Finnish-Russian nanotechnology cooperation takes off

An Expert's View about Renewable Energy in Finland

Posted on: 1 Nov 2012

Finnish-Russian cooperation on nanotechnology has commercialized a coating technology for increasing the efficiency of solar cells and durability of electronics.

24 October 2012 Surface passivation of a solar cell by atomic layer deposition (ALD) enhances the overall cell efficiency by prolonging the charge-carrier effective lifetime. Finnish-Russian nanotechnology cooperation takes off Nanotechnology is a strong growth sector in both Finland and Russia. The countries' cooperation on this technology is turning into success thanks to the Finnish-Russian Nanotechnology Innovation Alliance that speeds up commercialization of nanotechnology based innovations. Examples of success stories include a Finnish company providing a revolutionary coating technology and a Russian company entering world markets via Finland. The Nanotechnology Innovation Alliance was launched in March 2011 by Spinverse Ltd, a Finnish consulting company, to boost Finnish-Russian innovation cooperation. The Alliance is funded by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign affairs under the Finland's cooperation with its neighboring areas program. The Alliance brings together leading innovators and investors providing its partners access to innovation funding, partner search services, market analysis, business development and technology transfer services. According to Pekka Koponen, CEO Spinverse Ltd, the Alliance builds cross-border nanotechnology transfer platform, with global industry-university co-operation -model, for the benefit of nanotechnology enabled industries in both Finland and Russia. “Nanotechnology is a major force for developing Russian innovation system and modernizing its industry. This partnership program enables great opportunities for Finnish industry,” says Koponen. The Finnish-Russian Innovation Alliance on Nanotechnology Partner Day in June 2012 in Finland discussed challenges related to IPR management within the frameworks of cross-border nanotechnology commercialization and cover crucial themes that should be taken into account when technology is looking for investors. It highlighted that IPR could be seen as an opportunity enhancing the collaboration, rather than a problem, hindering it. "It was emphasized that while dealing with technology commercialization innovators should “know what they don’t know” and partner broadly to fill the gaps in terms of resources, skills and contacts," Koponen says. Research program creates technology base Beneq - a Finnish pioneer and world-leader in industrial production and laboratory equipment for nano-scale thin films and functional coatings - has introduced revolutionary innovations within its coating technologies, including true roll-to-roll atomic layer deposition (ALD) and high-yield atmospheric aerosol the first time, roll–to–roll ALD has been made viable coating (TCO For ). for research and industrial production. Beneq equipment and thin film experience is used for increasing the efficiency of crystalline silicon and thin film solar cells, producing transparent conductive oxide coated glass and increasing durability of organic electronics, for example OLED displays. Beneq is a leading authority in batch-mode ALD systems, with access to more than thirty years of hands-on experience in industrial manufacturing of ALD-enabled products, as well as more than one hundred deliveries to academia and research. The new roll-to-roll technology was developed as a part of the Tekes Functional Materials Program coordinated by Spinverse. The Program's intensive, target-oriented co-operation between industry and academia has already resulted in several emerging businesses in solar energy and printed intelligence as well as sharp focus on biomedical applications. “Coatings and tailoring of surfaces is one of our specific technology focus areas. In addition to Beneq’s great results companies like Canatu, Savo Solar, Polarsol and Aurubis Finland have recently brought important novelties for solar energy applications,” says Dr. Markku Heino, Spinverse, Coordinator of the Tekes Functional Materials Program. Russian investment boosts expansion In April 2012, Rusnano announced a EUR25 million investment in Beneq. According to Sampo Ahonen, CEO of Beneq, the company plans in the short term to initiate more activity centers, including one in Russia, where Beneq will further develop specific applications and equipment for the needs of customers in Russia and the CIS. “This investment in Beneq is not only a covenant that ensures continued expansion of the company’s business activities and its ability to serve its customers worldwide, it also opens new vistas of opportunity, including strengthening our presence in rapidly growing markets such as Russia,” says Ahonen. Sergey Polikarpov, Managing Director at Rusnano, welcomes Beneq into the company's nanotechnology portfolio. “We acknowledge the technical excellence of the company, and the literally untapped economical