Natcore opens solar lab at Kodak

Natcore opens solar lab at KodakAs news of Kodak’s Chapter 11 filing continued to echo through the country last week, Natcore Technology cut the ribbon on one of the legendary film producer’s possible futures.

The official opening of the solar company’s new research lab at Kodak’s Eastman campus was well-attended by known political figures in upstate New York, including congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who yielded the ribbon-cutting scissors.

Slaughter was instrumental in luring Natcore to Rochester, said the company president and CEO Chuck Provini.

The new facility offers Natcore tremendous opportunity for growth, Provini said.

Until now, the company has outsourced its research and development to universities, which has worked well and been very cost-effective.

“But you get behind with students and professors’ schedules and vacations,” Provini said. “That won’t be an issue here. We’ll be consolidating our research teams and probably hiring some new people.”

He said Natcore will have three research teams working side by side on three different applications for its proprietary liquid phase deposition technology.

The company recently contracted with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., to work on its black silicon technology, which increases the energy output of the average solar cell by carving pores into it to increase the surface area and decrease the reflectance.

Another team will work on developing the company’s tandem solar cells, and a third research team will work on thin-film, roll-to-roll technology.

“By using existing roll-to-roll equipment like Kodak’s or someone else’s we believe we can reduce production costs by up to 50 percent,” Provini said.

Kodak’s bankruptcy filing has no bearing on Natcore’s operations in the facility, Provini said. The company is simply leasing lab space and equipment from Kodak. But some of the technology that Natcore is working on could foreshadow the once great film company’s future.

In the meantime, the Kodak lab is an ideal place for Natcore to continue its research, Provini said.

“This is a huge step for us,” he said. “It gives us some great, great possibilities.”

Photo: Zack Seward / WXXI