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March 14, 1992
SOLAR2.ASC --------- This file shared with KeelyNet courtesy of Chuck Henderson.
The following is the information that I received in responce to my telephone query of Phototherm requesting additional information on their new solar cell technology. ....Chuck.
ADVANCED RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT, INC. 359R Main Street Athol,MA 01331 TEL.: (508) 249-4696 FAX: (508) 249-2134
February 19,1992 This information package is about an invention by Alvin M. Marks to convert sunlight to electric power. A few years of Research and Development are required to bring the thin film photovoltaic called Lumeloid (tm) into production. Alvin M. Marks was on President Kennedy's Power Panel and owns 120 patents. He invented Polarized film materials, 3D movie technology and co-founded Marks Polarized Corporation. He received many U.S. Government contracts for alternative energy until the early 1980's. Studying the initial phase used in the process of photosynthesis Alvin Marks employed his knowledge of polarizing film materials to design aligned molecular antennae and molecular diodes to convert sunlight directly to electric power.
Lumeloid's (tm) projected efficiency is 80%, (many times that of conventional silicon photovoltaics) with an investment cost only a fraction of existing electric power sources. Project Lumeloid's (tm) success will revolutionize the electric power industry with low cost efficient benign technology. Phototherm, Inc., a Public Company, OTC, holds license rights to Alvin Marks' light to electric power conversion patents. Advanced Research Development, Inc. is privately owned and has an exclusive R&D agreement with Phototherm, Inc.
Project Lumeloid (tm) is partly funded by the Electric Power Research Institute with Lowell University preparing special materials for Marks' electrically-conducting polarized film. More funds are necessary to expedite Research and Development. Your support will help bring Lumeloid (tm) into Production and enable your participation in a technology beneficial to all.
Sincerely, Jonathan Haber Program Director
The following articles and letter were included as part of the information packet:
SOLAR BREAKTHROUGH - MASSACHUSETTS ENTREPRENEUR POINTS WAY TO PROFITS FROM ENVIRONMENTALLY BENIGN TECHNOLOGY
In just two and a half hours enough radiant energy from the sun falls onto the earth to supply all the energy (from all sources) consumed by human civilization in an entire year. The light that falls on a few hundred square kilometers in the Southwestern desert of the United States is enough to power all of North America. The problem, however, has always been how to harness it. The rap against conventional photovoltaic cells (which convert light into electricity) has always been their cost. Conventional silicon- based solar cells convert sunlight to electricity at an average cost above US$0.30 per kilowatt hour (kwh). That is three to five times what an average U.S. household pays for power from the local utility company. It is precisely this cost disadvantage that has limited most solar applications to small-scale operations in remote areas far from commercial power mains.
That is, until now. A 78-year old Massachusetts inventor, Dr. Alvin Marks, has come up with a new kind of solar cell that promises to produce electricity for less than US$0.02 per kwh. If this is true, development of this technology could potentially revolutionize the commercial power generation industry. After all, conventional power plants are like prisons. But nobody wants one built in their neighborhood. On the other hand, a solar plant produces no radiation, smoke, or acid rain. Moreover, its best location would be somewhere in a desert -- where nobody lives anyway. Marks' cost breakthrough was achieved by radical new design that dramatically increases the efficiency of solar conversion. While conventional cells are able to capture and convert only 10% to 25% of the sun's energy, Marks' new designs may capture as much as 80%.
Dinner With Alvin
The genesis of this breakthrough was a dinner conversation that took place seven years ago between Marks and the then Director of the Third World Energy Division of the United Nations, Dr. Usmani. After complaining about a photovoltaic test project in Africa that had to be abandoned because it was too expensive and inefficient, Usmani turned to Marks and said something to the effect of `You're an inventor, can't you invent a better photovoltaic cell.' Few people would be better equipped to accept such a challenge. Marks patented his first invention in January 1938. His early work lead to what the May 1935 issue of "SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN" termed a 1,000 to 1 cost reduction in the fabrication of materials to polarize light.
