UK startup develops high efficiency solar cells for the IoT

September 01, 2017 //By Nick Flaherty
UK startup develops high efficiency solar cells for the IoT
A spinout from Sharps research labs in Oxford, UK, is developing a high efficiency solar cell for applications in the Internet of Things.

Lightricity is using an inorganic crystalline compound semiconductor on a range of substrates to produce high efficiency solar cells that work with indoor lighting for IoT applications.

It has teamed up with solid state battery developer Ilika and energy harvesting chip maker e-peas on reference designs for its rigid cells.

“What Lightricity offers is a new, very efficient light harvesting technology particularly for ambient lighting,” said co-founder Mattias Kauer. “The advantage of our technology is that it is 3 to 6x more efficient than that currently available to product designers. There are some other advantages with a higher output voltage as you don’t need to boost the voltage and a high dynamic range with the light levels that can work from 10 lux to 1000 lux.”

The efficiency is flat across the light range from 30 to 35% depending on the type of lighting, from white LED or fluorescent with different light temperatures. “This is a consequence of the material and device design that we have developed as our core technology,” he said. “We can use various types of substrates including silicon – we use a semiconductor facility, that’s all we can say.”

“A flexible substrate is on our roadmap and we have R&D samples but there isn’t the production equipment to make it in volume. It’s possible but it will be some time before it’s in production and that’s where the additional investment is required,” he said.

“The material is very stable so we can use various types of packaging depending on application,” said Mathieu Bellanger, CTO of Lightricity. “It is typically encapsulated with epoxy, that’s a typical way of doing it, but we can tailor that depending on the customer requirement.” The company recently worked with sensor maker GSS and Ilika on an energy harvesting wireless CO2 sensor demonstrator for the home. 

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