Israeli Dye Solar Cell Startup to Harvest Energy from Indoor Lighting

The project, which is in its pilot stages, is targeting everything from medical to smart home devices with its miniature solar cells.

The 3GSolar cells are developed to harvest energy from indoor LED and fluorescent lighting. (Image courtesy of 3GSolar Photovoltaics Ltd.)

The 3GSolar cells are developed to harvest energy from indoor LED and fluorescent lighting. (Image courtesy of 3GSolar Photovoltaics Ltd.)

Gone are the days of those little plastic calculators with flimsy solar panels that decorated seemingly every desk in the world. For one, today’s devices are usually connected to the internet, and sending and receiving data costs far more power than merely performing simple calculations and displaying numbers. Accordingly, the market for tiny solar panels is on the rise, delivering a product that is far more sophisticated than the bygone pre-smartphone army of portable calculators.

3GSolar Photovoltaics Ltd. is a company aspiring to stake a claim in that industry. Based in Israel, the startup is producing dye-based solar cells, the key feature of which is operationality under indoor LED and fluorescent lights.

The company was recently profiled in Bloomberg, where they discussed their intent to deliver solar power at $1 a cell, indicating a rise in affordability for what is traditionally thought to be an expensive form of energy harvesting. Battery-free is a coveted standard for IoT devices, and the more solutions we have to avoid frequent battery changes on sensors, the better—particularly when those solutions allow devices to power up from indoor factory lights alone.

Although currently in its pilot stages, 3GSolar is aiming to have an operational factory up by 2020 that will produce a planned 36 million miniature solar cells, each one capable of helping extend the lifespan of a smart device to 10 to 15 years.

“Our cell is made specially for indoor light and low light, it’s not a typical silicon solar panel that works outside,” stated Barry Breen, CTO of 3GSolar. “It uses a kind of dye made from organic compounds that we make in the lab to generate electricity.”

3GSolar is just one of several companies working on bringing scalable solar solutions to a device-dominated future. This week, Pro Market Research released a report on the current status of the third-generation solar cell market. As well as covering dye-sensitized solar cells such as the ones 3GSolar makes, the report also looked at photochemical solar cells and polymer solar cells along with their sub-segments Portable Charging, Automotive, and others.

Japanese automotive company Aisin Seiki, energy and electronics company Fujikura Ltd., and Australia’s GreatCell Solar (formerly known as Dyesol) are all featured as key players as well.