This cost breakthrough was instrumental in the subsequent development of polarized sunglasses and Polaroid film. (In fact, Marks was an early rival of Dr. Edwin Land, developer of the Land Camera and founder of the Polaroid Corp.) In the early 1960s, Marks was science advisor to the Kennedy White House. Today, he holds a total of 120 patents -- a number of which have application to solar power generation. Marks new solar designs -- dubbed LEPCON (Light to Electric Power Converter) and LUMELOID -- are built on an extention of systems commonly used to receive microwave transmissions. (On the spectrum of electromagnetic energy, the difference between microwaves and visible light is merely that the latter have a higher frequency and a shorter wavelength.) Microwaves -- like other radio frequency transmissions -- are best received using an antenna tuned to the wavelength of the incoming signal. (When an electromagnetic wave strikes an electrically conductive material, it induces an alternating current of the same frequency of the incoming wave.) In real-world microwave applications, the efficiency of this connversion approaches 80%. LEPCON consists of millions of microscopic antennas (tuned to the wavelengths of the visible spectrum) embedded in a glass substrate. (LUMELOID use less expensive plastic materials.)
A Thousand Points Of Light
With microwaves (as well as with radar and radio), however, the same tuned antenna will work as well for transmitting a signal as it does for receiving it. Operate LEPCON in reverse and it becomes a light source. Marks calls this reverse application ELCON (Electricity to Light Converter). ELCON elements in a group become a point of light, or a pixel. Page 3 The same technology used to pack millions of submicron antenna elements in a glass or plastic substrate could be used to produce a new kind of high-definition TV (HDTV) screen with much higher resolution than present technology will allow. Conventional U.S. TV uses 525 scanning lines of pixels per screen. The most ambitious HDTV schemes yet proposed would use something on the order of 1,250 lines per screen. Using ELCON technology, screens using millions of lines may be possible -- for an 80,000% increase in resolution.
Virtually all these ideas and devices have been patented by Marks. But lack of funds for the development of commercial prototypes has been a serious and continuing obstacle. To get LUMELOID off the ground, Marks formed a public company. Phototherm Inc. (OTC-pink sheets). However, it is still some distance away from a commercial product. Marks estimates an additional US$300,000 - US$500,000 will be necessary to get LUMELOID to the prototype stage. While North American interest in solar power has been sliding along with oil prices since the late 1970s, that has not been the case elsewhere. Last year, Marks made a deal with a Chinese company, China Petroleum Engineering Construction Corporation, to develop the LUMELOID prototype. Phototherm Bahamas Ltd. has been established to facilitate this endeavor and Chinese citizens will come to the Bahamas to learn the process.
Genius And Fortune
Because of the enormous breadth and depth of Marks' work, the "TAIPAN" research department believes no 20th century entrepreneur or inventor is destined to have greater positive effects on the daily lives of millions of people. However, revolutionary ideas are not any guarantee of quick commercial success. Because so much work remains before any of these ventures are likely to reach the stage of a profit-making enterprise, we suspect that attractive returns on Phototherm shares may be distant enough to try the patience of all but the most tenacious investors. However, if war in the Persian Gulf leads to destruction of the Saudi oil fields, we think promising technologies such as LEPCON and LUMELOID would suddenly become clear leaders on the fast track to commercial development. In the meantime, however, investors and entrepreneurs in search of more information should contact Dr. Alvin Marks, c/o Advanced Research Development, Inc.,359 R Main St., Athol, MA USA 01331; (508)249-4696; fax (508)249-2134.
INVESTING FOR A CLEANER EARTH AND BIG PAYOFF By Marshall Glickman
Would you pay 25 cents for a share of a solar technology for which Exxon offered $9 million? That's the current price of Phototherm Inc., an Athol, Massachusetts, solar technology company which is developing a new ultra-efficient process of harnessing the sun's power. The founder and brains behind Phototherm is Dr. Alvin M. Marks, an octogenarian inventor and entrepreneur whose resume reads like an award ceremony. Dr. Marks is the holder of 120 patents, has degrees from Cooper Union Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and M.I.T., and has served as a scientific advisor to the Kennedy Adminstration. His work on polarizing film built Marks Polarized Corp. into a multimillion dollar business.
