Boosting Cell Phone Batteries With Solar Plastic

Solarmer1As we all know, cell phones no longer just make calls — many act as web devices, navigators, cameras, music players, game consoles, and in weirder circumstances carpenter’s levels and whoopee cushions. But as consumers have called on their phones to do more than ever before, the demands on those handsets’ batteries also have increased, and quickly used battery life has become a common source of grumbling. That sticking point provides an opportunity for Solarmer. The El Monte, Calif.-based startup hopes to extend mobile phone battery life with strips of organic thin-film solar plastic, which it plans to bring to market in the next 18 months.
Instead of pursuing solar panels on rooftops and ground-mounted solar farms, Solarmer is targeting new consumer-electronics applications for its plastic solar panels, starting with cell phones and charging-enabled laptop bags. While this isn’t a new idea — several solar manufacturers like Konarka Technologies and G24 Innovations already offer solar chargers and bags — Solarmer hopes it can boost what’s a niche market today with organic thin-film plastic that it claims can convert sunlight into electricity more efficiently than its competitors, with a lower manufacturing cost.
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The Case of AT&T’s Incredible Shrinking Broadband Tiers

Updated with AT&T response: Time Warner Cable (s TWC) may have backed off its plans to meter broadband for now, but AT&T (s T) still has tiered broadband trials going on in Reno, Nev., and in Beaumont, Texas. And judging from one consumer’s experience with the trial, AT&T has backed off of its planned efforts to offer a 150-GB-per-month download tier — and it doesn’t inform users of the caps until after they’ve ordered service.
An AT&T subscriber near Lake Tahoe forwarded me a letter received via express mail a week after she signed up for naked DSL service from the ISP. The letter noted that AT&T has four tiers that allowed downloads of between 20 GB and 80 GB per month. When we reported on AT&T discussing its trial efforts with the Federal Communications Commission back in November, it said that the tiers would begin with a 20-GB-per-month tier and go all the way up to 150 GB per month. Update: AT&T spokesman Seth Bloom says that customers subscribing to AT&T’s fiber-to-the-node U-verse service can sign up for a higher 150 GB per month tier. While it may have lowered its tiers, t The carrier is sticking with a planned $1 per GB charge for users who exceed their limit. Read More about The Case of AT&T’s Incredible Shrinking Broadband Tiers

Konarka Raises $5M for Thin-Film Solar

Massachusetts showed its appreciation for local solar startup Konarka today with $5 million in financing for manufacturing and job creation in the state. Konarka officially opened its first thin-film manufacturing plant in New Bedford, Mass., last October, but the company has yet to announce the start of commercial production at the facility. This latest funding — a long-term loan from the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency and the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust — could be a sign that Konarka is getting ready to ramp up its operations — finally.


Konarka has said it plans to hire more than 100 people as it boosts production over next few years. The new plant, which used to be an advanced printing plant for the now-bankrupt Polaroid, will have a production capacity of 1 gigawatt per year when its fully operational.
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Oil Giant Total Takes Stake in Solar Startup Konarka

Thin-film solar startup Konarka said this morning that the massive French oil and gas company Total (s tot) has become its largest shareholder, investing $45 million for a stake of slightly less than 20 percent. Total says it aims to boost its crystalline silicon-based solar cell production, and particularly its thin-film solar products, through Konarka. The deal will also see Konarka develop components for products made by some of Total’s chemical subsidiaries, among them Atotech, Bostik, Hutchinson, Sartomer and Total Petrochemicals USA.

This is far from Total’s first foray into solar; its previous investments include a 47.8 percent interest in photovoltaic startup Photovoltech, a 50 percent stake in solar equipment maker Tenesol and a 25 percent interest in thin-film solar R&D company Novacis. But given Total’s massive footprint — the company is the fourth-largest publicly trade oil and gas company in the world and has close to 100,000 employees — its solar investments only account for a small part of its business.

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What to Do After the Election? NewTeeVee Live!

