Air Force to install solar windows made in New Mexico

Installing UbiQD at Western Washington University’s campus art gallery, where the university plans to power things like art exhibits, while also providing students with learning opportunities on the clean energy. (Courtesy of UbiQD, Inc.)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico-made quantum dots will soon generate solar power at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota under a $750,000 contract awarded to local startup Ubiquitous Quantum Dots.

The Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, grant will allow UbiQD Inc. to install a dozen quantum dot-based solar windows on a building in Ellsworth, as well as another dozen on UbiQD’s Los Angeles headquarters. Alamos, to test and optimize the technology before considering further deployment.

“This is a phased approach with an initial rollout for research and development to first measure and improve performance,” UbiQD founder and CEO Hunter McDaniel told the Journal. “If successful, we could then move to its full deployment at Ellsworth, and potentially at multiple Air Force bases with follow-on funding from more SBIR grants and other programs.”

The Air Force contract could dramatically accelerate UbiQD’s time to market for its solar window technology, or “WENDOW,” which the company began developing in 2014 using advances in quantum dots originally developed at the Lab. Los Alamos National.

Quantum dots are three-dimensional microscopic structures that are about 10,000 times smaller than a human hair. Nanoparticles manipulate light in unique ways, absorbing it and re-emitting it in specific colors.

They are used today in everything from transistors and sunscreens to LCD TVs, tablets and smartphones. But traditionally they are extremely expensive to manufacture and they are usually made of toxic materials.

In contrast, UbiQD’s product is made using an alternative, low-cost process that uses low-cost, non-toxic elements, paving the way for new market applications, such as solar-powered WENDOWs, which are embedded in quantum dots. The dots absorb solar energy, or photons, which are then routed to solar cells attached to window frames.

The company has already deployed the window technology in various pilot projects, including the Holiday Inn Express in Los Alamos and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

And, in July, he installed WENDOW’s first half-dozen of a 36-window installation at Western Washington University’s campus art gallery, where the university plans to power things like exhibits. of art, while providing students with learning opportunities about clean energy.

“This technology is helping Western Washington University move closer to our Sustainable Development Goals,” Vice Provost for Research and Graduate School David Patrick said in a statement. “I was impressed with how easy the windows were to install and loved how they looked. I hope to see more projects like this on campus in the near future.

The university installation and other UbiQD pilot projects aim to power specific elements such as art exhibitions or automated blinds that open and close independently, saving energy by shading a room in summer or by opening the blinds in winter for more warmth.

The six university WENDOWs now power wireless data transfer for UbiQD to measure and optimize performance.

The Air Force installation, however, is intended to power buildings, which is UbiQD’s ultimate goal for commercial deployment.

“That’s what the Ellsworth base wants – grid-connected solar windows,” McDaniel said.

UbiQD spoke with Air Force personnel across the country as part of an initial $50,000 SBIR grant to promote its technology, leading to Phase II, $750,000 grant for installation at Ellsworth.

“Our technology has resonated with civilian engineers working on base resiliency across the country to bolster the energy reliability of aging military facilities,” McDaniel said. “In addition to Ellsworth, we have letters of support from three other bases.”

Once fully installed, solar windows will likely not fully power a building, but rather offset other sources of generation. That’s because unlike traditional solar panels — which can typically convert between 15% and 18% of the solar energy they absorb into electricity — WENDOW technology currently only converts about 5%, McDaniel said.

Optimization efforts, such as strategic window placements to maximize light absorption, should increase performance over time.

Meanwhile, the company is making significant progress in other markets for its quantum dots, including solar panels for greenhouses, which generate electricity to run operations while simultaneously emitting red and orange light. which can significantly increase crop yields.

To date, UbiQD has raised approximately $15 million in private equity and grants. It currently employs 26 people, including 24 full-time in Los Alamos.

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