213: Low Light Solar Panel’s Big Advancement


Matt interviewed Bates Marshall, Co-Founder and CEO of Ambient Photonics, which manufactures a cutting edge high power, low light solar cell for use in things like mice, keyboards, remotes, etc.  So how charged up should you be over this piece of solar tech?

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Hey everybody, welcome to Still to be Determined. Normally on this show, we do a follow up to the Undecided with Matt Ferrell program, where Sean Ferrell, Matt’s older brother. Talk to him, Matt Ferrell, my younger brother,

about where are we? Technology and its impact on our lives. And this week we are going to be listening to Matt talk to Bates Marshall, who is the co founder, not the co founder. He’s going to talk to Bates Marshall, the co founder and CEO of Ambient Photonics. This is a connection that Matt made at CES this past, was it the spring?

Was it just like a few months ago, January, not even the spring, the winter. Uh, so Matt bumped into Mr. Marshall and they had a conversation about Ambient Photonics and Matt was very impressed. So here we are getting ready to take a look at that video. But before we get into that conversation, Matt, how are you today?

I’m doing great. How about yourself?

I’m doing okay. I’ve mentioned this, uh, previously in another video. I just recently received the. Advanced reader copy of the Sinister Secrets of the Fabulous Nothings, book two of my Sinister Secrets series, and it is available in stores for pre order right now.

And so I’m asking our listeners and viewers, if you would like to support me, an advance order would be greatly appreciated. It really does have a great impact. So thank you for that. So on now to Matt’s conversation with Bates Marshall about Ambient Photonics and the technology that they’re developing.

So Bates, thank you so much for joining me. I wanted to start off the conversation to learn a little bit more about you before we jump into Ambient Photonics. Uh, I know you have a long history working in the solar industry. I was curious, could you tell me a little bit about how, how you ended up in the solar industry?

What drew you to it?

Yeah, um, great to be with you, Matt. Um, I ended up working in solar, um, probably you could say by a fluke. Um, I, I started my career, um, I got a computer science degree, uh, and, uh, by way of, uh, uh, uh, an internship when I was in university. I’ve started working in the semiconductor industry, so the chip industry, and specifically in the semiconductor equipment industry, so that’s the gigantic multi million dollar machines that make chips, um, and I didn’t plan on doing that, but it was one of these circumstances that presented itself when you’re young and just out of college, and I kind of fell into that and ended up working for about a decade in semiconductor equipment, so chip making equipment, And it was through my relationship with the big equipment companies, um, uh, that led me into solar about 20 years ago, uh, hard to believe, but, so 20 years ago, some of my big clients began repurposing these big semiconductor machines to make large scale, uh, uh, solar panels, and, uh, I opened my eyes to the possibilities of, of, of solar, and, uh, Have spent the last 20 years doing all kinds of different things in solar technology, all the way from chemical precursors in the manufacturing process to solar cell factories, solar module factories, power electronics, financial structures on Wall Street to, to grow the penetration of solar on the grid, just kind of everything soup to nuts solar.

Um, and that’s how I ended up, uh, co founding Ambient five years ago.

It’s funny that you just kind of like stumbled into it in the very beginning. But it’s become your entire career now.

That’s right. Very cool. It looks designed when you look at it backwards, but it’s totally emergent when it’s happening in real time.

Yeah, I identify with that. I stumbled into what I’m doing. But when you look at it in reverse, it’s like, oh, it kind of makes sense.

So to kind of kick off what Ambient Photonics is doing, first I have to say, I I was at CES for the first time and the first place I had to go was your company’s booth because when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, I want to check out renewable energy places, solar, see what’s out there.

And when I read about what your company was doing, I was like, I have to go see this in person. This seems really cool. But to kind of help The audience understand why I thought it was cool. I was curious if you could just kind of give us a high level rundown as to what your technology is. How does it work, uh, for the low end


So our, our, our team has invented a altogether new type of solar cell. It’s an indoor solar cell. Um, and indoor solar cells have been around for decades, uh, powering, uh, really basic things like calculators or the children’s toy with the cat with the waving arm and this kind of stuff. Um, tchotchkes and kids toys.

Um, what makes our invention unique is the very high power density. Um, so you can think of it as, as super high performance, or it just generates a lot of, uh, a lot more energy than conventional indoor solar cells. Uh, uh, typically about three and a half or up to, up to four times the power density of conventional cells.