A crappy economy, a momentous election? We excuse you for having other things on your mind. But come Nov. 13, if you’re a reader of this site, we sure hope you’ll plop your butt down in San Francisco for our NewTeeVee Live conference. We’re even doing an election special price of $500 on tickets this week, so buy now.
The show is looking to be amazing, with a star-studded cast of speakers and a fascinating list of attendees. Get your ticket here.
The headliners on our schedule are:
Anthony Zuiker – Executive Producer, TV Show CSI
Reed Hastings – CEO, Netflix
Jason Kilar – CEO, Hulu
David Verklin – CEO, Canoe Ventures
Alexis Rapo – V-P, Digital Media, Disney-ABC Television Group
Blake Krikorian – CEO, Sling Media
Tania Yuki – Senior Product Manager, comScore
And our panel topics:
Live webcasts of major events: The inside story
Bridging the gap between television and online
Managed vs. unmanaged content
The truth about online video advertising
Last but not least: VCs evaluate the day and the opportunities they see
And appearances by breakout video stars of 2008:
Michael Buckley of What the Buck
Lucas Cruikshank of Fred
Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing TV
Felicia Day of The Guild
Jay Smooth of ill doctrine
Brian Conley of Alive in Baghdad

Konarka Turns On 1GW Thin-Film Solar Printing Press

Thin-film solar startup Konarka today opened its new manufacturing plant in New Bedford, Mass., which will have a production capacity of 1 gigawatt per year. The 250,000-square-foot plant was previously an advanced printing facility for Polaroid, so Konarka has retrofitted much of the old printing equipment for solar fabrication and hired the technology and process engineering teams from Polaroid. The company plans to hire more than 100 additional employees as production increases toward capacity over the next 2-3 years.

The printing press is already humming and commercial production of Lowell, Mass.-based Konarka’s branded organic photovoltaic “Power Plastic” will begin in earnest in the first quarter of 2009, the company tells us. Konarka’s special sauce lies with its organic solar panels, which it says are able to absorb a much wider spectrum of light than other thin films, allowing for higher efficiencies and even indoor applications. Now that it’s manufacturing product, Konarka joins Nanosolar, the poster child of thin-film solar that started inking panels on a 1-gigawatt, $1.65-million solar printer late last year.
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Dye-Sensitized Solar Scores Morgan Stanley Backing

Solar cells that act more like photosynthesizing plants than standard silicon solar sounds like a good bet, right? The investors at Morgan Stanley seem to think so. This week, Morgan Stanley Principal Investments said it has invested $20 million in British startup G24 Innovations, which is working with a technology called dye-sensitized solar cells.

Dye-sensitized solar cells are made up of dye-infused molecules of titanium dioxide (found in toothpaste and sun screen) sandwiched between two layers of electrodes to generate electricity. The technology was developed in 1988 by Michael Grätzel at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and employs nanotechnology. Dye-sensitized solar cells have been compared to plants undergoing photosynthesis because both processes rely on something called the “redox reaction.”

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Could Bungee Labs Undercut EC2 Pricing?

Bungee Labs is changing the landscape of utility computing and SaaS billing options by offering pricing based on compute time, bandwidth and the number of times an application communicates back with its host server only when the program is actually in use. And the cost to startups could be less than that of using Amazon Web services.

Using Amazon’s EC2 computing service results in charges to the end user whenever the application up and running, whether they’re using it or not, because the program is still drawing on the EC2 compute power. Unless a startup wants to force customers to quit the program whenever they’re not using it, some measure of compute power is still necessary.

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Lenovo’s new facial recognition- it’s not new!

Lenovo_facial_recognition_technologLenovo has been all over the CES demonstrating their new consumer notebooks and we’ve covered them a bit here on jkOnTheRun.  One of the coolest technologies that these IdeaPads come with is the facial recognition technology that is used to securely log users into the systems.  It works like this, the user first enrolls his/her face into the system using the utility software and the integrated web cam and the software digitizes the contours of the face.  Once enrolled the facial recognition software runs at start time and the user simply has to sit in front of the notebook.  The utility then scans the user’s face via the web cam and in a second or two the user is automatically logged into the Windows system.  It is extremely accurate and much simpler even than fingerprint recognition technology which is the rage on notebooks these days.  Lenovo is proud of this technology and all of the demo notebooks on display have been running the facial recognition stuff which displays like a screen saver at login time.  Xavier Lanier (whom we were happy to meet yesterday) has posted a video of the technology in action which shows how simple, fast and accurate this is on the new Lenovo notebooks.  You may be surprised to find out that this technology is not new, in fact I used this technology about ten years ago.

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