Alion, Inc. Solar cells manufactured by acoustic printing.

January 4, 2012 in Solar

Based in Richmond, CA, Alion is a stealth solar company using acoustic printing techniques to manufacture low-cost cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells.

As Mark Topinka, one of the Alion founders, describes on his LinkedIn page, Alion is “working hard on the world’s lowest $/W solar cell”.

Acoustic printing is a technology originally developed by Xerox for ink-jet printers, and Alion has patented an acoustic printing process specific to PV cells titled Focused Acoustic Printing of Patterned Photovoltaic Materials.

Acoustic printing works by an acoustic beam that is focused on a pool of ink (or PV material) which ejects discrete droplets of the PV material to positions on the substrate.

Whether you’re printing word documents or solar cells, acoustic printing holds promise as a high-precision low-cost solution.

In stealth mode, Alion has not revealed much detail about the company’s technology and strategy (as demonstrated by the very minimalist approach of the website), but we suppose that the “PV material” specified in the patent is cadmium telluride (CdTe), as Alion’s VP of Manufacturing comes from a CdTe company.

Cadmium Telluride is a thin-film solar technology which is one of the lowest cost types of solar cells.

If Alion gets it right, with both ultra low-cost material and manufacturing, they can reduce the cost of solar cells well below 50 cents per watt.

Alion expects to commercialize production in 2012.

How did we discover Alion if there’s so little public information about the company?

Well, one of my favorite things about the end of the year, is the wealth of “best of” and “top” lists.  (some people might argue otherwise)

Here are a few energy-related lists that I found (that will certainly serve as content for future Watt Now articles).

I discovered Alion in the Forbes list (“30 under 30″) when I caught a photo of my neighbor from college, Chris Rivest.  Chris is one of the Alion co-founders and now VP of development.

I knew those greasy late-night egg and cheese sandwiches would lead to something great.