And, um, I came to this project, uh, by way of introduction from an investor, um, a famous investor known for starting some big, uh, IOT companies actually. Um, and, uh, he brought, uh, this, this research to my attention when it was still kind of an incubation at a research lab in the Massachusetts area, uh, and said, uh, Hey, these guys think they have something on their hands and they, their idea is that this could be huge.

Um, so the, the basic idea, uh, is kind of taking a, uh, you know, a hint from, from my work in outdoor solar, where we’ve spent, you know, decades, the industry has spent decades basically converting, uh, Bad energy into better energy, um, by replacing fossil sources with, with solar and, and other renewables. Um, the basic idea was the same, is that bad energy in these indoor electronic devices are batteries.

Um, so, you know, batteries are one of these, um, you know, let’s say, uh, uh, dirty underpinnings of the modern electronics world. We don’t really think about it too much, um, but if you sort of peel the onion and look at the impact, Um, they have all kinds of externalities that are not really being captured today, uh, in much the same way that, you know, 30, 40 years ago, uh, coal fired power plants and all kinds of, uh, carbon consuming, carbon generating power sources on the grid were not really made to account for all those externalities.

Um, so the more we looked at it, the more we thought, okay, if we can increase the power density, keep the cost low. And we can grow this very small market of solar powered devices into something that could be gigantic. And the, the, you know, the, the first thing that we started thinking about was the positive environmental benefit.

But the more we dug into it, the more we developed our, our market approach, we realized we actually could build some incredible products that had better user experiences. And then we began to think, okay, We can make better products, um, that have better use cases and better sustainability and environmental outcomes.

This thing could be huge. That was, that was a starting point for us.

Right. Um, cause my basic understanding of the difference between like the low light solar panels that have existed for decades and what you would put on your roof is one is geared towards a specific spectrum of light. And get high voltage, high power out of it.

Where these low light solar are getting a broader spectrum, but because of that, it’s much lower voltage, is that in a general sense correct?

Yeah. Yeah. So at a high level, we’re taking light and turning it into power. So we’re taking photons turning it into electrons. The viability. The outdoor light differs from indoor light in two main ways.

Number one, the absolute magnitude or the quantum of light is much lower. So you can think of light, we measure it in terms of lux, which is a measure of the intensity of the light. So in an indoor room, let’s say in my office here, this is probably 300, 350 lux in a living room where we do a lot of work around like smart home devices, maybe 150, 175 lux.

Outdoor is about 150, 000 lux. So you’re talking about, you know, a massive, several orders of magnitude difference in terms of the amount of light. So that’s one big difference. Then the other difference is the spectrum shift. So outdoor light, Solar light comes from the sun. It’s very warm, uh, indoor light.

Typically these days comes from LEDs or compact fluorescence or some mix of all that tends to be very cold. So you’ve got this big difference in the magnitude of light and a big difference in the spectrum of light. And because of those things, the traditional technologies that are used in outdoor solar don’t work very well in indoor solar.

So it’s a combination of the magnitude and also the spectral shift that makes it sort of not a very good fit. Right.

And what, what kind of, obviously you’ve talked about IOT already, but like what, what market do you think that this is going to really kind of unlock in a new and exciting way?

So, uh, that’s a great question.

It took us a while to, to answer that. And, um, you know, at first we got excited about this vast universe of IOT devices. Oh my God, that’s amazing. Trillions of things, um, but we have to be really careful and I would say realistic about where we can make an impact. Um, so the, the first thing, the first way that we think about solving that is just sort of how much power do we have in a reasonable amount of space?

So if we just think about, you know, here’s a Apple TV remote control here in front of me, Um, this is a small scale device. It fits in the palm of your hand. It sort of defines the playing field, right? So how much power can we fit onto a notional handheld device that is defined by our power density. And it just works out that in a kind of typical indoor environment, we can replace, uh, the power source with, um, with our cell.

Of any device that’s powered by, let’s say, AA batteries, AAA batteries, coin cells, Small rechargeable batteries. It’s that class of devices, and it turns out there are many, many billions of those sold every year. So that’s a big impact. Um, it also means that, you know, uh, while I would love to replace the battery in my smartphone, um, it’s unlikely to really make an impact there because that’s a gigantic battery.

You’re always tending it. You’re always recharging it. Um, so the energy demand there is too high. So, um, when we thought about the, you know, how to sort of. Uh, um, create a taxonomy of the market. It led us to these big volume drivers. So where can we go make a big difference fast? Um, where can we change the world?

