For the energy transition to succeed, we need a lot of renewable energy. Solar energy is crucial in this respect. The standard silicon solar panels that are now on many roofs already play an important role but cannot be placed everywhere because of their weight or shape. For years, UHasselt and imec have been investigating new types of solar cells within EnergyVille that are simpler, cheaper and can be integrated in many more places. “With the new spin-off EnFoil, we are now taking a very big step,” says Dominique Coster, CEO of EnFoil (Energy Enabling Foil).
Until now, those who wanted to integrate solar cells on surfaces such as trucks, buildings or tents, for example, could mainly buy standard formats, mostly flat and in predetermined sizes, for this purpose and had to rely on themselves to integrate them on the surface. “As a result, the technology was mainly limited to exclusive construction projects or as an expensive extra option for the roof of your car. With Enfoil, we are changing this,” says Marc Meuris, CTO of EnFoil. “We make thin-film solar cells in all shapes and sizes and can do so on a large scale. The solar cells are then installed directly on the customer’s products or further integrated into them. Production is done locally and we guarantee the feasibility and integration of the final products.”
More sustainable and reliable
Behind EnFoil are technologies and processes patented developed by UHasselt and imec within EnergyVille. The thin-film solar cells are based on CIGS technology, made from copper-indium-gallium and selenium. “Due to their pliability, light weight and robustness, these solar panels are easier to integrate into all kinds of applications than is the case with current silicon solar panels,” says Prof Bart Vermang of EnergyVille and imo-imomec, imec’s associate lab at UHasselt. “They are also more shock-resistant.”
Ready for production
Talks with industry to bring EnFoil’s solar films to market are ongoing. “A lot of applications are possible, such as integrating the solar cells on swimming pool covers or corrugated roof tiles. At the moment, we are mainly focusing on the logistics sector, where we want to integrate our materials on roofs and sidewalls of trucks so that they can power sensors and track & trace systems in trucks. That way you save a lot of battery, and when there is a lot of sunlight, the battery can even be charged,” says Marc Meuris, CTO of EnFoil.
From the European Research Council, the project is already receiving support through an ERC Proof of Concept. A grant worth 150,000 euros to bring new technologies to the market. With this, UHasselt will recruit a researcher who will continue to work with EnFoil on product development. “The ERC jury includes several industrial experts. We therefore see this grant as great recognition and a sign that the industry believes in our product and sees the potential to bring it to the market,” says Prof Bart Vermang.
dr. Marc Meuris (CTO EnFoil)
Prof. dr. Bart Vermang (EnergyVille/UHasselt)