Hardly, Strictly Electrochromic Tech — Video Transcript from January 25th, 2017
EC 2.0 and the Smart Home— Cleantech Forum SF
“In terms of new ways of attenuating light, I believe we’re at the beginning of the S-curve.”
Editor’s Note: In the spirit of Medium, this Pustejovsky.ventures post is meant to be shared. It is written for the ~1,200 specialists around the globe interested in smart windows and electrochromic nano-materials who didn’t get tickets to Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2017. Who should read this post? All of the stakeholders in the smart cities conversation: existing and new investors in advanced materials and the smart home; corporate venture investors; family investment office directors; angel investors; EC 1.0 entrepreneurs; EC 2.0 entrepreneurs; sector researchers; government officials and national energy efficiency lab leaders; policymakers; and change-makers at Mission Innovation and Breakthrough Energy Ventures.
On January 25th, 2017, a select group of corporate venture innovators — including organic chemists and material scientists focused on polymers— joined some of the key Sand Hill venture capital funds in San Francisco, to survey the forefront of EC 2.0 tech together. The EC innovation area is highly technical, IP-dense (freedom-to-operate is a key issue), frequently confusing, and incredibly important for building energy efficiency around the globe. The market is experiencing rapid evolution.
“How often has a scientist or engineer said, “If I could only make this particular material or combine these materials into a certain structure, I bet it would have these wonderful properties that could be used to make this cool device”? Our generation is the first in human history to enjoy more than accidental success in this regard, but in general it’s a very difficult task that is in many cases still characterized by much empirical laboratory trial-and-error.”
Where are we in the commercial cycle? Will all new and existing windows use EC 2.0 in 2027? To get on the same “wavelength” (and to mix metaphors) as the panelists and conference participants, this prep reading makes the market part of the conversation accessible to non-specialists:
· “Alexa, please dim the sun” Medium Post — August 15th, 2016
· “Electrochromic technologies: the quiet revolution underway” Cleantech Group Interview — Ken-Ichi Hino — December 7th, 2016
The best way to navigate the transcript below is to read the prep articles and then play the video, using hyperlinks for contextual information. Details on the session:
Innovation Topic: “EC 2.0 and the Smart Home” a.k.a. “Alexa, Please Dim the Sun”
Transcript Length: 48 minute, 49 seconds
Conference: The 15th Annual Cleantech Forum, San Francisco 2017, Parc55 Hotel, San Francisco
Date and Time: Wednesday, Jan. 25th, 2017, 7:30am — 8:30am
Cleantech Group Session Sponsor: Ken-Ichi Hino
Tags: Smart Home, Internet of Things, Advanced Materials, Nanotechnology, Electrochromics, Smart Windows, Energy Efficiency
Purpose: Are windows — and specifically “EC 2.0” — the “next big platform play” for Silicon Valley? What are the best investment opportunities for VC and family offices in the advanced materials, smart home/IoT, and energy efficiency sectors? Who are the technical founders doing the most cutting-edge work? Stage-wise, where are these companies in regards to Technology Readiness Levels and Manufacturing Readiness Levels? How about on product testing for film durability and EC device performance? Can their devices dynamically control solar flux? What are the pros and cons of inorganic materials and organic materials? We won’t answer all of these questions in our 60-minute format (with Q&A), but we will cover a lot of terrain.
Our entrepreneurs explore the main impediments to market adoption for electrochromic solutions. They are creating the new generation of products (“EC 2.0”) following niche products from the category pioneers: EC 1.0 incumbents (Sage Glass, View Glass). In terms of taxonomy, some of these companies are creating straight-up EC 2.0 products, some are making enabling technologies for EC 2.0, and one company is a roll-to-roll thermochromic innovator focused on the developing world market. Variety is the spice of life. Through the prism of these 6 startups (and 2 others in this post), we explore the key EC 2.0 product virtues for wide-scale commercial success:
2. Retrofit-ability — How inexpensive is it to either apply to existing glass (“make static glass into smart glass”) or to take out new windows and put in a new window? Do you have to wire it up?
3. Color — Can we get beyond the aesthetics problem that has turned some architects and designers against EC 1.0 products (the dark blue)?
4. Optical quality — What is the dynamic range and the clarity?
Session Participants (in speaking order) and e-mail POC:
Smart Windows and Electrochromic Sector Expert:
 Howard Turner is the Co-Founder and CTO of Kinestral, an EC 2.0 technology company making smart windows and based in the SF Bay Area. Originally slated to be part of the session, Howard had to participate in product launch activities for Kinestral’s “HALIO” product (“the world’s most advanced smart-tinting glass starts delivering shade and glare relief in seconds”) in Germany and Japan. Kinestral announced a $65MM Series C Funding on January 31st, 2017. While Kinestral is creating a traditional 5-layer EC device, it exhibits much faster switching times and superior color versus incumbent products.
