Written by Kevin Volz.
Toledo, Ohio’s Lucintech is taking solar panels to places they’ve never been before, including the sides of high rise buildings and the sunroofs of cars. Whereas traditional solar panels would completely block out the light, Lucintech’s panels are semi-transparent. They act as tinted windows that absorb the light’s power, while still allowing it into the interior space.
“A sunroof is something you want tinted in the first place so you don’t have extra heat or glare on the driver,” said Alvin Compaan, president and CEO of Lucintech. “Our tinting generates electricity in vehicles that powers a circulating fan to keep the interior cool. Plus you get an energy payback because you don’t have to run your air conditioning as much, which increases your gas mileage.”
Lucintech used a recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to calculate the financial payback, and found that the fuel savings of having one of their solar panels for a sunroof on a car saves drivers about $100 per year. At a retail price of $200 per sunroof, drivers can invest in a technology that will pay for itself after two years.
In building construction, Lucintech’s power technology can be built directly into the windows of high rises, many of which utilize a popular construction method called glass curtain wall construction.
“Glass curtain wall construction is when an entire outer wall in a building is glass. You see this most often in modern-day skyscrapers,” said Compaan. “By using our panels in these walls, you can create electricity that can be used to power the lights and electronics housed inside.”
Lucintech received a $100,000 Technology Validation and Start-Up Fund grant from Ohio Third Frontier in 2013. This funding helped the company scale up the size of its product, which at the time was only one square centimeter. They are now getting closer to finishing a larger scale model that can be used as a full-size sunroof. Once the prototype has been created, Lucintech plans to roll out 40,000 sunroofs per year.
Lucintech’s offices are located within LaunchPad Incubation at the University of Toledo, a partner of Ohio Third Frontier in northwest Ohio. The LaunchPad team provides Lucintech with office space, support and counsel. They’ve helped the company find interns and network with business support services including accounting and legal work.
Toledo is known as the Glass City, and Compaan says that is one reason his company is here to stay. Lucintech works closely with local glass manufacturers to help create its product and is within driving distance of the three biggest American automobile manufacturers, which Compaan hopes will be key partners for Lucintech in the future.