Mass producing pocket labs


mix-id328072.jpg(Nanowerk News) There is certainly no shortage of  lab-on-a-chip (LOC) devices, but in most cases manufacturers have not yet found  a cost-effective way to mass produce them. Scientists are now developing a  platform for series production of these pocket laboratories.
Ask anyone to imagine what a chemical analysis laboratory looks  like, and most will picture the following scene: a large room filled with  electrical equipment, extractor hoods and chemical substances, in which  white-robed researchers are busy unlocking the secrets behind all sorts of  scientific processes. But there are also laboratories of a very different kind,  for instance labs-on-a-chip (LOCs). These “pocket labs” are able to  automatically perform a complete analysis of even the tiniest liquid samples,  integrating all the required functions onto a chip that’s just a few centimeters  long. Experts all over the world have developed many powerful LOC devices in  recent years, but very few pocket labs have made it onto the market.
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology  IPT in Aachen want to find out why so many LOCs are not a commercial success.  They are working with colleagues from polyscale GmbH & Co. KG, an IPT  spin-off, and ten other industrial partners from Germany, Finland, Spain, the  United Kingdom, France and Italy on ways to make LOCs marketable. Their ML²  project is funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), which is  providing a total of 7.69 million euros in funding through fall 2016.
“One of the main reasons LOCs don’t make it to market is that  the technologies used to fabricate them are often not transferrable to  industrial-scale production,” says Christoph Baum, group manager at the IPT.  What’s more, it is far from easy to integrate electrical functions into pocket  labs, and of the approaches taken to date, none has yet proved suitable for mass  production.
Microfluidic negative for structuring films
Microfluidic negative for structuring films. (© Fraunhofer IPT)
Platform for series production
The ML² project aims to completely revise the way pocket labs  are made so they are more suited to series production. “Our objective is to  create a design and production platform that will enable us to manufacture all  the components we need,” says Baum. This includes producing the tiny channel  structures within which liquids flow and react with each other, and coating the  surfaces so that bioactive substances can bond with them. Then there are optical  components, and electrical circuits for heating the channels, for example. The  experts apply each of these components to individual films that are then  assembled to form the complete “laboratory”. The films are connected to one  another via vertical channels machined through the individual layers using a  laser.
The first step the researchers have taken is to adapt and modify  the manufacturing process for each layer to suit mass-production requirements.  When it comes to creating the channel structures, the team has moved away from  the usual injection molding or wet chemical processing techniques in favor of  roll-to-roll processing. This involves transferring the negative imprint of the  channels onto a roller to create an embossing cylinder that then imprints a  pattern of depressions on a continuous roll of film. The electrical circuits are  printed onto film with an inkjet printer using special ink that contains copper  or silver nanoparticles.
Each manufacturing stage is fine-tuned by the researchers in the  process of producing a number of demonstrator LOCs – for instance a pregnancy  test with a digital display. These tests are currently produced in low-wage  countries, but with increased automation set to slash manufacturing costs by up  to 50 percent in future, production would once again be commercially viable in a  high-wage country such as Germany. The team aims to have all the demonstrators  built and the individual manufacturing processes optimized by 2014. Then it will  be a case of fitting the various steps in the manufacturing process together,  making sure they match up, and implementing the entire sequence on an industrial  scale.
Source: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

Read more: http://www.nanowerk.com/news2/newsid=32868.php#ixzz2iaAobyHm

New Report on Graphene goes “Beyond the Hype


201306047919620A new report due to be published this month by Cientifica gets beneath the layers of hype that posit graphene at the top of a pile of wonder materials, promising interesting reading for anyone wanting a real-world evaluation of graphene and its chances of success.

Graphene is touted as teh next wonder material, but can it live up to the hype?

Three years after announcing a substantial capacity increase to its multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWNT) production, Germany‘s Bayer Material Science recently announced that it was completely shutting down its MWNT production. The arms race into nanomaterials capacity-building that began almost a decade ago has, today, amounted to a stockpile of excess product. Nanomaterials, like fullerenes and nanotubes, are now much cheaper due to oversupply, but this matters little because there are no applications to create demand, and the ones that do exist require very small quantities compared with current capacity.

Cientifica’s upcoming Graphene Opportunity Report, takes a similar stance to the UK company’s first edition Nanotechnology Opportunity Report published a decade ago. The report countered the predictions at the time of a trillion-dollar market and a revolution across manufacturing industries, which have largely failed to materialize. Like the Nanotechnology Opportunity Report, the Graphene Opportunity Report purports the real value to be in applications, which means for companies setting themselves up as materials suppliers, most will need to ascend the value chain, developing applications that can exploit their materials and resulting products be it powders, dispersions and even inks.

