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Bill Nye-backed solar company aims to cut the cost of solar by 60%

Particle accelerator - Rayton Solar

By using a particle accelerator and Float Zone Silicon, Rayton Solar plans to produce high-efficiency silicon wafers just 3 microns thick, slashing costs and waste.

Rayton Solar claims its technology can reduce the cost of manufacturing silicon wafers for solar panels by as much as 60%, while increasing their efficiency to 24%, thanks to its ability to cut ultra-thin slices of the material – just 3 microns thick, compared with the standard 200 micron thick wafers. Backed by, among others, Bill Nye, Rayton has raised US$2.8 million in funding (plus US$1 million in seed funding), and is now "testing the waters" of equity crowdfunding for the next phase of the company’s growth.

The price of silicon is one of the drivers of solar panel prices, and for the most part, standard solar cell manufacturers use Czochralski Process Silicon (CZ), which is cut into wafers about 200 microns thick (with a process that can end up wasting as much as half of the raw material. But Rayton Solar plans to use a purer, more expensive, form of silicon, Float Zone Silicon (FZ), and to ‘cut’ it into 3 micron thick wafers without any waste, which it says will radically reduce the costs while also increasing efficiencies. It claims to be able to do that through its own proprietary silicon cutting and handling techniques, and by having exclusive buying rights to the only particle accelerator in the world capable of producing such thin silicon wafers, which means it essentially won’t have any real competition in the market.

Particle accelerator - Rayton Solar© Rayton Solar
[Above: Particle accelerator]

"Rayton Solar has bridged the gap between particle accelerator technology and solar energy production to create a revolutionary silicon cutting technique. This technique is projected to reduce solar panel manufacturing costs by upwards of 60% compared to industry standards, while making them 25% more efficient, and resulting in a very cost-effective source of energy." – Rayton Solar

Here’s America’s favorite science guy, Bill Nye, breaking down the Rayton Solar process for us:

VIDEO

According to Rayton Solar, the company believes it can produce up to 100 times the number of solar panels with the same amount of silicon that’s presently in one solar panel, and do so at a solar conversion efficiency of up to 24%, as opposed to the current average of 17%. This would translate into perhaps 25% fewer panels per installation, which, on top of the materials cost reduction, would bring the end cost of solar down tremendously.

However, full stop. These panels aren’t in commercial production yet. The team raised some $2.8 million in equity crowdfunding, and is made up of accomplished science and technology leaders, but appears as if the next step might be to raise even more money, as Rayton Solar has listed a "testing the waters" offer on Start Engine, with a current "reserved" share figure of US$4.4 million. That isn’t money on the barrel head, instead being interest registered by investors, but it bodes well for a future equity crowdfunding campaign.

Here’s the pitch video for the initial Fundable campaign:

VIDEO

Now, I’m not an investor, and I’ve never even dressed up as one on Halloween, so I can’t comment on any potential investments in the company, but if you’re interested, you can find out more at Start Engine or contact the team at the Rayton Solar website.

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