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Korean Firm Invests in U.S. Silicon Wafer Manufacturer  

 
 


BEDFORD, Mass.—1366 Technologies Inc., an MIT spin-off claiming it can sharply cut the cost of solar-power cells, recently announced that it has received a $10 million investment from Korean firm Hanwha Investment Corp., bringing total private investment in 1366 Technologies to about $80 million. The company also has landed sizable government backing, including a $150 million federal loan guarantee, to help build 1366’s first large-scale commercial factory in Alabama, a town in Genesee County, New York. The facility is scheduled to be online in 2017.

1366 Technologies, based in Bedford, Mass., creates silicon wafers that are the heart of a photovoltaic cell. The company has developed a way to form those wafers from molten silicon. The old way involved sawing the wafers from blocks of solid silicon, creating silicon “sawdust.”

1366 Technologies has been testing its processes at a pilot facility in Bedford. It’s now laying the foundation for its commercial-scale New York factory, which will be capable of producing about 1 million silicon wafers per week, said Frank van Mierlo, CEO.

Van Mierlo said his company’s intellectual property is protected by international patents, and by the fact it’s based in the United States. “As long as you don’t ship the equipment abroad, you keep control of the IP,” he said.

That technology is the key reason 1366 Technologies thinks it can compete with typically lower-cost Chinese solar suppliers, which have pummeled American competitors in recent years.

Fatima Toor, an engineering professor at the University of Iowa, said 1366 Technologies’ survival has been a rare bright spot for government support in the solar sector.

“The one good thing that the Department of Energy did was to invest in 1366,” she said.




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