1366 Technologies — an MIT spinoff that’s developing low-cost silicon wafers, one of the building blocks for solar panels — said on Tuesday it has landed a long-term strategic partnership with German silicon manufacturer Wacker Chemie AG.
As part of the partnership, Wacker will invest $15 million in 1366, adding to the $15 million Series C it closed back in October 2013 and the $10 million it raised from South Korean venture capital firm Hanwha Investment Corp in May to build its first large-scale commercial factory. Additionally, 1366, which is also backed by General Electric’s VC arm, will get access to Wacker’s polysilicon at competitive terms and conditions for its manufacturing operations and future expansions.
1366 is developing what it calls its Direct Wafer technology, which it said is a “transformative manufacturing process that offers significant advantages over traditional ingot-based production technologies.” Instead of involving a multi-step, energy- and capital-intensive approach, 1366 said its single-step process allows for significant costs savings.
“We see the potential for the Direct Wafer technology to provide an excellent contribution to accelerate global solar adoption. 1366 has developed a commercially valid answer to a long-time manufacturing challenge,” Ewald Schindlbeck, president of Wacker Polysilicon, said in a statement. “We’re eager to add our high quality products and bring our expertise to the effort.”
The partnership will also give 1366, which is based in Bedford, access to Wacker’s expertise in silicon manufacturing, as well as its expertise in facility design, engineering and construction.
“Commercial traction is gained when technical success and financial support are established within the industry. This partnership with the world’s most technically advanced silicon provider clearly demonstrates market acceptance for the Direct Wafer technology,” said Frank van Mierlo, CEO of 1366, said in a statement. “Wacker’s silicon is the best in the industry and has been a crucial competitive edge for Wacker’s customers. It will do the same for 1366.”