“Welcome to our interactive session on electrochromic 2.0 technology, also known as “Alexa, please dim the sun.” We’ll get right to it. Most of our audience is quite familiar with the EC 1.0 category, either as investors or corporate partners. So let’s explore the problem statement and see what these technical co-founders and entrepreneurs have to say about their innovations.
In the case of View and Sage, you have $125 Million and $150 Million CAPEX on plants that can theoretically produce 4 million square feet and 4.5 million square feet, respectively. And those products have a relatively high installed cost. This cost issue is one of the themes in yesterday’s Cleantech Forum session, and there are some reasonable parallels to solar PV cost curves that are worth exploring. When will EC become a consumer product? When will we see mass adoption?
A lot of the entrepreneurs here, from Dan Slotcavage of Stanford to our other esteemed guests — and I’ll let them introduce themselves — are chipping away at the market, design and technical barriers to wide-scale adoption of electrochromic technology and smart windows.
The panelists all have experience in this area, and I gave them a prompt to react to: 6 major impediments to EC adoption. This is the set of organizing principles for the session. Not every presenter is going to speak to each one of these. The key factors are in this Medium post entitled ‘Alexa, please dim the sun’.
The most important factor is installed cost. Can we (the EC industry, or particular EC 2.0 products) go from $120 — $150/square foot installed cost to the $15 — $30/square foot range? We are talking about installed cost. So the price includes a glazier, if there’s one involved, if there’s a low voltage electrician, it includes that, if there’s a window film installer involved, it includes that.
Retrofit-ability is the second one. To the extent that it’s possible to keep the existing windows in tact and affix EC to them, as opposed to replacing existing windows and putting in new windows, then this opens up a vast new market: existing window surfaces. Bigger than the smart thermostat market by, perhaps, 25x.
Color is the third factor. EC 1.0 is based typically on an inorganic TMO, Tungsten Metal Oxide, which at its darkest states is quite blue. There’s an industry rumor about a certain coffee shop chain based in Seattle that did an installation with one of the incumbent players, and then forced the company to tear out the installation a couple of weeks later. Why? They were apparently looking for a very warm atmosphere in their coffee shop environment, and what they got was a clinical look with a very dark blue color. This particular CEO purportedly said “It (the blue) makes my customers look like ‘dead Smurfs’.” (which, incidentally, begs whether Smurfs turn a darker shade of blue when they die?). A range of potential colors for electrochromic tech — with a very good gray/black version — would be optimal.
Optical quality and dynamic range are the fourth factors. Can manufacturers do ultra-clear, which is what designers want? And what’s the dynamic range of the EC device, in terms of visible light transmission? Can it go from 100% down to 2%? And at 2%, what benefits does it have? Does 2% constitute a privacy application? Most analysts would say a privacy application needs to be more like 0.1% Tviz.
Switching time is the fifth factor. Right now the state-of-the-art is about 22 minutes, for electrochromic glass to go from its most transparent state to its darkest state. This performance level is fine for lots and lots of applications, but there are also lots of applications where much faster switching times make sense.
Lastly, connectivity. Is this a smart/IoT-connected product?
We’re graced with one of the great resources in this area: Stephen Selkowitz from Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, who helped put together FLEXLAB and, along with Marc La France and Karma Sawyer and GSA GPG government leaders like Kevin Powell have helped shape this category. DOE has been a real leader, a real pioneer, in doing the measurement and verification of electrochromic technologies. And a big proponent of the energy benefits of wide-scale adoption of electrochromic products. I’ll have Steve introduce himself a bit later.
Before going onto our panelists, the last thing I would say — so I don’t appear disingenuous like Scott “Crowd Size” Spicer. It has to do with our title. There seems to be a bait-and-switch going on with our title: “Alexa, please dim the sun.” The title indicates that we would have the kind of panel we had initially conceptualized — and that it would include our friends from Apple, Samsung, Google and Amazon. We did invite representatives from the smart home/IoT groups in each of these companies and some of them have a lot of knowledge in our innovation sub-sector. For instance, Ashish Nagar is an electrochromic expert and was Director of Product and Market Development at Kinestral prior to joining the Amazon Alexa team. Kinestral is an exciting company in the East Bay that just last week announced its HALIO product. There is a natural and inevitable interaction between electrochromic technology and the voice-activated, voice-controlled home HUB. Some of the other notable players here in the smart home/IoT area include Gummi Hafsteinsson at Google (and Alfredo Garcia at Google), Marie Perrin at Apple Homekit, and Shankar Chandran at Samsung Catalyst Fund. We hope when we have a follow-up session in 2018 we can get the benefit of their views. Hopefully there will be some great EC 2.0 stuff to “live demo” by that time, including on the durable EC reflective film front. And hopefully we can direct Alexa and Siri to attenuate the light, in a rapid-switching consumer application.
