Stephen Cass: Whats up and welcome to Fixing the Future, an IEEE Spectrum podcast the place we take a look at concrete options to robust issues. I’m your host Stephen Cass, a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. And earlier than I begin, I simply needed to let you know which you could get the most recent protection of Spectrum‘s most essential beats, together with AI, local weather change, and robotics, by signing up for certainly one of our free newsletters. Simply go to to subscribe.

All of us love our cellular units the place the progress of Moore’s Regulation has meant we’re in a position to pack an infinite quantity of computing energy in one thing that’s sufficiently small that we will put on it as jewelery. However their Achilles heel is energy. They eat up battery life requiring frequent battery modifications or charging. One firm that’s hoping to cut back our battery nervousness is Exeger, which desires to allow self-charging units that convert ambient mild into vitality on the go. Right here to speak about its so-called Powerfoyle photo voltaic cell know-how is Exeger’s founder and CEO, Giovanni Fili. Giovanni, welcome to the present.

Giovanni Fili: Thanks.

Cass: So earlier than we get into the small print of the Powerfoyle know-how, was I proper in saying that the Achilles heel of our cellular units is battery life? And if we might scale back or get rid of that drawback, how would that really affect the event of cellular and wearable tech past simply not having to recharge as usually?

Fili: Yeah. I imply, for positive, I feel the worldwide frequent drawback or ache level is for positive battery nervousness in several methods, ranging out of your cell phone to your different transportable units, and naturally, even EV like automobiles and all that. So what we’re doing is we’re making an attempt to get rid of this or scale back or get rid of this battery nervousness by integrating— seamlessly integrating, I ought to say, a photo voltaic cell. So our photo voltaic cell can convert any mild vitality to electrical vitality. So indoor, out of doors from any angle. We’re not angle dependent. And the photo voltaic cell can take the form. It may possibly seem like leather-based, textile, brushed metal, wooden, carbon fiber, nearly something, and may take mild from all angles as nicely, and will be in several colours. It’s additionally very sturdy. So our concept is to combine this versatile, skinny movie into any gadget and permit it to be self-powered, permitting for elevated performance within the gadget. Simply take a look at the smartwatches. I imply, the primary one which got here, you would put on them for a number of hours, and also you needed to cost them. And so they packed them with extra performance. You continue to should cost them on daily basis. And you continue to should cost them on daily basis, regardless. However now, they’re full of much more stuff. In order quickly as you get extra vitality effectivity, you pack them with extra performance. So we’re enabling this kind of bounce in performance with out compromising design, battery, sustainability, all of that. So yeah, so it’s been an extended journey since I began working with this 17 years in the past.

Cass: I really needed to ask about that. So how is Exeger positioned to assault this drawback? As a result of it’s not such as you’re the primary firm to try to do good cellular charging options for cellular units.

Fili: I can point out there, I feel that the principle factor that differentiates us from all different earlier options is that now we have invented a brand new electrode materials, the anode and the cathode with the same nearly like battery. So now we have anode, cathode. We now have electrolytes inside. So it is a—

Cass: So only for readers who won’t be acquainted, a battery is mainly you might have an anode, which is the constructive terminal—I hope I didn’t forgot that—cathode, which is a detrimental terminal, after which you might have an electrolyte between them within the battery, after which chemical reactions between these three elements, and it might probably get type of difficult, produce an electrical potential between one aspect and the opposite. And in a photo voltaic cell, additionally there’s an anode and a cathode and so forth. Have I acquired that proper, my little, transient sketch?

Fili: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And so what we add to that structure is we add one layer of titanium dioxide nanoparticles. Titanium dioxide is the white in white wall paint, toothpaste, sunscreen, all that. And it’s a really secure and ample materials. And we use that porous layer of titanium nanoparticles. After which we deposit a dye, a coloration, a pigment on this layer. And this dye will be purple, black, blue, inexperienced, any type of coloration. And the dye will then take in the photons, excite electrons which can be injected into the titanium dioxide layer after which collected by the anode after which carried out out to the cable. And now, we use the electrons to mild the lamp or a motor or no matter we do with it. After which they flip again to the cathode on the opposite aspect and contained in the cell. So the electrons goes the opposite manner and the inside manner. So the plus, you may say, go inside ions within the electrolytes. So it’s a regenerative system.

So our innovation is a brand new— I imply, all photo voltaic cells, they’ve electrodes to gather the electrons. In case you have silicon wafers or no matter you might have, proper? And you realize that every one these photo voltaic cells that you simply’ve seen, they’ve silver traces crossing the floor. The silver traces are there as a result of the conductivity is kind of poor, humorous sufficient, in these supplies. So excessive resistance. So then it is advisable to deposit the silver traces there, and so they’re known as present collectors. So it is advisable to accumulate the present. Our innovation is a brand new electrode materials that has 1,000 instances higher conductivity than different versatile electrode supplies. That enables us as the one firm on the planet to get rid of the silver traces. And we print all our layers as nicely. And as you print in your home, you may print a photograph, an apple with a chew in it, you may print the identify, you may print something you need. We will print something we wish, and it’ll even be changing mild vitality to electrical vitality. So a photo voltaic cell.

