An innovative new coating technology from MetaShield can make photovoltaic (PV) cell surfaces more durable while it increases efficiency more than 1 percent, all without significant changes in cell or module production processes. By Mark Andrews, Technical Editor.
IMAGINEworking years to develop a product to
enhance photovoltaic (PV) efficiency, and then at a
critical juncture – after more than 40 trials – a test
batch falls to the floor, shattering into pieces.
The average researcher would have been doubledover at the loss. But for MetaShield founder and CEO
Martin Ben-Dayan, the lab accident proved to be just
the sort of break he had been looking to find.
When everything crashed it seemed the incident
was just another frustration in the life of a new
business. Anyone who has built a company or
worked at a startup can attest that setbacks often
outnumber ‘eureka!’ moments. But as researchers
and Ben-Dayan were literally picking up the pieces,
they discovered something unexpected. Instead of
shattering every test slide, the fall left some intact.
But only slides coated with their
43rd formulation had survived.
Every other slide was cracked
if not smashed. MetaShield
would eventually determine
that their breakthrough
formula was capable
of increasing the break
resistance of glass up to
“Up until then, we had been
working with polymers; we
subsequently transferred over
to a silica-based approach,”
said Ben-Dayan. “When the
tray fell some slides broke and
others didn’t. We found only
one group survived
realized at that point we had something on our
hands that was potentially much bigger than we
had planned. The coating was super-light and thin
and could host nanoparticles. When dried it was
super-tough; it made things like glass (or PV cells)
Once durability was established, MetaShield moved
on to its primary goal: create a coating to improve
PV performance. Enhancing nanoparticles were
added to the base formula and more tests were
“Durability is great, but could (the coating) enhance
efficiency? We found that it could. So now we had
a new formulation that could be sprayed on a solar
cell; it dried at room temperature without any special
treatment. We (also) found it could go on top of the
antireflective coatings that PV manufacturers were
already using. It increased efficiency one percent or
more. That is significant in the solar industry.”
Polymers, and to a lesser extent silica coatings, are
of course not new in 21st century industry. According
to Ben-Dayan, employing nanotechnology made
the difference. As MetaShield also discovered, their
nanoparticle formula simplified production compared
to typical silica or polymer coatings.
“By now we started to realize that we were part of
something very new. If you have a material with all
of the benefits of polymers but has the properties of
glass, then it is disruptive, even revolutionary. With
(traditional) silica coatings you have to use very
expensive deposition and baking processes.
As we spoke to more people in the industry, we realized that while the break resistance and efficiency (gains) in our formulas were impressive, what most people were interested in was the fact it could be
applied and dried at room temperature. That made
a real difference,” he remarked. Ben-Dayan said
his company’s quest to enhance PV cell efficiency
started six years ago. With offices in New York and
Utah, the company had originally pursued optical
filters to boost solar cell efficiency. They struck on the
idea of using holographic optical elements to change
the direction of light to strike the active areas more
effectively, thereby boosting the yield of PV cells.
“That product worked, but the value metrics for us
and the economics were not beneficial. So after ayear or so, we transitioned into nanotechnology
to help manipulate what was going on as the light
waves entered through the filter (layer). We had tried
quite a few formulations with various nanoparticles,
but in the process we discovered it did so much
Now armed with a product that could appeal to
many industries, Ben-Dayan set out to market his
technology. Since the product increased durability
and efficiency, MetaShield representatives spoke
with aerospace companies developing satellites for
defense and commercial applications that rely on
high-performance, triple junction PV technology for
electrical power in space.
The company also received a grant from the Utah
Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR)
to prove the potential of its new coatings and thereby
establish greater credibility with potential customers.
That study was conducted at MetaShield R&D
facilities in Utah with results verified late in 2016 by
OAI-Optical Associates, a leading testing company in
San Jose, California.
Tests found that MetaShieldPV, when applied to
triple junction solar cells, boosted their efficiency
1.2 percent (absolute). This increase amounts to
what industry watchers like GTM Research expects
from five years of conventional PV cell technology
evolution as manufacturers pursue product
improvements over time; about 0.2 percent each year
The initial study focused on triple junction GaInP/
GaInAs/Ge solar cells. These devices were
coated with MetaShieldPV; before they were not
encapsulated; they had already received commercial antireflective (AR) coatings. The current-voltage
measurements (J-V curve) of the devices were
measured under AM1.5 simulated solar spectrum
illumination at OAI-Optical Associates, before and
after the coating was applied. The comparison
revealed an increase in device efficiency from
29.39 percent to 30.59 percent, an absolute increase
of 1.2 percent.
While test results with more conventional c-Si cells
coated in MetaShieldPV are still pending, Ben-Dayan
said he expects the company’s own performance
reviews to be verified by OAI-Optical Associates.
The precise formulation of MetaShield base coating
products is proprietary, but Ben-Dayan said the
base is primarily silica, water and ethyl alcohol. The
nanoparticle formulation is also proprietary. Upon
application, the product solidifies in the open air
at room temperature without any special industrial
gases, heating or pressurization. The liquid hardens
into a thin film layer with a refractive index of ~1.5,
according to the company.
The MetaShieldPV coating employs plasmonic and
dielectric nanoparticles to enhance the forward
scattering of light incident on solar cells and through
this process increases the short circuit current and
the overall photo-conversion efficiency of PV cells,
explained Glenn Mesa, MetaShield’s director of
research and development.
Once the core of its lineup was fashioned, BenDayan
and his team went to industry events and
conferences, this time to introduce their new
products. They leveraged early aerospace
contacts, expanding outreach to defense contractors.
They have also engaged with major smartphone and
glass manufacturers because of the coatings’ ability
to protect any glass-like material including mobile
The current product line includes MetaShieldPV
for the solar energy industry, MetaShieldGLASS for
consumer electronics applications and MetaShieldUV
for aerospace markets. “The application and the
principle is disruptive technology with seamless
integration. We are mindful that the solar industry is a
graveyard for companies that came up with different
ideas that did not sell.
Those products always seemed to have a deficiency
along the way, and we observed that most of the
efficiency boost ideas (that failed) required changes
in manufacturing or processing—that was their
“MetaShield represents practically zero change
from what manufacturers are doing now. It is
simply another coating that goes on before
encapsulation. But it makes the cell more durable
and it could increase efficiency 1 percent or more.
It’s that easy,” he said.
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Angel Business Communications Ltd