And it turns out that these sort of, um, I don’t know, uh, uh, somewhat pedestrian markets like remote controls, uh, have massive volumes and massive quantities of batteries that we can eliminate. So we started out working on remote controls and in fact, uh, one of our key partners is a company called Universal Electronics, known, known as UEI, and they have the largest production capacity of remote controls in the world.

They’re, they’re one of the big 800 pound gorillas in that market. And, uh, we’ve got an exclusive relationship with them to be their partner, uh, to help them build solar powered remote controls. So, um, so remote controls is a market where, uh, we as a company have learned a lot about, um, and, uh, uh, and, and, and, you know, when we think about the first couple years of the production, uh, from our factory.

You know, the majority of those cells out the door will be for remote control. So we’ve definitely created this momentum around transitioning remote controls from disposable and rechargeable batteries to our solar cell. Um, so that’s, so that’s one, one of our starting markets.

The versatility that I saw of your technology is also kind of incredible because you also have a bifacial, you can make a bifacial solar panel.

And at your booth, I saw the, um, Remote control, you know, had the bifacial in it, so it didn’t matter which direction the remote was sitting. It was always going to get power, which is kind

of awesome. It’s very helpful in that use case, right? So if you think about, you know, how you use your remote control at home, and in fact, um, I have here the Samsung, uh, current generation remote control, and it’s got a solar cell on the back.

Now that’s the old tech, uh, amorphous silicon cell. But the reason it’s on the back is actually a great example of the power of our technology. So, You have to have so much space, this gigantic cell on the back, that you simply can’t put it on the front, right? So normally, of course, you’d like to think that this is sitting on your coffee table face up with the buttons facing up, but with this product, they put the solar cell on the back and they’re trying to sort of change user behavior to make sure they flip it over periodically and charge it.

Um, our basic idea is if you’re going to have a. Contrived scenario where it only works in certain conditions where the user has to change their behavior, where you have to sort of train them to do something different. It’s kind of a niche product. It’s a niche application. Our big idea is to help our customers make it.

Beautiful products with a really durable use case. And if you, you know, throw the remote onto the sofa and it ends up face down, you’ve got that bifacial solar cell poking through on the back and you’re still going to make power. Um, so yeah, we’ve, we’ve tried to think, think kind of comprehensively around the use case.

And make sure that we can sort of define these, these next generation products in a way that we’re not just building solar remotes or solar keyboards or solar mice. It’s just a better mouse. It’s a better keyboard. It’s a better remote control, and it happens to be better for the environment. And that kind of like, Double benefit is, uh, is a lesson that I picked up from the outdoor solar industry.

Um, the

other question I had was it technically still is going to have a battery or energy storage inside the device, like a capacitor or a battery, but because of the solar, it will just last the lifetime of the product. Is

that correct? That’s right. I would say that we’ve learned that most of our customers are really interested in making battery free products.

And the way that we can make a battery free product that still survives this, like, uh, use case, uh, uh, criteria that I described is by using a capacitor, or in most cases, a hybrid supercapacitor, which is a type of capacitor that has great kind of electrical characteristics. So it has the right, uh, discharge, um, rate and the right amount of storage, but it also has better environmental outcomes.

So if you, if you do a kind of, uh, uh, use a life cycle assessment or LCA to do the carbon accounting, you find that a hybrid super cap, uh, has a much lower, uh, uh, Carbon footprint than a typical lithium ion battery. So that you’re right. We do usually have a storage element alongside the solar cell to make sure that the device can work, even when it doesn’t have sufficient light.

Um, you know, this often you might want to use your remote control at night, for example, or you might want to make sure that the sensor is operating under low light conditions, um, and generating power under brighter light conditions. So the, the, the. The storage element is, is a typical requirement, but by switching to a super cap and also just by reducing the magnitude of storage required because we’re generating the power from our cell, um, you could still come away with a big environmental win.

You mentioned that

this kind of originated from Massachusetts, this technology, how long did it take to go from that seed of an idea to where you guys are right now? How much time has

passed? Uh, it’s like a, a, an overnight invention that took a couple of decades. So, so this, this technology has been, uh, sort of at the research labs for about 30 years.

