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UT has both feet planted as it helps build solar industry cluster

Arising from expertise within the glass industry and the abundance of cheap natural gas needed to melt silica for solar modules, the Toledo area has long been recognized for incubating advanced and alternative energy players.

In the thick of things has been the University of Toledo. So, it's only fitting that when it came time for the State of Ohio to establish a new Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization (PVIC), UT was a logical choice.

PVIC was founded in January 2007 with $18.6 million in Ohio Third Frontier funding and matching contributions of $30 million from federal agencies and university and industrial partners. The center -- which also has hubs Ohio State University, and Bowling Green State University -- has become a state of the art laboratory with three purposes, says Robert Collins, professor of physics and co-director of the PVIC: to help new companies commercialize their products, to help existing companies improve their products and expand product lines, and to build a large solar cluster in northwest Ohio.

The PVIC serves as both a testing ground for new applications and a resource for commercialization of those techniques. The center is now working with 30 companies from around the country -- including a start-up from Silicon Valley, Collins says.

The center has led the way in development of new thin-film technologies that can be produced more quickly and less expensively than traditional solar films. Meanwhile, UT is working on next-generation films using nanostructures, recently hiring two experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to lead the work.

Source: Robert Collins, University of Toledo
Writer: Gene Monteith

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