Jason Holt — Co-Founder & VP Business Development, Heliotrope
Our first speaker is from Heliotrope. Welcome Jason Holt, one of the co-founders. EC 2.0 innovation (MIT, Cal, Stanford, Cambridge, etc.) is happening everywhere, and this particular innovation is from Delia Milliron and from LBNL (and now University of Texas) and Guillermo Garcia and is part of a cluster of EC 2.0 innovation here in the Bay Area. Please welcome Jason Holt from Heliotrope.
Thanks for the intro. I’m one of the co-founders and the VP of Business Development at Heliotrope Technologies. A quick background on us: we were founded in 2012, we’re a LBNL spinout, for the first 3.5 years we were incubating the company at LBNL, largely because we had a number of DOE grants with our technical co-founder, Delia Milliron. But in the Fall of 2015, we closed a large financing round that allowed us to graduate and move out of LBNL and move into a manufacturing space in Alameda. So we have about 5,000 square feet of R&D space and a 28,000 square foot manufacturing floor which we’re about to start firing up in the next few weeks.
The core technology, which we refer to as “NanoEC” is a nanocrystal-based electrochromic technology. This differs from the EC 1.0 electrochromic paradigm, which for the most part focused on dense, sputtered films. What we’re using is solution processing for making our electrochromic materials, essentially the cathode and the anode, in our devices. I’ll show in a later slide what the important cost and performance benefits are for this approach.
As I mentioned, we were funded by DOE grants early on. We also got some seed venture capital — and went through two rounds early on. And the round that we closed most recently in the Fall of 2015 was mostly strategic led, from players, broadly speaking, within the glass and windows industry.
Another nice feature, and what we’ve been working on for a long time, is broadening out our leadership team. We were a group of mostly nanotechnologists early on. But we have since been able to add a lot of glass industry expertise, particularly with our Board Chairman Scott Thomsen, who was the former President of Guardian Glass, and we’ve added a lot of high-volume manufacturing expertise. Some people from the semiconductor industry, as well as a number of serial entrepreneurs.
So how do we fit within this EC 2.0 paradigm that Luke mentioned? I’d like to highlight 4 key areas. We think we have an opportunity to address the main pain point, which is the manufacturing cost for electrochromics, and that’s in large part because we’re using solution processing instead of vacuum deposition for making our core electric materials. We think this has the potential to lower CAPEX up to 6–8x, and a 50% reduction in Cost of Goods Sold (COGS).
Color is a key thing and this is enabled by our core nanocrystal-based solution processing method. Essentially, what we can do is blend together various types of nanocrystals to really neutralize out the color, and eliminate those deficiencies you see with, say, a pure Tungsten Oxide material. With solutions processing, you have much greater flexibility in blending together materials in a complementary fashion. Doing that with sputtering, as we understand it, is quite difficult.
A related point has to do with spectral control. Because we can blend different types of nanocrystals, we can enable selective control of parts of the solar spectrum. This hasn’t traditionally been possible with EC 1.0 technologies. In particular, we have the ability to independently control Near Infra-Red (NIR), while keeping the visible transmission high through a window — and I’ll show a cartoon on the next slide that illustrates that.
The last point is on connectivity. I can’t say a lot on this subject at this point, but we have a team working on a new type of controls technology to tie into the building energy management control system and to improve aesthetics that were not possible with the first generation of technologies out there.
Here’s a cartoon of what we refer to as our dual band technology. It has 3 distinct states of operation. The first is the Bright Mode, where you allow as much Visible and Infrared (NIR) transmission as possible through the glass. By applying a modest voltage to the device, you can selectively block out the Near Infrared while keeping visible transmission high. That’s due in part to the mixture of nanocrystals that we incorporate into our cathode material. By incorporating two or more different types of nanocrystals — and applying selective voltage — you can block out Near Infrared (NIR) while keeping visual transmission (TViz) high. If you apply a slightly higher voltage, you can darken it. Another nanocrystal material in the cathode enables visible blocking and NIR blocking.
This is my last slide. What do we want out of this Forum and interactive session? First, the chance to share market intelligence. I think we’ve all talked to the key players in the architectural glass space, and the automotive and transportation sector. Those product needs are very different, depending on which section of the market you’re talking about. With regards to things like switching time, I’d be interested in talking to some of you about that — as well as talking about some of the key deficiencies of the first generation of technologies, including basic optical-electronic performance. In terms of controls, what features do we need to have to truly make our product into smart windows? We’re open to talking about partnerships as well. I don’t know to what extent we have the controls or smart home people represented, but that’s an area of interest. And we’re interested in speaking to investors in this audience.
I think that one of the benefits of Heliotrope’s approach is the selective control of NIR and Visible Light Transmission, and I’m hoping you could share a statement on the potential energy efficiency benefits of that? Even if you haven’t fully modeled it yet.
We have done some modeling, including work and collaboration with Steve Selkowitz and some of his colleagues at LBNL. What we’ve learned through that is that the dual-band technology, or even a simpler one where we just control Near IR, it doesn’t fit every type of building and in every climate zone. So modeling it and understanding for which climate zone and which building type it can have the greatest impact is important. We’ve looked not just at vertical windows but at skylights as well, and in particular for any kind of technology that involves Near Infrared control, the energy impact can be more substantial for skylights than for vertical windows.