And, um, the, the fundamental platform that we use is called a dye sensitized solar cell, uh, or DSSC. So, uh, I’ll explain a little bit about what that, what that is without getting too technical, but, uh, Um, a dye sensitized solar cell was invented by a gentleman named Professor Michael Gretzel at UC Berkeley 30 years ago.

And, uh, you know, fast forward to today, and Professor Gretzel is now at EPFL in Switzerland and is an advisor to our firm. So, you know, it’s an overnight success, 30 years in the making here. Like I said, but, um, this, the reason that it was kind of in, uh, let’s say in gestation at the research labs for so long and not a, a mass market application was really two things.

So number one, um, uh, DSSCs as they’re known, we’re known for being, uh, environmentally very friendly, um, uh, quite low cost to produce, but also a bit sensitive and a bit, uh, let’s say underperforming in outdoor light. And if we think about. You know, what the world looked like 30 years ago, this was sort of pre smartphone, pre IOT, you know, the world looked very different.

There wasn’t a kind of universe of billions of connected devices. So, um, what, what led to sort of Ambient’s fast rise is number one, our invention of novel materials. So, so the research lab that we spun out of is actually a. Industrial Chemistry Research Lab. It’s called the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry.

Still operating in Massachusetts doing sort of green chemistry invention for hire, helping big multinationals with sort of greening their industrial processes. But specifically, um, the team at Warner Babcock invented the dyes and the electrolytes. So the key active materials that make the DSSC what it is, reinvented those.

Um, so built our own molecules. So at the core of our, uh, of our company are these patented molecules. Um, and we actually make those molecules in big volume, where we have partners that make those input materials for us. And when we build the DSSC using our materials instead of conventional materials, the performance goes up by a factor of two and a half or even three.

So, so the materials breakthrough is sort of the, the heart, the heart of the science for us. So, so we, we, we sort of had this, uh, gold strike moment where, where about six years ago that the team realized they had something on their hands with these new materials. Um, I got myself involved in five years ago, we executed the spin out and have been, uh, planning, uh, ever since.

And actually just this quarter opening our, our first high volume automated production facility here in California. That’s

really cool. This is something I always try to bring up in most of the topics I talk about is, You hear all these exciting things, breakthroughs that happen in a, in a lab, but then getting it from lab into production can sometimes either just doesn’t happen because there’s some lack of material science that we need to make it reality or it’s too expensive at the time.

So it sounds like this, since it’s been in the works for 30 years, it sounds like it was that it was, there were just some key aspects to the technology that needed to fall in place, like dominoes falling into place for everything to just kind of click together. And now’s the time.

That’s right. That’s right.

I guess the big idea that we had is that the power density alone could be the attribute that opens up the market, but you know, there were previous examples of very high power indoor solar cells that were very expensive. So there’s a technology called gallium arsenide, which is If you’re a solar geek, uh, you might’ve heard of, it’s commonly used in the space satellite industry.

And again, it’s one of these things where, you know, U S and other giant, uh, giant rich countries have funded development, uh, in this sort of like budget be damned area where you’ve got to power something that’s really expensive. It doesn’t matter how much it costs. So it led to the development of these novel materials, but a, a small gallium arsenide cell.

Could cost $25. And that’s, you know, that’s two and a half or three times the bill of materials cost of something like a remote control. You can’t possibly expect to fit that cost budget into your remote control and have something that’ll sell. So we knew that the power density was like the market making attribute.

It’s got to have this super high power density to open up the market into all kinds of IOT devices. But it also has to have a very low cost of production. So a big part of our. Early research, like, you know, going back three or four years ago, was how do we get this thing to production in a way where we maintain the high performance, but we keep the cost super low.

Um, and as you probably know, you know, the, the, uh, I would say traditionally, The way you get low cost electronics products to market is you go to a low cost region and you use low cost labor as a principal input. And, uh, you know, for us, um, that wasn’t the strategy that we wanted to undertake, uh, for a number of different reasons.

Um, you know, we’re a, uh, a company that had the original research in Massachusetts, and now we’re based in California. Uh, we were growing up during a period of sort of, uh, global instability during COVID, during, uh, all kinds of, uh, you know, Trade rebalancing, decoupling, and for all these reasons, we knew we had to devise a production system that would give us the flexibility to be able to put the factory anywhere in the world.

And in fact, we could put it here in California and still deliver our kind of target economics. And the way that we’re able to do that was by developing a fully automated factory. So the, you know, I would say what makes Ambient. What it is today is this kind of marriage of the original invention, original ip, that technology, but also the production system which can deliver it with really good economics at scale.