Cass: So the important thing half is that the colour dye is doing that preliminary work of changing the sunshine. Do completely different colours have an effect on the effectivity? I did see in your website that it is available in all these type of completely different colours, however. And I used to be pondering to myself, nicely, is the black one the most effective? Is the purple one the most effective? Or is it comparatively insensitive to the seen coloration that I see after I take a look at these dyes?

Fili: So that you’re fully proper there. So black would provide the most. And if you happen to go to completely different colours, usually you lose like 20, 30 p.c. However fortuitously sufficient for us, over 50 p.c of the patron digital market is black merchandise. In order that’s good. So I feel that you simply requested me how we’re positioned. I imply, with our completely distinctive integration potentialities, think about this tremendous skinny, versatile movie that works all day, on daily basis from morning to sundown, indoor, out of doors, can seem like leather-based. So we’ve made like a leather-based bag, proper? The leather-based bag is the photo voltaic cell. Your complete bag is the photo voltaic cell. You wouldn’t see it. It simply appears to be like like a traditional leather-based bag.

Cass: So once you discuss versatile, you really imply this— so generally when folks discuss versatile electronics, they imply it may be put right into a form, however then you definitely’re not purported to bend it afterwards. Whenever you’re speaking about versatile electronics, you’re speaking about the complete factor stays versatile and you should utilize it flexibly as an alternative of simply you may conform it as soon as to a form and then you definitely type of depart it alone.

Fili: Appropriate. So we only recently launched a listening to protector with 3M. This nice American firm with greater than 60,000 merchandise internationally. So now we have a world exclusivity contract with them the place they’ve built-in our bendable, versatile photo voltaic movie within the headband. So the scarf is the photo voltaic cell, proper? And the place you beforehand needed to change disposable battery each second week, two batteries each second week, now you by no means want to alter the battery once more. We simply recharge this small rechargeable battery indoor and out of doors, simply continues to cost on a regular basis. And so they have added a whole lot of additional actually cool new performance as nicely. So we’re eliminating the necessity for disposable batteries. We’re saving hundreds of thousands and hundreds of thousands of batteries. We’re saving the tip person, the contractor, the man who makes use of them a whole lot of trouble to purchase this battery, retailer them. And we improve reliability and performance as a result of they are going to all the time be charged. You’ll be able to belief them that they all the time work. In order that’s the place we’re completely distinctive. The photo voltaic cell is tremendous sturdy. If we will be in an expert listening to protector to make use of on airports, building websites, mines, no matter you employ, factories, oil rig platforms, you are able to do nearly something. So I don’t suppose another photo voltaic cell would be capable of cross these sturdiness exams that we did. It’s loopy.

Cass: So I’ve a query. It type of it’s extra applicable from my expertise with utility photo voltaic cells and stuff you placed on roofs. However what number of watts per sq. meter are you able to ship, we’ll say, in direct daylight?

Fili: So our focus is on oblique daylight, like shade, suboptimal mild circumstances, as a result of that’s the place you’ll usually be with these merchandise. However if you happen to evaluate to extra of a silicon, which is what you usually use for calculators and all that stuff. So we’re in all probability round twice as what they ship on this darkish circumstances, two to 3 instances, relying. In the event you use glass, if you happen to use versatile, we’re in all probability thrice much more, however. So we don’t do full sunshine utility scale photo voltaic. However if you happen to take a look at these merchandise just like the listening to protector, now we have carried out a whole lot of headphones with Adidas and different big manufacturers, we usually recharge like 4 instances what they use. So if you happen to take a look at— if you happen to go outdoors, not in full sunshine, however half sunshine, let’s say 50,000 lux, you’re in all probability speaking at about 13, 14 minutes to cost one hour of listening. So yeah, so now we have offered a number of hundred thousand merchandise during the last three years once we began promoting commercially. And – I don’t know – I haven’t heard anybody who has charged since. I imply, absolutely somebody has, however usually the person by no means have to cost them once more, simply cost themself.

Cass: Properly, that’s proper, as a result of for a few years, I went to CES, and I usually would purchase these, or purchase these, little photo voltaic cell chargers. And it was such a disappointing expertise as a result of they actually would solely work in direct daylight. And even then, it might take a really very long time. So I need to discuss slightly bit about, then, to get to that, what have been a few of the greatest challenges you needed to overcome on the way in which to growing this tech?

