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You are here:
PureEnergySystems.com > News > May 2, 2007

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Solar Silicon Solution Wins MIT Energy Plan Contest

RSI Silicon debuts a far less expensive method of producing solar grade Silicon, winning "People's Choice" award and first place in the Energy Business Plan contest held by MIT.

    "This new breakthrough process could have a dramatic impact on the cost of future solar cells , accelerating market growth and future grid parity."

 -- Travis Bradford, President of the Prometheus Institute

RSI Silicon, which hitherto has been in stealth mode, has now announced publicly that they will be able to drastically cut the cost of silicon production, breaking the photovoltaic log jam that has hindered the progress of the solar industry.

Simple RSI Process . . .

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Ignition Secrets DVD by Aaron Murakami 

A&P Electronic Media

Magnetic Energy Secrets, Paul Babcock, Parts 1 & 2

Battery Secrets by Peter Lindemann


by Sterling D. Allan
Pure Energy Systems News
Copyright © 2007

Reaction Sciences, Inc (RSI) won the "People's Choice" award and first place in Massachusetts Institute of Technology's energy business plan contest Tuesday for its ultra-disruptive process which provides solar grade Silicon at a fraction of the cost of current Silicon process plants, with only 10% of the capital cost.

Ten finalists from 61 applicants, narrowed down to 30 semi-finalists, presented ten-minute summaries before a panel of judges in the concluding event of MIT's Ignite Clean Energy '07 Business Presentation Competition. (Ref.)  James Dunn, RSI's VP of Operations and Business Development, and advisor for the New Energy Congress, prepared and presented the winning entry on RSI Silicon's behalf. (Ref.)  The technology was invented by Steven Amendola, who serves as Chief Technology Officer of RSI.

While the worldwide demand for solar energy has been surging, the supply has been log-jammed by Silicon shortages, creating huge backlogs in fulfillment of photovoltaic orders.  Silicon production is at around 40,000 tons per year, while the present demand is approaching 75,000 tons/year.  Solar grade Silicon has traditionally come from the scraps left over from semiconductor Silicon, the processing of which has become more efficient, resulting in less waste, hence less solar grade feedstock.  This shortage is exacerbated by the skyrocketing growth of the PV industry.  As a result, the spot market price of solar grade Silicon has climbed nearly ten-fold in five years to its present spot market price of over US$300 per kilogram, with contract prices running $65-120/kg.

Bringing Down the Cost of Solar

RSI is a new energy materials company that has developed a unique process for making solar grade Silicon at a production cost of around $7-9 per kilogram, compared to a production cost of $25-30 via a typical Siemens plant.  Additionally, the capital costs for building a 5000 metric ton RSI Silicon plant is projected to be one tenth the cost of a comparable Siemens process plant, and a shorter completion time of just 15-18 months.

The net result is that once RSI is in high-volume production, the price of photovoltaic solar products will be able to drop significantly, making solar energy 35-60% cheaper than at present. The impact is far-reaching for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and in making solar power not only feasible, but close to being competitive economically with conventional grid energy.

The cost of the Silicon in a current panel or cell is about $1.50 per Watt.  RSI will reduce that to about $.25/W over the next 5 years.  This should help reduce the current retail cost from $4/W to under $2/W, achieving grid parity at about $1/W, targeted for 2012-2015.

How RSI Achieves Low Price

Most Silicon plants make electronic grade "8 Nines" (99.999999%) purity needed for semiconductors, using the Siemens process.  A National Renewable Energy Laboratory study found that solar Silicon purity only needs to be six nines (99.9999% pure), with emphasis on Boron, Phosphorus, and select metals. RSI has created a new proprietary process that makes only solar-grade silicon of six nines purity, without needing all the costly equipment and tri-chlorosilane gases used with metallurgical Silicon feedstock.

Additional factors that contribute to the low cost are that the RSI process uses simple, standard equipment; and draws from three proven industry processes, each proven at scale.  The process is safe, with no dangerous gases or emissions, and uses low-cost raw materials rather than metallurgical-grade Silicon.. Thus, a typical 5000-ton plant can be built in 15 months, at one tenth the cost (only $50M) of Siemens process plants ($500M), and be easily ramped to 15,000 tons per year capacity.

The fast plant fabrication time, and easy scalability is another factor contributing to the low price, along with the high yield.


The RSI proprietary process has been demonstrated on a small scale and vetted by a leading Princeton scientist who received his Ph.D. from MIT.  The process and cost estimates in the plan were validated by Black and Veach, a leading engineering firm.  Patents have been filed on the proprietary process.

RSI has already received letters of intent for future orders to the tune of nearly half a billion dollars, including an order from a leading industry United States PV manufacturer for over 1500 tons.

RSI is seeking $7.5M to build a pilot production line and R&D facility, followed by a large Silicon plant to produce up to 15,000 tons per year of Silicon; with over $350M revenue projected in year 5, and $200M gross profit.  The return-on-investment time is projected to be less than two years.

Dunn's presentation was the last of the ten finalists, and was faced with a panel of droopy-eyed judges, so he had the added task of rousing them.  Following the presentation and award Tuesday evening, Dunn was approached by numerous investors both in person as well as by email.  He will not have time to vet all of the inquiries, which is a nice problem to have for this widely-recognized, high-value proposal.

"I kind of submitted it on a whim", said Dunn, who was approached by Dr. Linda Plano, the Competition Chair, who was concerned earlier on that they needed more entries.  "Although RSI has been in stealth mode for the last 18 months, we decided that it was time to launch a pilot plant and hit the mainstream", Dunn said.  He has written scores of business plans, focusing his efforts more recently on disruptive renewable energy technologies.

The Winners

The grand prize awarded to RSI Silicon for the best investor pitch was valued at $111,000 including $25,000 cash; 3 months PR services from Bell Pottinger (value: $40,000); $15,000 legal services from Mintz Levin; one year Cummings Properties office space (value: $25,000); and a scholarship for up to three team members for the Advanced Invention 2 Venture to be held by the NCIIA August 1-4 (value: $6,000).

Two teams tied for second place: Fox2 Technologies of Hampton, N.H., and Bagazo of Cambridge, Mass.  Fox2 Technologies is developing new sensor technology for airplane and trucking operators that improves fuel efficiency by more than 5%, improves profitability, and significantly reduces carbon emissions.  Bagazo seeks to facilitate socially-responsible investments in developing countries by creating sustainable businesses that will distribute superior and more environmentally-friendly cooking fuels produced from agricultural waste.

Third place also saw a tie, between GreenRay of Lincoln, Mass., and C3Bio Energy of Cambridge, Mass.  GreenRay is developing a revolutionary product that will transform solar electric systems into a broadly accepted household appliance.  C3 BioEnergy will manufacture renewable propane and a hydrogen by-product from biomass feedstocks.

About Ignite Clean Energy

The Ignite Clean Energy (ICE) Competition, sponsored by the MIT Enterprise Forum Energy Special Interest Group, began in 2004 to stimulate the growing clean energy industry in New England. It provides start-up clean energy companies and entrepreneurs with the opportunities and resources to develop business skills, network with industry professionals and the chance to attract potential investors. The winners will be awarded a total of $250,000 in cash and services.

# # #



Jim Dunn
RSI Silicon
JPDunn1 {at} charter.net

See also

Page composed by Sterling D. Allan May 1, 2007
Last updated November 17, 2008





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