Dal grad and Rayleigh Solar Tech co-founder Sam March. (Danny Abriel photo)

Nova Scotia startup a game changer for clean energy

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The “it” material that is significantly advancing solar power also happens to be the inspiration for an exciting startup that calls Halifax home.
 
Led by longtime friends, Sam March and Dane George, Rayleigh Solar Tech aims to commercialize perovskite solar cells. Perovskite is a solution deposited at low temperatures, is easy to make and works really well. With an efficiency that has skyrocketed to over 23 per cent, the technology has gained traction in the research community in the past five years and will be cheaper than any existing solar cell technology.
 
“There is usually a trade-off for solar cells,” says March. “If they are cheap to make, they don’t work very well, but perovskite is a cheap AND efficient solar cell material.”
 
The idea for Rayleigh Solar Tech came to March when he was studying perovskite in the Ultrafast Quantum Control Group in Dal’s Physics Department, which is led by Kimberly Hall. The group focuses on using ultrafast lasers to study how light interacts with perovskite materials.
 
At the time, March was reading as many research papers as possible to keep up with a global surge in perovskite interest and it became clear that these solar cells were poised to be a disruptive technology. They are easy to integrate into various thin-film solar applications and can be coated on the exterior of any window. That makes them a nice option for global markets to offset having to burn fossil fuels for energy needs.
 
For a relatively new company, there have already been several highlights for Rayleigh Solar Tech. One was the opportunity to participate in the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) Atlantic program.
 
“It was all because of the CDL Atlantic Site Lead Jeff Larsen,” says March. “He heard about our project and strong-armed us to join the program. It was the best decision we never made!”
 
CDL Atlantic, which is hosted at Dalhousie, is a seed-stage program for massively scalable, science and engineering-based companies, which has expanded nationally.
 
“The Creative Destruction Lab plays an important role in connecting successful business mentors with the talent, science and technology emerging from universities that can scale up to make a global impact,” says Jeff Larsen, executive director, innovation and entrepreneurship.
 
“Sam March is a great example of how this can work, where a PhD student who might never have commercialized his research and started a company now has incorporated, investment and mentorship to try and bring next generation solar to market.”
 

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