Enfoil and imec produces thin, flexible solar panels
Enfoil, a new Hasselt University and imec spin-off, produces thin, flexible solar panels
Hasselt University and imec have announced Enfoil, a new spin-off that offers pliable, extremely robust solar panels of only a few millimeters thick, and perfectly integrable on various surfaces. The solar panels are the result of years of scientific research. Initial talks between EnFoil and industry to produce the solar panels and integrate them onto the roofs of trucks are ongoing.
Solar energy is crucial in the context of energy transition. The standard silicon solar panels found on rooftops already play an important role but cannot be placed on every surface due to their weight or shape. For years, UHasselt and imec have been investigating new types of solar cells that are easier and cheaper to integrate into many more settings than just roofs. "With Enfoil, the new spin-off of UHasselt and imec, we are now taking a very big step," says Dominique Coster, CEO of EnFoil. EnFoil stands for Energy Enabling Foil.
Until now, to integrate solar cells on surfaces of trucks, buildings or tents, consumers could only buy standard, typically flat products of a pre-defined size, and handle the integration themselves. "This mainly limited the technology to exclusive construction projects, or as an expensive opt-ins for cars. With Enfoil, we aim to changing this," says Marc Meuris, CTO of EnFoil. "We intend to make custom solar foils in any size and shape at large scale (“mass-customization”). The solar foils will then directly be installed or further integrated into the products of our customers. The production will be done locally and we will guarantee the feasibility and integration of the final products."
More sustainable and reliable
EnFoil combines technologies and processes that are patented and developed within UHasselt and imec. The thin-film solar cells are based on CIGS technology, made from copper-indium-gallium and selenium. "This technology offers light weight, flexibility and impact resistance which is crucial for many new applications," says prof. Bart Vermang of imo-imomec, imec's associate lab at UHasselt. “And the solar cells achieve almost the same efficiency as standard panels".
Ready for production
EnFoil has ongoing discussions with the industry to bring its solar foil to market. "A wide array of applications will be possible, such as integrating the solar cells on swimming pool covers or roof tiles. Currently, we mostly focus on the logistics sector, aiming to integrate our materials on roofs and sidewalls of trucks to power their sensors and track & trace systems. It would save the battery, and under abundant sunlight, the battery could even be charged," says Marc Meuris, CTO of EnFoil.
The project has already received support from the European Research Council through an ERC Proof of Concept. This grant, worth 150,000 euros, aims to bring new technologies to the market. With this, UHasselt will recruit a researcher who will continue to work with EnFoil on product development. "The ERC jury includes several industrial experts. We therefore see this grant as great recognition and a sign that the industry believes in our product and sees the potential to bring it to the market," says prof Bart Vermang.