So that’s kind of what we’re known for in the market now is very high performance and a really good best in class cost of production.

I mean, one of my, one of my questions I had for you that was around the manufacturing ’cause sometimes. Uh, companies I’ve spoken to are like, Oh, we were able to get low cost manufacturing because we’re drafting off of existing tooling and stuff that already exists.

So it’s really easy for a factory to produce this. Is that the case for your technology or is it more of a boutique? Like you said, the automated aspect, is it a boutique setup that you’ve come up for yourself?

Now, you’re right. So we are indeed drafting off of big industries that came before us and are already at scale.

So our device is a glass on glass device. So we have basically our active materials are sandwiched in between very thin sheets of glass. Um, and there are all kinds of devices, namely the global solar industry is also built on this kind of glass on glass architecture. So the, the universe of, let’s say, precision glass handling, um, of the deposition, low cost deposition of materials on glass.

That’s, that’s a very tried and true, uh, industry at scale. Um, so we could sort of pick and choose from best in class suppliers who already knew how to do this with other devices, other materials, uh, and we just had to slightly adapt those systems to make our product. Um, it is worth pointing out just again from, from the manufacturing geek perspective, um, the, the deposition of our active materials is what’s called atmospheric, which means we use Um, industrial printing technologies to print our materials on glass.

And that’s, that’s novel because historically, uh, most sort of advanced, uh, uh, solar devices are made using vacuum processes, basically sort of versions of a, of a semiconductor or a chip factory. And, you know, that’s where, you know, the mental image is sort of bunny suits and, uh, you know, the, the Intel ads with the, uh, with the automated systems and the people in bunny suits.

This, this is, very different. This is, uh, let’s say, uh, uh, much more capital, uh, efficient, uh, and allows us to have that scale, but still keep the cost low. That’s awesome.

And speaking, speaking of cost, like, I don’t know if you can talk about this, but like a company that wants to make the remote switch from having batteries and remote to having this, what is the kind of cost difference?

I’m assuming there’s a slight premium that this would increase the cost a little bit. But do you have kind of like a ballpark of like what kind of percentage increase that might be that a manufacturer might be looking at? Yeah, not a manufacturer, but a company like a remote maker or

something. The cost difference really depends a lot on the application.

Um, so there’s many, there’s many applications where the cost is lower, uh, to power it using an ambient cell compared to the batteries. And one of those, uh, uh, is in the retail technology market. So I was just at a big retail technology show in Europe last week, and one of our customers was showing how they use our cells to power electronic shelf labels.

And this is a. Big emerging technology, especially in Europe, um, to basically give, uh, to try to, try to give retailers, brick, brick and mortar retailers, the same kind of pricing agility that online retail has. So if you can dynamically update the pricing, um, with respect to different kinds of scenarios.

Then you can maybe compete better against online retailing. So traditionally, an electronic shelf label has batteries in every single tag. A big box store might have like 50, 000 tags. So that’s a huge amount of batteries that have to be replaced by powering using our cell. Um, they’re able to distribute the power across the shelf and that distributed power system is cheaper.

Uh, literally the CapEx is cheaper than the battery powered electronic shelf label. So in some scenarios like that, The system is cheaper. Um, the other way it’s cheaper is, uh, if you consider the total cost of ownership of all the battery exchanges. So, you know, this, this remote control here in my hand has a couple of AAAs.

They run out maybe once a year. If you say service life of the TV is seven years, that’s 14 batteries. We are certainly cheaper than 14 batteries, uh, in terms of our bill of materials price. Um, but I would say, uh, you know, a, a basic kind of rule of thumb is, you know, You know, creating a solar powered version of the device, whatever it is, a keyboard, mouse, remote control, sensor, you know, that could be something like a dollar, maybe two dollars more expensive than a traditional battery based one.

But again, you sort of balance that with the additional value and the imperative that the big corporate companies have with creating more sustainable outcomes. So, it is really this, this balance between additional value, some additional cost, and the net consumer benefit. I mean, as an end

user, I don’t care about the little additional costs, because it’s like, I have Motion sensors in my smart home.

It’s like, I’d like to never have to change a battery in one of those things ever again.

That’s right. That’s right. So the, the, the big electronics companies think about this as like willingness to pay, you know, is the willingness to pay there. And I think that there obviously is some kind of, um, pricing elasticity, right?