Hype pitfalls

‘There are something like a hundred graphene companies, or more, worldwide. For materials suppliers that are aiming to make graphene by the multi-tonne quantity, where there are as yet no applications developed, this industry risks going through a similar hype bubble that nanotubes and other nanomaterials sectors have been through,’ says Tim Harper, founder of Cientifica.

A strong point for graphene lies in its ability to be processed as an ink, making it potentially compatible with plastic, or organic, electronics: a group of nanomaterials that can be used to fabricate devices by solution-processable techniques. The plastic electronics industry has gone through its own cycle of hype but is making steady headway so there might be opportunities for graphene to leverage progress made so far and benefit plastic electronics in return. But, as Harper warns, new materials are only taken up into production if they offer a cheaper process to the incumbent one they aim to replace, or they offer far superior performance.

Solar Energy: Grid Parity In India, Italy, and More to Come in 2014


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Deutsche Bank just released new analyses concluding that the global solar market will become sustainable on its own terms by the end of 2014, no longer needing subsidies to continue performing.

 

 

The German-based bank said that rooftop solar is looking especially robust, and sees strong demand in solar markets in India, China, Britain, Germany, India, and the United States. As a result, Deutsche Bank actually increased its forecast for solar demand in 2013 to 30 gigawatts — a 20 percent increase over 2012.

Here’s Renew Economy with a summary of Deutsche Banks’s logic:

The key for Deutsche is the emergence of unsubsidised markets in many key countries. It points, for instance, to India, where despite delays in the national solar program, huge demand for state based schemes has produced very competitive tenders, in the [12 cents per kilowatt hour] range. Given the country’s high solar radiation profile and high electricity prices paid by industrial customers, it says several conglomerates are considering large scale implementation of solar for self consumption.

Grid parity has been reached in India even despite the high cost of capital of around 10-12 percent,” Deutsche Bank notes, and also despite a slight rise  in module prices of [3 to 5 cents per kilowatt] in recent months (good for manufacturers).

Italy is another country that appears to be at grid parity, where several developers are under advanced discussions to develop unsubsidized projects in Southern Italy. Deutsche Bank says that for small commercial enterprises that can achieve 50 percent or more self consumption, solar is competitive with grid electricity in most parts of Italy, and commercial businesses in Germany that have the load profile to achieve up to 90 percent self consumption are also finding solar as an attractive source of power generation.

Deutsche bank says demand expected in subsidised markets such as Japan and the UK, including Northern Ireland, is expected to be strong, the US is likely to introduce favourable legislation, including giving solar installations the same status as real estate investment trusts, strong pipelines in Africa and the Middle east, and unexpectedly strong demand in countries such as Mexico and Caribbean nations means that its forecasts for the year are likely to rise.

As Renew Economy also points out, this is the third report in the past month anticipating a bright future for the global solar market: UBS released a report that concluded an “unsubsidized solar revolution” was in the works, “Thanks to significant cost reductions and rising retail tariffs, households and commercial users are set to install solar systems to reduce electricity bills – without any subsidies.” And Macquarie Group argued that costs for rooftop solar in Germany have fallen so far that even with subsidy cuts “solar installations could continue at a torrid pace.”

Here in America, solar power installations boomed over the course of 2011 and 2012, even as the price of solar power systems continued to plunge. To a large extent, the American solar boom has been driven by third party leasing agreements — which are heavily involved in rooftop installation.

Meanwhile, on the international scene, the cost of manufacturing solar panels in China is expected to drop to an all-new low of 42 cents per watt in 2015, and power generated from solar is predicted to undercut that produced by both coal and most forms of natural gas within a decade.

China, India Emerge as Most Promising High-Growth Markets for Solar


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8Japan, U.K., France, and South Korea also offer attractive landscape and large addressable markets, according to Lux Research‘s analysis of policy and market drivers

 

BOSTON, Feb 12, 2013 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Global policy changes and the crystalline silicon module price crash have brought the solar industry to a pivotal point from which it must transform and thrive in a cost-conscious environment, targeting high-growth markets such as China and India, says Lux Research.

“While some historically strong demand markets will continue to pay dividends, the real winners going forward will need to make a few well-informed bets,” said Matt Feinstein, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, “Past is Prologue: Market Selection Strategy in a New Solar Policy Environment.”

“Successful players will anchor business in key developed regions like the U.S., Europe, Japan, and China, and place informed bets in markets like South/Central America, the Middle East, and Africa, through new offices or partnerships,” he added.