potential that lies before its thin film coating offering.” “We have also identified potential synergies between Beneq and companies already in the Rusnano team. With a firm belief in the technical capabilities of Beneq and the global surge for thin film production capacity, we want to be a part of the growth that lies ahead,” Polikarpov says. Rusnano and Finnish Industry Investment have a EUR50 million investment program to finance Finnish companies entering Russian market. Spinverse advices companies entering the program. Delivering ALD system to Asian customer In September 2012, Beneq announced it will deliver a large-area batch atomic layer deposition coating system to a leading Asian customer developing organic light emitting diode (OLED) products. The system will be used for the development of flexible OLED products, for which high-quality ALD films are essential for product performance. Beneq batch systems offer a unique combination of excellent thin-film quality, high-throughput and large-area processing capabilities, enabling scale-up of demanding thin-film processes. “This delivery is yet another example of the potential our technology has for the organic and flexible electronics industry, and of our commitment to serve this industry and grow with it,” says Ahonen. “This delivery fits perfectly into the core of our corporate strategy, which is to work with industry leaders in demonstrating scalability and integration of our technology.” “We believe that our batch mode ALD technology, as well as the development of roll-to-roll ALD, are spearheading the technological breakthrough which will enable cost-efficient manufacturing of OLED products with competitive lifetimes.” EU project to develop roll-to-roll solar panels Beneq has joined R2R-CIGS - a high-profile photovoltaics project financed by the European Commission through its Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The primary goal of the ambitious project is to scale-up innovative laboratory processes to meet production requirements of flexible solar modules. In short, these processes need to be adapted to roll-to-roll produc CIGStion while ensuring reliability, high throughput and low Photo: R2R- cost. “Beneq sees great potential in continuous production technologies, both in relation to the economy of production and the quality of the end-product,” says Ahonen. “This is why we are putting down a lot of time and effort in bringing our thin film coating technologies, both aerosol coating and atomic layer deposition, to the service of the industries we address”. R2R-CIGS, which began in April 2012 and will continue into 2015, intends to establish pilot lines for production of flexible solar panels. In all, the project is going to be of paramount importance in enabling wider application and lower costs of solar photovoltaics. In addition to Beneq, the project consortium includes EMPA, Flisom, ZSW, Isovoltaic, SoLayTec, Mondragon Assembly, Manz CIGS Technology and CPI, and is co-ordinated by TNO. Financing has been secured from the EC’s joint ENERGY- NMP 2011 programme. Russian company enters world markets via Finland Russian company LED Microsensor, a spin-off company of the St. Petersburg Ioffe Institute, has brought to the market a small and inexpensive infrared photodiode detector for measuring chemical concentrations of substances in gases, liquids and even solids. The company came into existence as a result of the extensive research in solid- state physics, for which academician Zhores Alferov was awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize in physics. Research and commercialization of technology is, however, a form of art, and LED Microsensor sought the assistance of Spinverse to support their international commercialization efforts through Finnish-Russian Innovation Alliance on Nanotechnology. As LED Microsensor last year received a major financial contribution from the Russian nanotechnology venture fund Rusnano, the company turned to the Micronova Centre of VTT and Aalto University to obtain a flying start to the semiconductor manufacturing. Industrial cooperation is a positive add-on to Aalto University’s School of micro-and nano-technology department’s active infrared semiconductor materials research which is in danger of being overshadowed by research of newer, for example, lighting grade LED materials. The department has already developed lighting grade LED materials with a Rusnano-funded OptoGaN. Around the same time, the company decided to continue the innovation within the Alliance and began cooperation with Spinverse which has led to the first partnerships with technology companies operating in Finland in industrial process technologies, environmental technologies, and healthcare sectors. "The road of science to commercial applications is long and cooperation with the Finns has substantially accelerated the start of our production, as well as the commercial business development,” says Nikolai Stojanov, CEO of LED Microsensor.
Posted: 01 November 2012

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