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Photovoltaic windows? DyeTec could make it happen

Materials giant Dyesol Inc. and Ohio-based glass manufacturer Pilkington North America, both with a strong presence in northwestern Ohio, have teamed up to form DyeTec Solar. The venture, they hope, will become a truly transformative one.

"We like to say we'll be turning buildings into power plants," says Dyesol CEO Mark Thomas.

The partnership, funded with a $950,000 grant from the Ohio Third Frontier, will meld the glassmaker's expertise with new technology hatched in the Dyesol labs -- dye-sensitized solar cells. The materials, applied to common building materials, can turn any surface into energy-gathering solar panels.

Dye-sensitized solar cells (or DSCs) consist of film-like layers of an electrolyte and dyes. Like any solar cell, DSCs convert light into electrical energy. Unlike traditional solar cells, however, DSCs don't need direct sunlight. They're also comparatively inexpensive to produce and can be applied to any surface.

"It's a technology that has endless potential. Because its can be integrated into products that already exist and are already used, it's very cost-effective. But instead of a building just being a building, or a window just being a window, that building or that window can generate power and augment energy requirements," adds Thomas.

Dyseol had been working on the technology for the last 15 years, Thomas says. Three years ago, they moved beyond the research and development phase, striking a partnership with British Steel (NOW) to produce DSC-enhanced steel commercially available. DyeTec, the partnership between Dyesol and Pilkington, has just started manufacturing process for glass applications. The partnership expects to add almost 100 high-tech jobs as production nears.

When products using that glass hit the commercial markets in the next three to five years, consumers could charge car batteries by parking in the sun, charge their cell phone by setting it on their desk or see their electric bills drop when their windows are contributing to the power grid.

"We're very excited about the possibilities, and have very strong commitments from our partners," adds Thomas. "The potential is very clear, and very promising."

Source: Marc Thomas, CEO/Dysol
Writer: Dave Malaska
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