Eight years ago Dr. Marks turned his full attention to improving the efficiency of solar (photovoltaic) electricity. His work lead to a patent (the one for which Exxon offered $9 million, according to a 1986 "NEW YORK TIMES" report) that claims to convert sunlight to energy at 80% efficiency -- a cost of one to two cents per kilowatt hour. That's less than a fifth of the present cost of energy from fossil fuels and about one twentieth the cost of current photovoltaic systems (which are lucky to achieve 15 percent efficiency). The cost breakthrough is so incredible, that some skeptics immediately dismiss Dr. Marks. But Dr. Marks has made dramatic -- almost unbelievable -- improvements in light technology before. The May 1935 issue of "SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN" noted Marks created a 1,000-to-1 cost reduction in the fabrication of materials to polarize light. His work with Phototherm has also impressed the Electric Power Research Institute, the electric industry's research thinktank. The EPRI recently backed Phototherm with $100,000 and has plans to add another $100,000 soon. Before you mortgage the house and whip out the checkbook, keep in mind that Phototherm is a highly risky investment. And I emphasize the word highly. Even though Dr. Marks is supremely confident his technologies will work, it has never been tested in commercial production. Dr. Marks is also eighty-one years old. Even if his patented design is indeed revolutionary technology, until Phototherm has enough money to hire a team of highly qualified research assistants, it may be difficult to carry on his work should he become ill (his health is excellent). Interest generated from a recent "BUSINESS WEEK" story on Phototherm may help get the company adequately financed, but until the cash comes through Dr. Marks must concentrate on raising money instead of science and building prototypes. Consider investing in Phototherm as you would give money to environmental groups -- with the kicker that if it does work out you'll get back a lot more than just clean air. Phototherm is listed on the OTC pink sheets. If you'd like more information about Phototherm, contact program director Jonathan Haber at 359R Main Street; Athol, MA 01331; (508)249-4696.
ADVANCES BRING SOLAR POWER CLOSER
Researchers Say Solar Will Take Off In Mid-90s, While Athol Scientist Claims A Breakthrough By David L. Chandler -- Globe Staff
It's not that there's a shortage of energy. In just two and a half hours, enough sunlight falls on the Earth to supply all of mankind's energy needs -- heat, light, cooking, transportation, industry and every other energy-using activity -- for a full year. It's there, the hard part is catching it. Finding a practical and economical way to harness all that free, ubiquitous energy has challenged scientists and engineers since the energy crisis of the early 1970s awakened interest in alternative power sources. No major breakthroughs emerged during the 70s, but researchers say new methods developed in the last few years, and innovations just now emerging from the laboratories, will make solar power -- which is already competitive in some applications -- an increasingly important contributor to the world's energy supply. Most people in the solar energy field expect it will "really take off in about 1993 to 1995," said electrical engineer Richard Swanson of Stanford University, who has developed what are presently the world's most efficient solar cells. For a home or farm in remote areas not served by power lines, a solar-power system "right now is cost-effective against a diesel- power system," the present standard in small electric generators, according to Satyen Deb, manager of photovoltaic research for the federally-funded Solar Energy Research Institute in Colorado. And solar cells have always played an important role in the space program; they are the standard source of power for satellites and other long-term applications. As the US space station takes shape in orbit, their role will become ever more important -- especially since the only real alternative, small nuclear generators, may no longer be acceptable because of fears of what might happen to nuclear fuel in the event of a Challenger-type launch accident. But solar technology will really take off when it becomes competitive with other kinds of power plants that feed the nation's electrical transmission grid. "By the turn of the century, we should make a strong penetration in the grid market," Deb predicted last week. Ways of harnessing the sun span the gamut of technology, from the simple to the futuristic, and all have a part to play.
