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Alternative Solar Cell Developer Adds $10M Venture Funding

Sharone Zehavi, Scifiniti CEO, holding a SmartWafer

Sharone Zehavi, Scifiniti CEO, holding a SmartWafer (Scifiniti)

Scifiniti, a developer of silicon-based solar materials in San Jose, California secured $10 million in series B venture financing, the second round of funding after initial start-up. Current investors Alloy Ventures, Firelake Capital, I2BF Global Ventures, and Peninsula Ventures took part in the round.

The company’s first product is SmartWafer, an alternative photovoltaic solar cell material with the same performance as traditional as solar cells, but made with a process that the company says offers sharply lower costs — about half — to solar panel manufacturers. SmartWafers are also configured with the same shape and size, so they can directly replace traditional solar cells in today’s solar panels. The venture funds are expected to help bring SmartWafers to market.

Scifiniti says its manufacturing process was designed specifically for the solar industry, rather than reengineered from semiconductor manufacturing, as are current solar cells. The company’s technology deposits a thin layer of high-quality silicon on a conductive substrate, using a continuous deposition technique, crystallization system, and advanced ceramic processes.

Sharone Zehavi, CEO of Scifiniti, says to enable continued cost cutting and growth in the solar industry, the greatest opportunity in the industry’s value chain is reducing the cost of solar wafers. Zehavi adds that the company’s technology reduces silicon use in solar cells by 90 percent, which improves yields by cutting the amount of breakage compared to conventional methods.

The company cites industry statistics that in 2013, more than 23 gigawatts of multi-crystalline cells will be installed worldwide requiring about 6 billion wafers with a total market size of $5 billion to $6 billion. The market is expected to grow at a rate of 9 percent annually during the next five to 10 years.

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Hat tip: Fortune/Term Sheet

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