Our energy testing is still on-going, we don’t have a final verdict on the subject, and we’re soliciting a lot of feedback from our partners to understand what their perspectives are and how big an impact IR control can have. Some of it is also a cost tradeoff, because to enable IR control requires using different types of glass, different types of TCO’s that would cost more than the standard type of glass or TCO for the visible-only electrochromic product. Those are things that we don’t have all of the answers for yet, but over the coming months we’ll get a better idea of where that technology really has its best fit in the market. If partners or investors want to get in touch, my e-mail is jason at heliotropetech dot com.
Thanks, Luke. As Luke mentioned, I’m a Ph.D. student and this project is early stage — and what early stage means for us is that we have about 12 “people months” into it, between me, Chris Barile, Tyler Hernandez, Michael Strand and Mike McGehee. But I think that makes it more exciting, because we have 12 people months and we have a technology that is worth showing.
I designed this short slide deck to be a little more data-intensive because we believe in proving it. We went into this with the mind-set that current electrochromics just aren’t quite cutting it. They don’t switch fast enough. They’re blue. They don’t get dark enough. How can we look at this differently?
We looked at a class of materials that you’re all pretty familiar with, and that interact with light extremely strongly. And those are metals. We’re working with a reversible metal deposition process.
I have a sample. It’s small because our machine production fork consists of me and my two hands. But I can show you how it works and I have a switch that shows how it looks.
We focus on low cost. The only vacuum deposition process we have is Indium Tin Oxide (ITO). That’s because we haven’t optimized it away yet, but I have a plan for working around that. The rest of it is all cheap, fast, solution process stuff.
What I’m showing in Slide 2 is that we have spectrally neutral transmission. For those of you in the audience who are used to looking at electrochromic data, this will look like a really clean curve. It just looks gray. It’s like looking through nice sunglasses or photochromic technologies.
We also wanted to introduce the idea that 2% visible light transmission was what the industry could achieve in darkness. Sage and View talk about 1%. But we can go a lot darker than that. It takes a little bit of time. In this curve, you can barely see the transmission because there’s almost none.
But in addition to that, it just happens that we get this really cool reflection spectrum. And it’s cool — pun intended — because it rejects the Near Infrared (NIR). On the right hand tail of that curve, we see it just keeps going up-and-up as we go further into the NIR. We can actually tune it as well, as we tune the chemical composition of this prototype. We think that’s pretty exciting.
So the next question that’s probably on your mind is durability. You guys are in a lab. Does it last? How fast does this degrade? We did a couple of tests. One being ‘resting stability’ or, If you just leave this prototype with nothing on it, what happens? Does it start to look clear? In this graph, you can see that the opaque state stays opaque, and the transparent state stays transparent.
We’re operating at about 85% transmission at our brightest, and well less than 1% at our darkest, so the contrast ratio numbers are attractive.
As far as cyclability, we’re about 3 months into this project. We’ve cycled this about 5,000 times. We do see some small amount of change in our performance over time, but very little given that we invested only 3 hours thus far into optimization of device stability. It’s not perfect yet, but we’re excited about the kinds of results we’re getting at an early stage.
Come chat with us and see our demo in-person!
Thanks very much, Dan. It’s an exciting set of developments and, for those investors focused on the seed stage and earlier stage of investing, this might be of interest. The next company presenting is not electrochromic, but is pretty interesting and we’re fortunate to have one of the Company’s investors here. We’ll welcome Stephen Terry of Azure International, an investor in Raven Window. In the background, we will play Steve’s video of Raven Window’s manufacturing process. Please welcome, Steve Terry.
Thanks for the introduction, Luke. I’m with a company primarily based in China (Azure International) focused primarily on commercializing cleantech technologies, with a lot of cross-border work between Silicon Valley and China, and one of our major investments is in a company called Raven Window in Colorado. Raven Window is a thermochromic solution. For those unfamiliar, thermochromic technologies change properties based on temperature.
If you were to look at one of our windows, you’d see that the window changes transmission based on temperature. And it tends to be a binary state, so it’s either ‘dark’ or it’s ‘light’. I’m hoping we’ll have a constructive debate with the electrochromic players because there are advantages and disadvantages for a technology where the transition happens automatically. We have no control systems.
On the manufacturing side, it’s a fairly standard roll-to-roll process, which produces a film that is then integrated into a window.
We’re looking at CAPEX costs for this plant in the range of $5MM — $6MM, to produce something on the order of 15–20 Million square feet of product. You’ve heard the numbers before on how much it costs to install.
Sounds pretty good so far, but of course there are challenges. We’ve been in this investment for 9 or 10 years, and there are a lot of challenges you have to address in terms of stability (and film durability) over time. There are plenty of use cases where having this non-controllable state is an issue.
