells for a wide range of segments, but keeping to the core aesthetics and sustainability goals.”

This solution is unique in the industry with many future possibilities. “Our technology is the only one capable of generating more multi-electrons per photon absorbed. Also, plasmonics absorb up to ten times more light than other materials, which opens a wide range of applications – primarily power generation under low light conditions. Additionally, we are sustainable and stable, enabling deployment in hard to reach places – both indoor and outdoor or near livestock and humans.” With a winning product and great support in place, they are poised to enter the marketplace successfully!

The right partners make all the difference

Peafowl joined the EIT InnoEnergy Highway® programme in March of 2018 to take advantage of their Business Creation services. With a solid product idea for a new type of transparent solar cell, EIT InnoEnergy assisted them with intellectual property protection and market opportunities. “EIT InnoEnergy got involved from day one as a partner to help us protect the IP and to establish viable channels for the commercialisation of our technology,” shares Jacinto. And now as they sign their first co-development agreements with customers (for example ChromoGenics, see press release here), they plan to roll out their first products in 18-24 months, integrated into the customer devices directly. “Partnering with EIT InnoEnergy at this early stage improved our prospectus to secure funding since it reduced the risk for investors, so we could develop our technology further.”

Jacinto Sá, Peafowl Co-founder

Collaboration is key

Yocefu Hattori joined the team to not only work on his PhD, but also so that his research could further Peafowl’s technology. He shares, “I’ve always felt that it’s essential for a researcher to have a vision pointing outside the academia, especially in moments like now – where practical applications in renewable energy are urgently demanding. The EIT InnoEnergy PhD programme aims to complement our technical capabilities by providing the tools and knowledge to fill the gap between research and industry. And the vast network is excellent – It has been inspiring to meet people with similar goals, and visit start-ups/companies engaged in renewable energy and sustainability.”

His time in the programme so far has introduced him to many new entrepreneurial concepts and as he explains, “it teaches the step-by-step processes necessary to bring your ideas out of the lab, for example how to create a business model and the importance of one to attract possible investors, how the current energy market works, IP protection, networking, etc.

I’ve also learned how to better articulate technical and scientific knowledge in an attractive way to the general public, and discuss ideas at different levels – which is very useful.”

A bright future

As Peafowl closes their current investment round in March and appoints an external CEO with a sales background to help market their product, Yocefu will focus on his PhD and begin a mobility programme in Madrid this summer. It’s an exciting time for both, and we expect to see great things in the future!

Test samples of solar and photovoltaic cells