At the simple end, there are already several million solar stoves, consisting of dish-shaped aluminum reflectors, being used in India. They have made a dent in the problem of deforestation -- obtaining fuel for cooking is one of the principal reasons for cutting trees in developing countries.
At the futuristic end, an inventor in Athol has patented a completely new kind of solar-electric cell that he says could be far more efficient and far cheaper than the silicon panels now in use, making solar power practial for everything from individual homes and farms to huge solar installations for utilities.
And in between, improvements in silicon solar cells promise to bring down costs enough to make this technology competitive with other power sources. Prominent among them is the development of "amorphous silicon," a glass-like material that can be coated onto a thin plastic sheet to replace the expensive pure silicon crystals of traditional solar cells.
Potentially the most exciting development is the solar cell invented by Athol-based Alvin M. Marks, a 77-year-old inventor with more than 100 patents to his name. If his calculations are right, Marks' system could provide all of the nation's electrical needs at a fraction of today's cost with the equivalent of a single 100-mile- square of solar panels located in a sunny desert area -- eliminating the need for coal, oil, or nuclear plants with their attendant hazards. Marks, who was an energy consultant to President Kennedy, was inspired to develop his solar power system during a conversation about the great need for solar power in developing nations, where sunlight tends to be abundant and power plants scarce. "About five years ago," Marks said in an interview, "we were sitting with an official from the United Nations talking about photovoltaics in the Third World. He said,`isn't there something you can do to make them more efficient?'" Marks agreed to think about it, and before long he had concluded there was a way. His first solar patent, for a glass-plate collector he calls Lepcon (light to electric power converter), was issued in 1984. It was followed in 1986 by a patent for a lower-cost, plastic- sheet version called Lumeloid. His latest patent on an improved version of the technology was granted last month. Although some scientists question his figures, Marks says his technology could theoretically have an efficiency of 80 percent -- that is, 80 percent of the sun's power reaching the cell would be converted to usable electricity. By comparison, the most advanced design silicon cell in Swanson's laboratory at Stanford has produced about 28 percent efficiency and available commercial versions average about 10 to 12 percent.
The basic technology of Marks' cells is a modification of systems used to pick up microwave transmissions, which do achieve efficiencies of 80 percent in real world applications, not just in Page 7 the lab. Critics, however, point out that microwaves used for communications are all of the same wavelength, while sunlight is a mixture of many wavelengths, or colors, of light. Marks says he has taken this into account, because his cells would consist of millions of tiny "antennas" of different lengths, each tuned to a different wavelength of light so that among them, they would pick up light of all colors. Some critics also question Marks' optimism about how quickly the technology could be made practical for manufacturing in commercial quantities. Marks thinks one version could be in production within two years, while others think it may be quite a few years off. No one, however, disputes the principle involved, which is based on well-established concepts. Conventional solar cells generate electricity with an array of tiny transistor-like areas of semiconductor material on a silicon chip, which absorb energy from light to break electrons loose and send them toward one terminal of the cell, producing an electric current. Marks' cells will use an array of even tinier metal strips, which serve as antennas to pick up energy from light in much the same way that a radio antenna picks up energy from radio waves. The current produced in each antenna is intially AC, or alternating current, unlike the DC (direct current) of conventional cells, but tiny diodes -- one-way electrical "valves" -- in the gaps between antennas would convert the current to DC.
Lumeloid, the cheaper but less-durable version of his system, is an offshoot of a polarizing filter that was Marks' first invention. His was the first man-made material commercially produced to polarize, predating Edwin Land's polarizing filters. One version developed later by Marks is still in production for polarizing sunglasses and 3-D movie glasses.