But, generally speaking, the product works. I’m coming at this from a developing market perspective, where the building stock is increasing exponentially compared to what you see in the U.S. And therefore, the markets are enormous.
On the retrofit side, we don’t currently have a retrofit product. But that (a retrofit product) is The Nirvana. If you go to China, you’ll see millions of square feet of glass in buildings with green plastic stuff painted on them, which is an opportunity for us.
We have a manufacturing line in Denver, Colorado. It’s already fully operational. We’re talking about selling our window filter — which says something about our go-to-market strategy — we’re going to work with manufacturers as opposed to manufacturing the full window. We want to sell this $25 — $30/square foot to make this number. Which is pretty radical (the number). I’m happy to go into Q&A.
Thanks very much for sharing, Stephen. Now let’s turn to an interesting new flavor. Hunter McDaniel, whom I met in Boston recently, who came here from Los Alamos, New Mexico, and he is going to tell us about Quantum Dots and why they’re relevant for smart windows.
Thanks, Luke, and thank you all for coming. My name is Hunter and I’m the Founder & CEO of UbiQD, which is short for “Ubiquitous Quantum Dots”, which is what we’re planning to achieve.
We’re a spin-out from Los Alamos National Laboratory, and we’re also licensing technology from MIT. We’re based in Los Alamos. Somewhat early stage. Mostly funded by angel investors and some grants. Founded in 2014.
For those who are unfamiliar, Quantum Dots are tiny particles of semiconductor that enable you to convert one spectrum of light into another. In the case of windows, we can absorb sunlight and convert it into a single color glow, which will be useful in an energy generation application.
Our patented quantum dots are safer, cheaper and more stable than the alternatives on the market. Our product is a Copper Indium Sulfide quantum dot. Typically, quantum dots are composed of Cadmium, Phosphorus, Lead. So, heavily regulated and toxic. We avoid those toxic elements.
The “killer application” is enabling windows to generate electricity. This is called a luminescent solar concentrator — and I’ll explain how that works. Our vision is that the UbiQD quantum dot window tint will be able to power the cities of the future. In the case of the electrochromic context here, we can be the power source for an electrochromic — in order to enable that retrofit solution that everyone is after.
How does it work? If you haven’t seen it before, it’s really cool. It’s called a luminescent solar concentrator (LSC). We have our material embedded into a film that can be coated onto glass. Let me show this (points to a sample). Luke was stressing that this is a “show, don’t tell” kind of group. Our material is embedded in this case into acrylate (Plexiglas, or Poly(methyl methacrylate)), but we can put it into different polymers, we can coat them onto glass. We can use it as an interlayer in laminate glass. What happens is that the quantum dots are absorbing sunlight and then the glow from those quantum dots gets trapped in the glass. So you see that glow on the edge. It’s basically a total internal reflection that’s causing that light to be guided to the edge. And then you put a solar cell there in the frame. So it’s redirecting that sunlight that’s solar energy to the edges, where you have this hidden photovoltaic there.
(Points to another sample). These are colored. That’s the beauty of quantum dots. We can make essentially whatever color. For the building application, you’re going to want something that’s more color-neutral. I have another sample that will demonstrate that. It’s essentially a grey color, a little brownish, film, that’s emitting light very strong in the Near Infrared (NIR). We can cover most of the spectrum, and make a normal window tint-like color. One that’s harvesting sunlight very efficiently and transferring that into Near Infrared (NIR) light.
(Points to “Luminescent Solar Concentrators” slide). This is a goal. The actual theoretical limit is about 3x as high. We’re pretty close to this number already. At about 50% visible light transmittance we can get around 50 Watts per Square Meter (W/sm), which is way more than you would need for an electrochromic product. With only a few percent absorptive film that we would apply you could control both the electrochromic and the communications.
I have a full working prototype that’s actually producing electricity, if you would like to see it.
Luke asked about these particular figures of merit (points to slide showing these categories: Installed Cost, Retrofitability, Color, Optical Quality, Switching Time, Connectivity). Some of the information on this slide is more of a target than where UbiQD is at today. Installed cost is very low. Very simple. We make our quantum dots in a liquid solution. It’s a very high concentration. It’s solvent and pre-cursor efficient. We take that and we can put it into very low cost polymers and apply it as a film, in a very low cost solution. So the cost is low. Roughly $15 — $20/square foot of additional cost, and that includes the Balance of Systems (“BOS”). There’s a very small solar system on the frame and that is getting cheaper and cheaper every day.
UbiQD is enabling the retrofitability of electrochromics. But if you forget about the electrochromic for a second, and you just want to generate power and you want to have electricity-generating windows on skyscrapers, then UbiQD would have the same problem that electrochromics have, which is that we’d need to have the windows “wired up” so you get that electricity out. Similar sort of issue there, but when you combine UbiQD’s technology with electrochromic technology, it solves that problem of a retrofit (for changing the shading of windows).
