NREL and 3M Tag Team On Solar And Biofuel Research

Two giant research and development powerhouses–one public, one private–recently announced that they’ll be joining forces to pursue a common good: the development of thin-film photovoltaics, solar concentrators and biofuels.

The public entity is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) which seems to be doing a whole lot these days with thin film solar. The private company is 3M, the Minnesota-based multinational that develops and manufactures everything from packing tape to healthcare equipment. According to a recent release, the NREL and 3M will be working together under a series of cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) that range from jointly identifying and developing important aspects of renewable energy technology to accelerated testing and scaling-up of successful prototype technologies for commercial production. These agreements will last for at least a year, presumably with the option to renew.

3M

image via 3M

Areas of investigation and testing under the new agreements will include new moisture barrier films and flexible packaging for CIGS (copper indium gallium diselenide) thin film solar cells, aimed at increasing module performance and reducing manufacturing costs; new reflective coatings designed to protect and enhance the performance of mirrors used in concentrating solar power; and new alternatives to ethanol biofuel distillation that will reduce energy and water use. Towards those ends, 3M will be free to apply its more than 40 distinct technology platforms and 75,000 employees worldwide.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.