XeroCoat Inc, the company commercialising anti-reflective technology research developed by Dr Michael Harvey and Professor Paul Meredith from The University of Queensland’s (UQ) School of Mathematics and Physics, has recently announced a number of global partnerships and investment plans to accelerate commercial access to its innovations.

The solar energy start-up established in 2005 by UQ’s main commercialisation company, UniQuest, has formed a strategic partnership with Hitachi High-Technologies Corporation, a subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd. The partnership will allow XeroCoat and Hitachi High-Technologies to pursue a leading share of the solar power generation market through the sale of anti-reflective coating equipment and materials to solar module and glass manufacturers.

The agreement includes a territorial rights investment from Hitachi (figure undisclosed) to distribute the anti-reflective coating systems and chemistry in Japan and China. XeroCoat’s first production line was installed in China late last year and is currently in Factory Acceptance Testing.

Hitachi High-Technologies believes 50% of all solar modules are projected to have anti-reflection coatings by 2015. The Nomura Research Institute estimates the solar power market will deliver total power output of roughly 8,800 MW, representing a high annual growth rate of 19%. By 2015, market scale in terms of power output is expected to be around 21,000 MW.

The cost benefits and other advantages offered by anti-reflective coatings are expected to spur their rapid uptake. The proof supporting the coatings’ energy efficient properties continues to be developed at UQ as does the next generation of XeroCoat solar coating products.

In the US, XeroCoat has worked with Assembly & Test Worldwide Inc., an Ohio-based equipment automation specialist, to build its first plant. In 2009, XeroCoat also formed a partnership with Air Liquide Electronics US LP, whereby the industrial gases company produces the precision chemical delivery systems for XeroCoat’s technology. A deal with a German company is also pending, made possible with a direct loan for breaking into new markets from the Export-Import Bank of the US.

Later this year XeroCoat will endeavour to raise US$5-$10 million in a Series C round of equity financing.

Dr Michael Harvey, XeroCoat’s Chief Technical Officer whose PhD research with Professor Paul Meredith at UQ led to the development of the technology, said the cost of solar power generation is relatively high compared to other power sources, since only about 20 percent of the collected solar energy can be converted into electricity.

“This constitutes a significant barrier to full-scale adoption of solar power, so we are now looking at ways to reduce the amount of light reflected by the protective glass on the surface of solar modules by applying an anti-reflective coating. This technique makes conversion to electricity more efficient by enabling greater transmission of sunlight,” Dr Harvey said.

XeroCoat has been described as “the most cost-effective watt on the solar module”. With the glass surface of solar modules typically reflecting more than 4% of incoming light, the XeroCoat anti-reflective coating offers solar module makers a potential 3% increase in peak power output and a 4% increase in energy produced on a kWhr basis.

XeroCoat’s turnkey coating system is simple, compact, environmentally friendly and energy efficient, making it compatible with existing manufacturing processes throughout the supply chain. The XeroCoat anti-reflective turnkey coating system has application to the entire range of solar energy technologies, including crystalline silicon and thin-film photovoltaics, concentrating photovoltaics, and solar thermal devices.

UniQuest’s Managing Director, David Henderson, said XeroCoat’s latest partnerships and investment plans demonstrate the growing reputation of Australian university research as a source of commercially valuable innovation.

“Taking a technology like this from the research lab to the rooves and windows of buildings all over the world requires a great commitment and investment of time, expertise and money,” Mr Henderson said.

“We congratulate XeroCoat’s president and CEO, Thomas Hood, on securing alliances with international companies like Hitachi so this Australian innovation can benefit from the efficiencies of scale and brand strength of global partners.

“We also hope the third round of equity financing is as encouraging as the first two, which raised about US$15 million from Australian and US investors.”

In July 2009 XeroCoat received a A$2 million Australian Government Climate Ready grant to develop another innovation – an anti-soling coating technology which, with the anti-reflective coating, aims to deliver more light to each solar module, increasing energy output and making solar energy even more affordable. The United States Department of Energy also granted the company US$2.96 million to develop a method for applying the anti-reflective coating directly onto assembled photovoltaic solar modules.

These new developments are underpinned by an innovative Australia-California co-operative model whereby the main materials R&D is performed at the XeroCoat Brisbane Laboratories and the process development work at the main Redwood City site in Silicon Valley.

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