Um, we all want better products, products that are better for the environment, that have more convenience. You never have to recharge it. That’s super cool. You don’t have to go to the drawer and replace the batteries and then figure out how to recycle those batteries. So that’s all good. But if the upcharge was, you know, if the upcharge on a keyboard was $50 or $75, something like that, you’re like, ah, okay, I’ll take the cheaper one, right?

If you can, if you can get it to market and the upcharge is something reasonable, which is our strategy, you know, uh, you know, ask the consumer to maybe, Pay a little bit more for that added benefit, um, but that little bit more can be quite small. Then there’s a really good kind of balance of values and that’s, that’s, that’s usually where we try to aim for.

You kind

of already touched this a little bit, but what was the, what were the, what was the biggest challenge that Ambient Photonics had to overcome in bringing your product to market?

It’s a great question. Um, you know, it was pretty evident to me early that, that our customers really wanted, and in fact, really needed this technology.

So the, the, the doors that opened for us, the feedback that we got, um, the ability to secure these large deals with these big globally leading companies, um, that was pretty obvious, I would say. Um, The probably the largest challenge was, um, fundraising, uh, and getting the capital required to invest in our factory.

Um, you know, we, we definitely chose, um, a strategy that had some capital intensity to it. And that means we had to find the, the right, uh, investment partners to provide that capital to get us into this factory. Um, but having done that, having crossed those bridges and, uh, in the process of opening this factory, you know, we could see the, the, the demand is there.

So, you know, we, we have line of sight into selling out this first factory, which is tens of millions of parts, um, even before we have that, uh, fully operational. So this sort of shows that, that, uh, those, those bets by our initial investors are paying off.

So, okay. So your, your factory that you’ve built or are in the process of even building, when do you expect it to be fully operational?

Like producing a hundred percent of what you’re intending to do? Like how far down the road is that?

Yeah. So we’ve made our first deliveries from the factory already. Um, this, this year it, we opened the second line. Uh, so last year we opened our first line, which was a low volume line. This year we’ve opened the second line and the process of ramping it.

Um, so, you know, the, we, we were a little bit, uh, kind of, Quiet about the specific programs that we have announced. Uh, we announced one at CES, uh, uh, an announcement with, uh, with Google, uh, didn’t name the product platform, but I would say our customer base today are our companies where, um, let’s say they’re in, uh, Uh, in, in keeping with a company of that stature, so the, the largest electronics companies in the world are, are our customers.

Um, and like I said, we believe we can sell the first factory out here with, within a couple of years, maybe even faster. Wow. And that’s tens of millions of parts. So it’s, uh, it’s an exciting time for us.

When can, as a end user, can I, when can I expect to see the first products hitting the market that I could actually go and buy?

It should be for, for the holiday season this, this coming year. So, so we begin very high volume production in the second half of this year. And those will end up on shelves, uh, you know, for consumers at the end of the year.

Going back to my challenges question, are there challenges that you see that are still lying ahead of you that you’re going to have to


Well, scaling, scaling is certainly one that’s always on our mind. Um, you know, we have a unique product and the unique product has a unique production system. So that means, uh, when we do sell out the first factory, we have to go to work on the second factory. Actually, we have to do that in advance. So we always have to think about this ongoing scaling.

Um, you know, the, the other thing that’s a challenge is just. Awareness generation. Um, you know, we think we’re a really big deal, but we’re, uh, you know, a small fish in a big pond. Uh, and so just making sure that all of these teams of electronics engineers all around the world know about us, know what’s possible, and then know how to implement it is a big challenge.

Uh, you know, it’s a big world and, uh, especially the electronics industry is a big market. And, you know, a lot of these companies that The design teams, the product teams, they don’t wake up every day thinking about how do I, how do I, you know, create a solar powered variant of my product? They might think about how do I lower costs?

How do I get this new Bluetooth chip in? You know, have you heard about this new processor? They’re not necessarily thinking about solar. So a big part of, um, you know, I would say the growth challenge over time is just making sure people know what’s possible, um, and then know how to do it. So our, to that end, our teams have spent a lot of time really handholding and developing expertise on a market by market basis.

You know, you, you were in our booth at CES and saw the keyboards and the, and the mice that we built, and these things are just beautiful things, um, regardless, you know, setting aside the fact that they have these great environmental, uh, outcomes and we show them how to, how to really, uh, achieve these very high standards of design.

