Picasolar Inc., a solar startup company affiliated with the University of Arkansas, dedicated its new headquarters on Wednesday at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park in Fayetteville.
The 2,300-SF space in the Enterprise Center at the UA tech park will enable Picasolar, an Innovate Arkansas client firm, to reduce the time it takes to produce its patent-pending product, a hydrogen super emitter that improves solar cell efficiency and reduces the amount of silver needed in the manufacture of solar panels.
Picasolar officials believe the hydrogen super emitter could save the average solar panel manufacturer up to $120 million annually, in addition to making solar cells more marketable and affordable. The super emitter represents the "single largest technology leap in solar power in 40 years," said Picasolar CEO Douglas Hutchings.
"This is a big step for our company," he said. "With 1,000 square feet of new lab space, we will accelerate our proprietary process to make solar cells more efficient. The infrastructure and equipment we have assembled will streamline our transition from research and development to commercializing products."
Picasolar has operated at the UA tech park since 2013, but the expansion in the Enterprise Center will position it for future growth.
"It is exciting to see Picasolar continue to grow and be successful," said Jim Rankin, vice provost for research and economic development at the UA. "There is a great deal of promising solar research occurring at the University of Arkansas, and we look forward to seeing it transition from the lab to the market."
Picasolar's Seth Shumate invented the super emitter as a UA student. He and Hutchings worked closely with Hameed Naseem, a professor of electrical engineering in the Photovoltaics Research Lab at the tech park, to develop the technology, according to a UA press release.
Hutchings earned a doctorate in microelectronics and photonics at the UA in 2010. Shumate is a doctoral candidate in the university’s graduate microelectronics-photonics program, offered by the College of Engineering and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.
Picasolar started out as a business-plan team in the New Venture Development graduate course in the UA's Walton College of Business. It won more than $300,000 at graduate business plan competitions in 2013.
Last fall, Picasolar raised a $1.2 million funding round to further develop the emitter on top of an $800,000 federal SunShot Initiative award. Plus, Picasolar was recognized in April with a prestigious Edison Award.