An innovation looking for a market – it happens more often than we’re taught to believe as marketing students. Such is the case with black silicon. First discovered and produced at Harvard in the late ‘90s, it emerged from a research project financed by the Army Research Organization / ARO ( http://www.arl.army.mil/www/default.cfm?Action=29&Page=219 ). After nearly a decade, its story and potential market applications are finally being brought to the public’s attention by a VC-funded company called SiOnyx (New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/business/12stream.html?_r=2 ). “SiOnyx is in a position to pioneer new types of solar cells that could capture the sun’s energy across a broader spectrum, achieving greater efficiency than today’s photovoltaic cells,” wrote Xconomy’s chief correspondent, Wade Roush ( http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2008/10/12/sionyx-brings-black-silicon-into-the-light-material-could-upend-solar-imaging-industries/ ) . “Harnessing nuclear fusion energy arriving from Sol—solar energy at 1366 Watts per square meter (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insolation ) —is the most promising technology for meeting accelerating world needs for cheap and clean energy” and “promises to dramatically increase the photo-response (Amps per Watt) of silicon, and not just in the visible spectrum, but also in the infrared, where silicon currently misses half of Sol’s energy. Delivering on that promise is very exciting,” says Bob Metcalfe, father of Ethernet, a general partner at Polaris Ventures, and SiOnyx’s board member.
Unfortunately, the solar play is still a long-shot application for black silicon – in the shorter term, more practical applications include imaging applications such as night vision, surveillance, digital cameras, and medical imaging – but if that’s what will help bring this technology along, it makes sense to me.