Lux Research analyzed the risk vs. reward, based on policy and market factors, for both distributed and utility-scale solar in countries around the world. Among their findings:

— Europe shines for distributed generation. Established markets remain fruitful for distributed generation despite downturns in demand and reduced feed-in tariffs. Markets such as Germany and Italy have demonstrated a strong preference for rooftop systems and have strong existing channels to market.

— Utility-scale generation soars in emerging markets. High-growth markets come with high risks as well, but emerging economies of India, China, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia are set to become solar powers. Competition is booming in the last three in particular, and each will exceed installation targets.

— Fortune favors the bold. In solar, firms that take calculated risks and expand quickly into foreign markets will boost success, as First Solar and many Chinese module manufacturers have shown. As the Chinese industry consolidates, opportunities exist for other global players.

The report, titled “Past is Prologue: Market Selection Strategy in a New Solar Policy Environment,” is part of the Lux Research Solar Systems Intelligence service.

About Lux Research

Lux Research provides strategic advice and ongoing intelligence for emerging technologies. Leaders in business, finance and government rely on us to help them make informed strategic decisions. Through our unique research approach focused on primary research and our extensive global network, we deliver insight, connections and competitive advantage to our clients. Visit http://www.luxresearchinc.com for more information.

http://cts.businesswire.com/ct/CT?id=bwnews&sty=20130212005101r1&sid=cmtx4&distro=nx

SOURCE: Lux Research

Nanosolar CEO, Eugenia Corrales


QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8A new CEO at the CIGS thin film solar firm

Eric Wesoff: January 19, 2012

 

Last week we reported that Brian Stone, a VP at Nanosolar, had left the firm.

Today, the personnel shifts continued at the CIGS thin film solar vendor.

Geoff Tate, CEO for about two years, has been replaced by Eugenia Corrales, who will assume the position immediately.

According to a press release, Tate recruited Corrales in May 2010 to serve as the EVP of engineering and operations. The release continues, “Ms. Corrales held a number of executive positions, including several years as a Vice President at Cisco, where she ran all of Product Operations for Cisco-branded products. She was previously responsible for Manufacturing Operations of $7B in router, switching and optical product revenue.  Prior to Cisco, Corrales spent 11 years in engineering and R&D management at HP. Prior to joining Nanosolar, she was founder and VP of engineering of two cleantech startups. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Grinnell College and a master’s in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.”

Nanosolar has had a history of technical and commercial promises, most recently these relating to cost:

  • Below $1.00 per watt factory cost by the end of 2011
  • Low $0.80s or high $0.70s per watt by late 2012
  • In the $0.60s in 2013
  • Below $0.60 per watt in 2014

Nanosolar produced 2.5 megawatts of panels in 2010. The firm has only shipped a cumulative total of 10 megawatts in its history.

The firm has suggested that it will ship megawatts measuring in the “triple digits” in 2012. Cell production capacity was to be 115 megawatts at the end of 2011, and the next step jumps the firm to 250 megawatts of cell capacity at the San Jose facility. Panel assembly is performed at Nanosolar’s factory in Luckenwalde, Germany.
The firm is shipping 10-percent-efficiency panels today with a target of 12 percent efficiency this year. Expectations are for 13 percent in 2013 and 14 percent in 2014. However, attaining a 4-percentage-point increase in efficiency in the space of four years would be an unprecedented feat never before achieved by any solar firm.

The company is focused solely on utility-scale deployments. Its large utility-size panels are currently rated at 200 watts, with additional output gains expected as efficiency rises.

Nanosolar also announced that it has signed long-term supply agreements for up to one gigawatt of PV panels with Belectric of Kolitzheim, Germany; EDF Energies Nouvelles of Paris, France; and Plain Energy of Munich, Germany.

Take that “long-term supply agreement” lingo with a grain of salt, however. These contracts are not binding, are not take-or-pay, and are predicated on Nanosolar’s ability to achieve its cost and efficiency targets as promised. Still, although those agreements don’t translate as real backlog, they do translate to patient customers who appear willing to work with Nanosolar. Nanosolar, as a new supplier without a field performance track record, employs module warranty insurance to help financiers and customers feel comfortable and improve the firm’s bankability.

Ed Gunther reported on a number of other promises made by the company at a recent solar event.

An investor in Nanosolar I spoke with recently still maintains that Nanosolar is one of the few firms that can give First Solar and the Chinese c-Si vendors a run for their money.

Nanosolar will also have to raise large amounts of funding in the short term, a difficult situation in the post-Solyndra CIGS era and a challenging task for the new CEO.

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Longtime-Nanosolar-Spin-Doctor-Brian-Stone-Departs-Firm/