As far as color, I mentioned that we can tune that over the spectrum. For some applications — greenhouses, for example — you want something that’s more in the red, deep red, or early Near Infrared (NIR) part of the spectrum. For commercial buildings, we’re expecting that we need to be color-neutral. Which UbiQD can do. We have options, and that’s the key thing.
As far as optical quality, it’s ultra-clear. There are no lines. It’s just a homogenous film of our material into a polymer. The particles are between 2–10 nanometers in diameter, so they don’t scatter light, there’s no haze. It’s ultra-clear. Just a nice-looking film.
Quantum dots are not an electrochromic solution, so the “switching time” category is not relevant to us. We’re an enabling technology. It’s not dynamic, it’s fixed. And as far as connectivity, UbiQD powers connectivity.
So how would this actually look in an application? We could put our product on either Surface 2 or Surface 3 (points to a double-paned Insulated Glass Unit a.k.a. window). And we’re also working with partners to develop a laminate solution. There are a couple of options there for how this could be deployed.
What do we need need? We’re looking for partnerships on manufacturing. Our core competency is making the quantum dots themselves. Of course we’re going down the value chain in making those prototypes, so we can get into pilot projects. We’re in the process of scaling up that effort right now.
We don’t want to be a window manufacturer. We want to partner with a window or IGU or a glass manufacturer, to enable this technology to come to market. We think that speed-to-market is going to be critical here and that partnering is going to enable us to go fast.
We’re looking for early adopters and pilot projects, which will start this year. We’re focused mostly on greenhouse applications in 2017, but in 2018 we’re launching our first commercial building pilot projects, and then the actual product launch is expected in 2019.
We’re interested in investment. We’re funded from angel investors and grants to-date, and we’ve raised about $1MM. We’re planning to raise our Series A round either later this year or in 2018. If you’re interested in talking about investing, come talk to me or e-mail me at hunter at ubiqd dot com.
Next, we have another novel, distinctive flavor. Also not an electrochromic. This panel is kind of like the “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass” Festival. It’s “Hardly Strictly Electrochromic”. Please welcome Damon Hess from Ubiquitous Energy. Ubiquitous aims to make truly transparent solar windows.
Whether it’s EC 1.0 or EC 2.0, Ubiquitous.energy would be an enabling technology. I’m happy to be on an EC 2.0 panel, but we like the EC 1.0 products too. They already have 500 installations, so they’re not doing terribly. The electrochromic, the smart windows space, is growing. Both of the market leaders (View and Sage) are growing revenue, so for us it looks like a good market to be in.
As Hunter said, for an enabling technology like ours, these smart windows require very little power. So even with the first Ubiquitous.energy release, we’re generating enough power to completely power the electrochromic windows. That enables a retrofit.
And what they’re talking about doing is putting these windows into existing frames. So if they want to make it a smart window, whether it’s Sage or View or Heliotrope, they’d put that thing right in there and then it would dynamically tint. That opens up the retrofit market, which, as Stephen said, is massive. All around the world it’s massive.
Then there’s the issue of installed cost, which is around $100 — $150/square foot for an electrochromic. They’re selling it today at a list price of $55/square foot, and good discounts can be had down in the $35/square foot range. So how did the installed cost get to be $150/square foot? Well, nobody knows what to do with it. The glazier would like to do it, but there are these wires sticking out. And if you’re in Philadelphia, that means it’s a union job (more expensive labor). Now the electrician comes in. Well, the electrician doesn’t know how to work with glass. So the General Contractor says, “This is going to cost me more time, I’m not sure that it’s going to work, let’s market it up.” The glazier says, “I’m definitely marking it up because I’ve never seen wires coming out of a window before.” So that’s how you go from $50/square foot to $150/square foot.
But installed costs can come down if there are no wires. Using transparent solar to power the electrochromic addresses the installed costs. I like the EC 2.0 where manufacturing costs are lower, material costs are lower. That’s going to help push this market forward, for sure. But the total installed cost is driven mainly by the installation part.
With regards to connectivity, if you have power in the window then you can put sensors there. The sensors can be motion detection, they can be air quality, they can be energy (Is energy coming into the building envelope or out of the building envelope?). You can have a full suite of sensors immediately, once you power that window. Which is what Ubiquitous.energy enables EC manufacturers to do. Whether you’re getting electricity through wires or through Ubiquitous.energy, or through us, it’s connected.
On the subject of optical quality, the clearer we are (Ubiquitous), the more the electrochromic manufacturers can play with their tints to get them to match whatever the architect wants, and whatever the coffee shop wants. We don’t want ‘dead smurfs’. Dead smurfs don’t drink a lot of coffee. So we just try to keep it as neutral as possible.
I did bring a demo. We’re going to be a material addition, an ingredient. We’re not a manufacturer. Our materials will be deposited, just like a low-e coating is deposited today by the window guys. It could be at the float level, or it could be at the fabrication level. We’ll be a value-added ingredient that will allow the electrochromics to take off even faster than they seem to be growing already.
