With over two decades of engineering, marketing, sales and executive management experience in high technology, BioSolar, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Dr. David D. Lee founded the company in 2006. An electrical engineer, Lee recognized that historically, manufacturing costs have been one of the biggest barriers to driving down the cost per kilowatt of solar energy for consumers. In response, BioSolar was the first company to introduce a new dimension of cost reduction by replacing petroleum-based plastic solar cell components with durable bio-based components derived from renewable plant sources.
AltEnergyMag Interview - Bio-based Solar Cell Backsheets
David Lee - CEO of BioSolar
Filed Under - Solar Energy - Photovoltaic Systems
What is the function of the backsheet on a solar cell?
The backsheet is a protective backing of a Photovoltaic (PV) module that helps resist contamination and damage to the solar cells caused by weather and other environmental factors. BioSolar has developed bio-based backsheet (BioBacksheetTM
) that replaces traditional petroleum-based backsheet.
What are the issues with using traditional petroleum-based backsheets for solar cells?
Petroleum-based backsheets increase solar energy’s overall carbon footprint by supporting a fossil fuel-based economy and restricting solar power to the uncertainties of oil prices. Furthermore, some of the materials used in petroleum-based backsheets involve manufacturing process using highly toxic chemicals and will prove difficult to discard once they’ve run their course.
What is your renewable backsheet made of?
BioBacksheets are manufactured using one or more renewable materials including cellulosics, produced from recycled cotton rags and older clothing, a type of material called nylon 11 produced from castor beans. Castor beans have no issues with food-shortage, which has been a frequently asked question. These natural materials are not produced using genetically modified biomaterial, as well as crops used for food to keep the world’s food supply levels in-tact.
BioSolar’s blended biomaterial is resilient and long-lasting and is equal or better than the characteristics of petro-based plastics including electromagnetic properties and mechanical strength. The materials have a lifespan of longer than the required 20-25 years.
How many configurations are you developing? Are any in production?
We are currently developing three different configurations: two for the crystalline silicon market (including BioBacksheet-C) and one for the thin-film market (BioBacksheet-A).
In November, we announced the research and development phase for the company’s proprietary BioBacksheet™-C was completed. Now qualified for production, the BioBacksheet™-C, designed for traditional silicon (c-Si) photovoltaic solar panels, is the company’s first product to become available commercially. BioBacksheet™-C is a two component system that is highly water resistant and contains high dielectric strength material combined with cellulosic film. The substrate is a cellulosic material coated with a proprietary material to reduce the water vapor transmission rate and to increase abrasion resistance.
BioBacksheetTM-A is a bio-based backsheet featuring an absolute moisture barrier for the thin-film solar cell market. It is a three layer laminate film consisting of a 100 percent recyclable aluminum foil center core sandwiched between two outer layers of bio-based polymer films, making it a unique product in the industry.
Who will your customers be?
We are targeting crystalline silicon solar module manufacturers for BioBacksheet-C as well as thin-film solar module manufacturers for BioBacksheet-A.
How much less will this BioBacksheet be over traditional petroleum backsheets?
The answer to that question depends on the production volume and whether they are produced in-house or at contract manufacturers. BioBacksheet certainly has the potential to become significantly cheaper than traditional petroleum-based backsheet in the future. In an early stage of the commercialization, the company intends to make the BioBacksheet 10-15% cheaper than a petroleum-based backsheet of similar specifications.
Do you have or are you working on other bio-based components for the alternative energy industry?
BioSolar’s ongoing internal research and development may be expandable beyond the photovoltaic market, and we certainly have many options to pursue.
At this time, however, we are focusing all of our efforts on the photovoltaic market with the commercialization of BioBacksheets in several different forms. With the in-depth knowledge of the photovoltaic packaging market and the existing relationships with many photovoltaic module manufacturers, we will maximize our chance of commercial success.
Any other future plans you'd like to share with us at this time?
BioSolar intends to replace as many petroleum-based components in PV modules as possible with components made from environmentally safer renewable materials. We believe that commercialization of biobased PV components will be possible, however, only if their cost is lower than the incumbent petroleum based components.
We strongly believe the renewable energy industry should be able to stand with its own merit (and not just by generous government incentives) by being innovative and cost competitive in order for them to be a positive contributor to the business world.
David D. Lee
Chief Executive Officer