Ambient Photonics Will Build a Factory for the Production of Its Low-Light PV Cells After Raising USD 31 Million in a Fundraising Round Co-Led by Amazon

published: 2022-05-25 9:30 | editor: | category: News

Ambient Photonics, a US-based startup that develops PV cells for low-light environments, announced on May 10 that it raised USD 31 million in the Series A fundraising round that was co-led by Amazon. With the fresh capital, the company will be able to build a factory in the US for the production of its PV cells. Participants in the Series A fundraising round include Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Tony Fadell’s Future Shape, and I Squared Capital.

PV cells for low-light and indoor applications are mostly based on amorphous silicon (a-Si). Ambient Photonics claims its “Ambient Cell” generates three times as much power as conventional a-Si cells. It even matches PV cells based on gallium arsenide (GaAs) in terms of performance. GaAs cells are considered the best for harvesting low-light energy and adopted for aerospace applications such as satellites.

As mentioned earlier, Ambient Photonics plans to set up a factory so as to scale up the production of its PV cell and promote mass adoption. The company said the factory will host a fully automated production line. Regarding the manufacturing method for the Ambient Cell, the company has developed an industrial printing process where its patented PV material are applied on glass substrates. This method allows for the rapid production of thin and durable cells that can come in various sizes and shapes. It is also less costly compared with the existing manufacturing methods for PV cells (i.e., those that require a vacuum environment). Furthermore, the Ambient Cell has a “monolithic architecture”, so there is no need to serially connect multiple cells in order to operate.

Ambient Photonics believes that its PV cell can be adopted for IoT-related applications. Specifically, the Ambient Cell can replace an embedded battery because it can generate power simply by absorbing a very wide spectrum of light. Additionally, it has a high power density and can be scaled down to about 5 square centimeters in area size. The company noted that there is a high degree of flexibility for customization, so device manufacturers that adopt this technology can “drive PV cell design, rather than the other way around”. Currently, Ambient Power is teaming up with several IoT device manufacturers to develop alternative self-power solutions to small batteries that are usually discarded at the end of their lifecycle.

Commenting on the Series A fundraising round, Matt Peterson, director of The Climate Pledge Fund at Amazon, said single-use batteries are inconvenient to use and pose a significant environmental hazard. Therefore, The Climate Pledge Fund enthusiastically supports Ambient Photonics in its quest to develop innovative solutions that will reduce the carbon footprints of battery-operated devices.

Sasha Brown, partner at Ecosystem Integrity Fund, said Ambient Photonics has the potential to enhance the sustainability of various industries, such as consumer electronics, smart home, and IoT. Brown added that Ambient Cell could be “the first viable solution” for powering small devices with clean and renewable energy in a cost-effective manner.

Tony Fadell, who co-created the iPod and the iPhone and founded Nest Labs, said the small batteries that power the ubiquitous IoT sensors mostly end up as toxic trash in landfills once they have been replaced. He believes that Ambient Photonics is offering a revolutionary technology that could resolve this environmental challenge and ultimately create a “battery-less wireless IoT network”.

Established in 2019, Ambient Photonics is a spin-off from the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry. The company possesses proprietary light-sensitive dye molecules that can convert light into energy at very high efficiency rates. Following the Series A fundraising round, the company will proceed with its application for a USD 162 million loan that is available under the Title XVII Loan Guarantee Program managed by the US Department of Energy. This program supports ventures that will reduce emissions (i.e., Scope 3 emissions as defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency) while creating new jobs.

Amazon set up The Climate Pledge Fund in 2020 with an initial funding of USD 2 billion. This division backs the development of sustainable technologies and services that will assist Amazon and other companies in fulfilling their climate commitments and achieving net-zero emissions by 2040. Looking further back to 2019, Amazon and Global Optimism launched The Climate Pledge that calls for reaching the threshold of the Paris Agreement (i.e., limiting global warming to 1.5°C) a decade earlier. The number of signatories to the Climate Pledge has surpassed 300.

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