This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Andrew Yakub may be onto something. Big. Sliced bread big.
Yakub, 30, is the CEO and founder of Rayton Solar. A physicist who had used particle accelerators for cutting silicon had launched a solar installation business. Fearing the end of Federal tax incentives that might slow his business, he was thinking about ways to cut the cost of solar enough to make it economical without them. He surmised that the silicon in solar panels could be sliced with a particle accelerator rather than with blades, radically reducing wasted silicon.
From that foundation, Yakub has built a promising startup. Targeting a 60% reduction in manufacturing costs, he hopes to both lower costs to customers and operate with better-than-industry average margins. In addition, he expects the solar panels to be 25% more efficient. With those goals, he raised $2.8 million in seed funding.
Watch my full interview with Yakub in the video player at the top of the article.
Rayton Solar is now raising up to $50 million via a crowdfunding or Regulation A+ round from the public. Ordinary investors can participate. So far the Santa Monica, California-based company has received $4.2 million in funding commitments via the offering.
The first use of the new funding was to purchase the large particle accelerator the company will use to slice silicon for the solar panels. The custom equipment has been ordered; delivery is expected in January, Yakub says.
Yakub got his start in particle physics working as a design engineer at the UCLA Particle Beam Physics Laboratory. Those relationships have proven key to building the business.
James Rosenzweig, the Distinguished Professor of Physic in the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy, now serves on the Rayton Solar board. He says, “The concepts concerning use of particle beams in cutting materials for solar panels is an exciting spin off of the types of research we engage in at UCLA.”
Rosenzweig says that Rayton’s technology is “a potential game changer for solar manufacturing.” This is driven by the parallel impacts of cost reduction and increased efficiency.
Yakub, previously recognized by Forbes as one of the 30 under 30 to watch in energy, earned a degree in physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Yakub has a passion for solar as a part of the path to eliminating global reliance on fossil fuels. He notes enthusiastically that California is moving to get 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources. He cites a prediction from the International Energy Agency that by 2050 the world will get 50% of its energy from renewables, representing a 50-fold increase in renewable energy production over just three decades.
He gushes about the economic revolution coming in Africa, mimicking that of South Asia. He sees off-grid and micro-grid uses of solar across the continent allowing the country to thrive without the expense of building an electric grid similar to ours. He sees an economy there built on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.
Ultimately, the market will determine if Rayton Solar’s technology is the winning technology, but early signs suggest that slicing silicon with a particle accelerator could be the sliced bread of the solar industry.
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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!