Light can be thought of as waves or vibrations, and in ordinary light these vibrations move every which way. In polarized light, the vibrations all move in the same direction -- vertically or horizontally. The production of the polarizing filters, and of Lumeloid, seems to have more in common with candy making than with the high-tech, clean-room process used to make silicon cells. "You make a syrup," Marks explains, of chemicals called polymers that form long-chain molecules, suspended in an electrically conductive material. "You stretch it like taffy, and all the molecules become parallel." In a simple large-scale way, this process yields millions of the microscopic chain-like molecules all lined up in a neat grid that can filter out all the light rays that vibrate in one direction, allowing those that vibrate in the other to pass through -- producing polarized light. By simply adding a different kind of chemical to the recipe -- a "donor- receptor" molecule -- the polarizing filter becomes a solar generator, Marks says.
Marks expects the lightweight plastic Lumeloid, manufactured by the "taffy-pulling" method to be the first of his solar materials to reach the production stage. If he can raise the financial backing he needs He is negotiating with state and federal agencies as well as private investors), he thinks a prototype could be made in about nine months. "The reason I'm so sure about Lumeloid," Marks said last week, "is because I've been involved in polarizing material for decades, and the materials are not that different." Others are not so sure. Elliot Berman, chief scientist for Arco Solar company, a maker of silicon cells, said in an interview that "it's a good idea, I just don't think he can build it." "It's not that it's impossible," Berman added, "it's just not practical at the present time. It's pretty far away." Berman conceded, however, that he is not familiar with the details of Marks' manufacturing plans. Edgar Demeo, head of solar power research for the Electric Power Research Institute, takes a middle position, saying the Marks system is "an elegant approach to converting solar energy" and "is a very nice idea and is worthy of some basic research at this point." But, he added, it may take "a number of years" to become a commercial product. In the meantime, Berman sees other developments that could reach the market sooner and make substantial inroads in a variety of applications. "I think there are some substantial progress," he said.
Solar cells have dropped in price from about $20 per watt of output 15 years ago to about $5 per watt today, and Berman sees the new amorphous silicon cells -- especially a version he calls "tandem cells," where amorphous (glasslike instead of crystalline) cells sensitive to one color of light are paired with cells sensitive to another color in order to improve efficiency -- cutting that price in half within the next two and a half years. That would bring it close to the range of other power sources, which generally cost between $1 and $2 per watt. When that happens, Berman said, solar power will have reached the price level "where we think this will be practical for widespread use.
NOTE: I am including the following letter to provide another possible source of information on his research.
Dept. of Chemistry Zhejiang University Hangzhou, 310027
Dec. 20, 1991
President Alvin M. Marks Advanced Research Development Inc. 359R Main Street, Athol, MA01331 U.S.A.
Dear President Marks:
Thank you for your letter of Oct. 29. I'm very glad to inform you that the proposal of cooperation between our university and your Inc. on the research of polymeric light /electric power conversion has been approved by our university. Now, we are waiting the reply from the Chinese Petrolium Engineering Construction Corporation (CPECC) for the financial support to this project. In our institute, about ten staff members including five professors, five doctors and graduated students will be involved in this research work. We look forward to a fruitful and mutually stimulating program of cooperation between us. Merry Christmas and wish you a happy new year.
Sincerely, Xu You-yi cc:
The members involved in the program in our Institute. Prof.: Shi-ling Yang Associate Prof.: You-yi Xu; Mang Wang; Mu-jie Yang; Qing-mei Hu Dr.: Zhi-kang Xu; Hong-zhen Chen Graduated students: Zhi-ping Lu; Pu-deng Pan; Jiu-li Shen
The information in this file is in response and addition to the material that is contained in file SOLAR1.ASC (or .ZIP). If you want more information, I will be posting another file (SOLAR3.) shortly.
If you have comments or other information relating to such topics as this paper covers, please upload to KeelyNet or send to the Vangard Sciences address as listed on the first page.
Thank you for your consideration, interest and support.
Jerry W. Decker........Ron Barker...........Chuck Henderson
If we can be of service, you may contact Jerry at (214) 324-8741 or Ron at (214) 242-9346
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