Hasselt University and imec have jointly introduced Enfoil, an innovative spin-off poised to revolutionize solar energy solutions. Enfoil's pioneering product offers incredibly flexible and robust solar panels, measuring just a few millimeters in thickness, that can seamlessly merge with a multitude of surfaces. The birth of these cutting-edge solar panels is the culmination of years of rigorous scientific exploration. Notably, EnFoil is already in active discussions with key industry players to manufacture these exceptional solar panels and incorporate them onto the rooftops of trucks, marking a potential shift towards sustainable energy in transportation.
Solar energy is crucial in the context of energy transition. The standard silicon solar panels found on rooftops already play an important role but cannot be placed on every surface due to their weight or shape. For years, UHasselt and imec have been investigating new types of solar cells that are easier and cheaper to integrate onto surfaces beyond roofs. "With Enfoil, the new spin-off of UHasselt and imec, we are now taking a very big step," says Dominique Coster, CEO of EnFoil. EnFoil stands for Energy Enabling Foil.
Until now, to integrate solar cells on surfaces of trucks, buildings or tents, consumers were limited to standard, typically flat products of a pre-defined size, and handled the integration themselves. "This mainly limited the technology to exclusive construction projects, or as an expensive opt-ins for cars. With Enfoil, we aim to change this," says Marc Meuris, CTO of EnFoil. "We intend to make custom solar foils in any size and shape at a large scale (“mass-customization”). The solar foils will be directly installed or further integrated into our customers' products. The production will be done locally and we will guarantee the feasibility and integration of the final products."
More sustainable and reliable
EnFoil combines technologies and processes that are patented and developed within UHasselt and imec. The thin-film solar cells are based on CIGS technology, made from copper-indium-gallium and selenium. "This technology offers light weight, flexibility, and impact resistance which is crucial for many new applications," says prof. Bart Vermang of imo-imomec, imec's associate lab at UHasselt. “And the solar cells achieve almost the same efficiency as standard panels".
Ready for production
EnFoil has ongoing discussions with the industry to bring its solar foil to market. "A wide array of applications will be possible, such as integrating the solar cells on swimming pool covers or roof tiles. Currently, we mostly focus on the logistics sector, aiming to integrate our materials on roofs and sidewalls of trucks to power their sensors and track & trace systems. It would save the battery, and under abundant sunlight, the battery could even be charged," says Marc Meuris, CTO of EnFoil.
The project has already received support from the European Research Council through an ERC Proof of Concept. This grant, worth 150,000 euros, aims 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 industry 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.
Click here to know more about Enfoil.