Not only the industrial design, but the mechanical design, how it’s manufacturable and the electrical design, how you put together the circuits that make it work, all that stuff is really developed in house so we can roll that out in a market by market, uh, to our customers. So yeah, scale, scale, getting to that scale and, and finding the right customers in the high volume projects are the challenges that are still ahead of us.

That mouse that you had at your booth kind of broke my brain. Because the texture on it, you couldn’t see that there was a solar cell in it at all. And it’s like a solar powered mouse. I was just like, that is the cool. I want, I want that mouse.

That’s one of the most exciting things that we’ve done. No doubt.

And it’s also an interesting example because, you know, um, when I was talking about earlier, sort of getting our technology from the lab into the factory out into the world, you know, you have to think about What are the compromises that I could make? Um, and for us, the technology in the lab was a glass on glass solar cell.

And, um, you know, if you, if you survey the, the world right now and look at other companies that are that in our space, let’s say competitors to us, um, there’s a lot of plastic based devices and, and plastic, plastic solar cells. And there’s some companies that looked at the universe like we did and said, You know, what this world needs is a flexible plastic substrate, a flexible plastic solar cell.

That, that would be the attribute that opens up the market. That, in fact, there’s a lot of companies, uh, who have made that bet. And our bet was, okay, actually we think it’s the power density and the cost structure, and if we can keep the glass on glass architecture, that allows us to maximize the power, allows us to minimize the cost.

It also enables us to maximize the service life or the reliability. Um, but it is a flat, rigid glass plate, so it’s a thin glass plate. And if we think about the world, so here’s another mouse in front of me, this mouse is consisting of lots of curves and complex shapes, and you might think, how do I put a flat rigid glass plate solar cell into this device?

But we You know, like you saw at CES, there are design and manufacturing techniques that make that actually quite simple. So the mouse is sort of like a, uh, yeah, it breaks the paradigm of what you think is possible with a, with a flat rigid glass based solar cell.

Yeah. That’s very cool. Um, my, my final question for you is what should, what do you hope a listener of this or a watcher of this would take away from this conversation?

I would, I would hope that the listener or watcher of the conversation would understand what’s possible, that you could, uh, ask for products that, that have, uh, you know, better environmental outcomes, um, that you think about batteries as an environmental nightmare, that they are, um, you know, And in fact, the disposable battery, uh, problem is, is large.

And in fact, the, the electronics industry is predicated sort of on the constant provision of these batteries, which have significant environmental outcomes. Uh, and it is possible using these novel technologies to get a better product with better environmental outcomes with very little premium. Um, so that’s, that’s the game for us.

Is there anything we haven’t touched on that

you’d want to touch on? That’s a great question. Um, you know, there, there, there is a, there’s sort of a sustainability imperative that’s sweeping through these big companies. And, you know, I mentioned Google, but if you just think about the, the tech super major companies, um, they’ve all made commitments to carbon neutrality in various ways.

So you see carbon neutral by, by this date, um, you see, uh, you know, Tim Cook at the last Apple event, talking about, you know, Carbon neutral Apple watches and that all of their Apple devices are going to be carbon neutral by 2030. You know, that, those carbon neutral pledges, they’re difficult, actually.

They’re difficult for these companies to, to meet. Um, and the way that they meet them, sort of the, the, the untold story is through carbon offsets. And what does that mean? It means they write a check to offset the carbon that’s on the bill of materials for each of those devices. And so, Um, by eliminating the principal sources of carbon, and in fact, it turns out in most of these devices, the battery is the largest source of carbon.

It is, uh, by eliminating the battery, you can actually reduce the carbon and write a smaller check. So it turns out that if you’ve got this carbon neutral pledge, if you’ve got this carbon neutral imperative, the cheapest way to do that is by incorporating a solar cell like the ambient cell. Getting rid of the battery and writing a much smaller carbon offset check.

And actually it’s a, it’s a more honest accounting of that carbon as well. If you think about it. Well, thank you

so much for taking the time to talk to me. And you, you made the comment of, we think we’re a pretty big deal. I think you’re a pretty big deal too. I mean, that’s the reason I went to your booth first, the first place I stopped.

Uh, I think this kind of tech has a lot of potential and I’m very excited to

see it. Thank you so much, Matt. It was really a pleasure to speak with you.


you to Bates Marshall for taking the time to talk to Matt and viewers, listeners, what did you think about that conversation? Jump into the comments and let us know what you think about it.

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