Next, we’ll welcome Aleksandr Timofeev, who is joining the Cleantech Forum from Moscow via a pre-recorded video message. Aleksandr is focused on making an electrochromic film for the retrofit market. As most of you know, there’s a long list of companies that have patents on organic electrochromic polymer devices, including Samsung, Saint Gobain, Gentex, Fuji, LG Display, Polychrom and at least five others. We’ve also seen other efforts at commercializing reflective EC films, like e-Chromic and NexTint Films and ITNES. NREL, ARPA-E and Stanford’s TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy have all been big supporters of this class of reflective EC film innovation research (electrochromic films, for retrofitting existing windows). EC 2.0 film pioneers like Brian Berland, Mark Johnson, Toby Sachs-Quintana, David Abram, and Loren Burnett have experience trying different approaches. More recently, Nikita Kruglikov and Pavel Zaikin are working on another approach to crack the EC film nut. These resources provide some context for Aleksandr’s comments. While we haven’t seen any commercially-available organic EC polymers in an after-market window film yet, three potential advantages are: faster switching speeds, better coloration efficiencies, and a small enough power voltage to be solar-powered. The downfall for most of the approaches we’ve seen is that these products often aren’t durable enough to become commercial products, but places like D2 Solar in San Jose perform UV testing and temperature-cycling testing. In non-EC approaches, we’ve seen Daping Chu’s work at Cambridge on a plastic film retrofit ‘smectic’ liquid crystal, which once focused on an organic material, but is now silicon-based and appears durable. So lots of different approaches for the retrofit market, definitely enough to have a separate panel. Let’s here about one here. Please welcome Aleksandr Timofeev, to tell us more about iGlass Technologies.
Hi, I’m Aleksandr Timofeev, the CTO of Wisp. The short description of the Wisp product is that we’re making a 3-layer sandwich, which includes two transparent electrodes and an electrochromic composition. We combine two unique technologies into one product. The first is a high-quality, high conductivity and very high transparency conductive electrode — based on a metal mesh technology.
The unique features of this technology are: (1) extremely low cost of production, and (2) high transparency and high conductivity of the surface. We can produce unlimited width and unlimited length of film with this electrode. This gives us a lot more flexibility on the form factor of our final product.
The second technology is the electrochromic composition. The electrochromic effect itself is well-known, and scientists have known this for more than 40 years. The problem has been how to create this structure, together with the polymer matrix, to make it not in a liquid but in a gel that could work in a layer, in a thin film. We’ve successfully done this.
Importantly, we have 100% symmetry of the reaction in this electrochromic system. The reliability and the lifetime of the system is pretty high. We’ve confirmed this in many tests, and we have more than 5,000 cycles tested using our composition.
Finally, we use a roll-to-roll process to create this sandwich. The whole system, the electrodes and the electrochromic layers — the final sandwich — is very efficient from a cost perspective.
We have a very low CAPEX compared to production output. For example, the average CAPEX for 1 Million square feet of production per year is around $4 Million U.S. dollars, which is relatively low. You can see our short animation video to see how we produce our product.
Special Note on iGlass/Wisp (paraphrased and excerpted from a discussion with an organic chemist and 3rd party EC expert) — Very few startups have attempted to introduce material science innovation into the electrode. This is what iGlass/Wisp is doing with the metal mesh electrode, and the company has exclusive use of this electrode for its application. Prior approaches with photo-lithographic technology were 100x too expensive and not applicable to larger size applications like windows.The differentiated part with iGlass/Wisp is the transparent conductive electrode — which is an alternative to Indium Tin Oxide (ITO). In the past, ITO has not worked for a larger size because it’s really expensive, the transparency isn’t very good, it requires a prohibitive thickness level, and there’s a golden color that designers don’t like. Scientists at 3-M and BASF (John Reynolds at Georgia Tech has been working with polymeric systems for many years and BASF has sponsored some of his research) have spent a lot of time thinking about this. The main iGlass/Wisp innovation from Siberia is this conductive, transparent electrode: laminated film in a Gentex-like device geometry.
All innovators interested in EC film have to navigate the trade-offs between clarity/transparency and conductivity of the TCO (transparent conductive oxide), on the coated film. For measuring color neutrality, companies look at spectroscopic measurements: “A-Star” and “B-Star color” coordinates.
