SunDensity, a Luminate NY cohort, has inked a research agreement with the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics. As part of the one-year agreement, UR will combine its experience, skills and ability in optical sciences with SunDensity’s goal to speed the manufacturing process and design of its nano-optical coating equipment.
SunDensity is the developer of the Photonic Smart Coating technology that increases solar power output and has additional applications in consumer electronics and architectural glass. The startup was named Company of the Year and was awarded $1 million in follow-on funding during Luminate’s third competition last fall.
The company plans to continue using its funding to scale up its manufacturing process in Rochester, officials said on Tuesday.
“Accelerating key partnerships with university laboratories in the region is a core part of our five-year growth plan. The agreement with University of Rochester is unique in that it enables students to get involved with a clean energy startup, as well as provides opportunities to support economic development,” said SunDensity CEO Nishikant ‘Nish’ Sonwalkar. “The research agreement is another step forward in helping us to create a successful venture that will not only lead to local job growth and revenue impact but also bring talent together in pursuit of furthering climate change in New York State and beyond.”
SunDensity produces Photonic Smart Coating for utility solar power producers that need to reduce the cost of energy. Its nano-optical coating improves solar output by 20 percent over other coatings for solar panels, thus propelling solar energy adoption into the next generation of clean power, officials said.
“SunDensity’s transformative technology will help capture the energy of the sun, turning the same light into more electricity. The fundamental physics of converting a high-energy photon into more usable, lower-energy photons is almost as exciting as the impact on our quest for sustainable energy,” said Scott Carney, professor and director of the Institute of Optics. “The collaboration also benefits our researchers, adding new jobs and internship opportunities.”
SunDensity is on a fast development track. It established its research lab at NextCorps’ incubation facility, has hired eight employees and is working with eight glass vendors, five solar panel manufacturing companies and AIM Photonics in the region on technical aspects of its technology. It hopes to surpass the $1 million mark in sales revenue by the end of 2026. The company’s plan is to establish other manufacturing facilities statewide and new partnerships globally to further its climate change goals.
“These types of collaborations with university, photonics and optics companies in Rochester, and state and federally funded facilities are very important for innovators to establish. Early-stage companies are always looking for expertise and human resources — that was a core reason we selected Rochester as it is the photonics capital of the world. The impact we can make with key industry players here, including the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology, puts us in a strong position to speed the commercialization of our coated glass panels on a large scale to meet the demands of utility solar power producers,” Sonwalkar said.
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