The iGlass/Wisp technical team is reporting conductivity between 7–10 Ohms per square meter, and only 3% visible light transmission loss at that level. When the iGlass/Wisp work is validated by independent 3rd parties, it may be seen as a big achievement. There is still lots of important device testing to do — and the team knows this. EC devices, of course, operate in the presence of oxygen and water, and a merchandisable product has to prevent moisture and oxidation to a market-standard. The ASTM-2141 test for (“Accelerated Aging of Electrochromic Devices in an Insulated Glass Unit”) is unforgiving. It’s a 50,000 cycle test, based on 3-minute cycling increments. In some ways, it doesn’t stress the electrochemical system as hard as it could because it doesn’t require full switching to the darkest state (the contrast ratio is 5-to-1). But after 6 months in 85 C degree conditions, cycling back-and-forth, the material can only lose 5% of its emissivity. ASTM-2141 is written for Sealed Insulated Glass Units (more conventional electrochromic devices like EC 1.0 with View and Sage), and not windows with EC 2.0 film affixed on the inside, but ASTM-2141 is a market benchmark — and frequently an investor-referenced test. It’s not clear whether it’s exactly applicable to what iGlass/Wisp is doing (EC window versus EC film), but it is brutal and takes 6 full months. Companies will generally only embark on this path once they know, with a reasonable degree of certainty, that their product will pass. The National Renewable Energy Lab is the main certifier for the ASTM-2141 test in the U.S., though labs here in the Bay also have the testing equipment. Some companies have even built their own full labs to do this test. What level of durability and emissivity testing makes sense for this new class of retrofit film products?
Thanks, Aleksandr and our (unnamed) 3rd party expert.
Like e-Chromic’s vision, the Wisp/iGlass product is slated to be self-powered by solar. There’s a lithium polymer battery, to obviate the need for wiring and cabling. The ultimate goal is to get to an installed cost in the $15 — $30 range. It’s a roll-to-roll manufacturing process with a favorable CAPEX profile.
I was recruited by FPI VC and am the “Incoming CEO” if Wisp/iGlass. I’ve been working with the team since April 2016. We’re planning for this shift upon the closing of our next investment round, and we’ll likely put a testing and product development lab here in the Bay area too, staffed by a new CTO/CSO. Since 2013, the company has raised $3.5 Million U.S. within the FPI pledge fund and with other like-minded investors like Winter Capital.
Wisp/iGlass is raising money in 2017 (and doing prototyping and durability testing for technical due diligence with investors). If any of you are interested in learning more, we would be happy to speak with you, learn more about your firm, and share specifics about the Wisp/iGlass approach.
Before we end the session, I’d like to have Steve Selkowitz introduce himself. For both investors and corporate partners, he is a very good resource, especially on the energy modeling front.
Thanks, I’m Steve Selkowitz and I’m with Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. We’ve been playing in this field for 30–35 years. In a sense, it’s depressing that not more has happened in this field, but in a sense a lot actually has. On the positive side, I’ll note that we started in the late 1970’s with low-emissivity coatings, multi-layer coatings, and at that point a lot of people said, “That will never work, that will never be cost-effective”, but low-e coatings comprise 90% of the market now. So it is possible to do these kinds of things and ultimately capture most of the market.
The EC world is a little more complicated (than low-e). Luke, I think you’ve adequately described all of the challenges. Having been in this world for 30+ years, I can say that we’ve seen progress, but we’re not there yet. At LBNL, with State of California funding, DOE funding, we hope we’ll continue. We’ll see as the weeks go on.
We do a lot of optical testing measurement. We do energy modeling. We do testing at the centimeter level, testing at the meter squared level, testing at the building level. We’ve done 4 or 5 projects for the General Services Administration (GSA), including full building retrofits (at that scale). For us, energy is the focus because those (energy-focused interests) are our primary clients, but in the real world the things that matter include comfort, color, amenities — all of the things you’ve talked about. We’re developing ways to quantify and measure those things as well.
We’re an open resource. We work with everybody. We don’t play favorites. We don’t pick winners. We’re in Berkeley, California. You’re welcome to visit the lab and see what we’re doing. We’ve published ~400 papers on window performance over the last 35 years. All of these papers are publicly available.
We also provide the tools that architects and engineers use to calculate and model all of these parameters, and to rate and label these performance characteristics in the U.S. You can’t sell a window that’s not labeled by NFRC (National Fenestration Rating Council), and we produce the tools that NFRC uses. We’re deeply embedded with the window industry and we encourage and partner with the kinds of companies in the room.
Thanks, Steve. And thanks to all of our participants. Please give them a hand. Great appreciation for our Cleantech Forum community of investors, analysts and corporate partners. Thanks for getting up at 6:30am this morning to be with us for the early session. Lastly, we’d like to send out encouragement to those joining us online. We were able to get many of the key innovators here, but certainly not all. Thanks to Aleksandr Timofeev for submitting a video from Moscow. Selma Duhovic and Mircea Dinca at MIT, Daiping Chu at Cambridge, and many others toiling away on smart, energy-saving windows, please know that this community deeply cares about your efforts — and we hope you’ll be able to join us in the future. And good luck to the venture and corporate investors supporting the entrepreneurs in this area. We hope this session helped point to the right questions and opened up some new resources. For this session, constructive feedback is always welcome. Feel free to be in touch by e-mail at luke at pustejovsky dot ventures. We’ve supplied the e-mail addresses of our entrepreneurs and you can ask them individually for their respective Power Point decks, product demos, testing reports, and other information. That’s the close of our session. Thanks, and enjoy the rest of Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2017.”