Fili: I imply, that is the fourth business photo voltaic cell know-how on the planet after 110 or one thing years of analysis. I imply, the People, the Bell Laboratory despatched the primary silicon cell, I feel it’s in like 1955 or one thing, to house. After which there’s been this fixed growth and looking for, however to develop a brand new vitality supply is as near unimaginable as you get, roughly. All people tried and all people failed. We didn’t know that, fortunately sufficient. So simply the whole– so when I attempt to clarify this, I get this query quite a bit. Think about you came upon one thing actually cool, however there’s nobody to ask. There’s no e book to learn. You simply understand, “Okay, I’ve to make like a whole bunch of hundreds, perhaps hundreds of thousands of experiments to study. And all of them, besides lastly one, they are going to all fail. However that’s okay.” You’ll fail, fail, fail. After which, “Oh, right here’s the answer. One thing that works. Okay. Good.” So we needed to construct on simply fixed failing, but it surely’s okay since you’re in a analysis section. So we needed to. I imply, we began off with this new nanomaterials, after which we needed to make elements of those supplies. After which we needed to make photo voltaic cells of the elements, however there have been no machines both. We now have needed to invent all of the machines from scratch as nicely to make these elements and the photo voltaic cells and a few of the non-materials. That was additionally robust. How do you design a machine for one thing that doesn’t exist? It’s fairly tough specification to provide to a machine builder. So ultimately, we needed to construct our personal machine constructing capability right here. We’re like 50 guys constructing machines, so.

However now, I imply, immediately now we have over 300 granted patents, one other 90 that might be accepted quickly. We now have a whole machine park that’s proprietary. We at the moment are constructing the most important photo voltaic cell manufacturing facility— one of many largest photo voltaic cell factories in Europe. It’s already operational, section one. Now we’re increasing into section two. And we’re fully vertically built-in. We don’t supply something from Russia, China; by no means did. Solely US, Japan, and Europe. We run the factories on 100% renewable vitality. We now have zero emissions to air and water. And we don’t have any uncommon earth metals, no unusual stuff in it. It’s prefer it all labored out. And now now we have signed, like I mentioned, international exclusivity cope with 3M. We now have a world exclusivity cope with the most important firm on the planet on laptop peripherals, like mouse, keyboard, that stuff. They will solely work with us for years. We now have signed one of many giant, the large fives, the People, the large CE firm. Can’t let you know but the identify. We now have a globally unique deal for digital shelf labels, the small worth tags within the shops. So now we have a world answer with Imaginative and prescient Group, that’s the most important. They’ve 50 p.c of the world market as nicely. And so they have Walmart, IKEA, Goal, all these big corporations. So now it’s taking place. So we’re rolling out, beginning to deploy large volumes later this yr.

Cass:So I’ll discuss slightly bit about that business expertise since you talked about you needed to create verticals. I imply, in Spectrum, we do cowl different startups which have had these— they’re type of ranging from scratch. And so they develop a know-how, and it’s an awesome demo know-how. However then it comes that time the place you’re making an attempt to combine in as a provider or as a know-how associate with a big business entity, which has very particular concepts and the way issues are to be manufactured and delivered and so forth. So are you able to discuss slightly bit about what it was like adapting to those companions like 3M and what modifications you needed to make and what stuff you discovered in that course of the place you go from, “Okay, now we have an awesome product and we might make our personal small merchandise, however we need to now join in as a part of this bigger provide chain.”

Fili: It’s an excellent query and it’s extraordinarily robust. It’s a troublesome journey, proper? Prefer to your level, these are the most important corporations on the planet. They’ve their manner. And one of many first actually robust classes that we discovered was that one manufacturing facility wasn’t sufficient. We needed to construct two factories to have redundancy in manufacturing. As a result of single supply is dangerous. Single supply, single manufacturing facility, that’s actually dangerous. So we needed to construct two factories and we needed to present them we have been prepared, prepared and in a position to be a provider to them. As a result of one factor is the product, proper? However the second factor is, are you worthy provider? And which means how a lot cash you might have within the financial institution. Are you going to be right here in two, three, 4 years? What’s your ISO certifications like? REACH, RoHS, Prop 65. What’s your LCA? What’s your view on this? Blah, blah, blah. Do you might have skilled provide chain? Did you do audits in your suppliers? However now, I imply, we’ve had audits right here by 5 of the most important corporations on the planet. We’ve all handed them. And so then you definitely qualify as a worthy provider. Then comes your product integration work, such as you talked about. And I feel it’s so much about— I imply, that’s our principal characteristic. The principle distinctive promoting level with Exeger is that we will combine into different folks’s merchandise. As a result of once you develop this sort of loopy technology– “Okay, so that is photo voltaic cell. Wow. Okay.” And it might probably seem like something. And it really works on a regular basis. And all the opposite stuff is sustainable and all that. Which product do you go for? So I requested myself—I’m an entrepreneur for the reason that age of 15. I’ve began numerous corporations. I misplaced a lot cash. I can’t consider it. And managed to earn slightly bit extra. However I noticed, “Okay, how do you choose? The place do you begin? Which product?”

Okay, so I sat down. I used to be like, “When does it promote nicely? When do you see market success?” When one thing is essential. When one thing is essential, it’s going to work. It’s not the most effective tech. It needs to be essential sufficient. After which, you want distribution and scale and all that. Okay, how are you aware if one thing is essential? You’ll be able to’t. Okay. What if you happen to take one thing that’s already is— I imply, one thing new, you may’t know if it’s going to work. But when we will combine into one thing that’s already promoting within the billions of items per yr, like headphones— I feel this yr, one billion headphones are going to be offered or one thing. Okay, apparently, clearly that’s essential for folks. Okay, let’s develop know-how that may be built-in into one thing that’s already essential and permit it to remain, preserve all the good things, the design, the load, the thickness, all of that, even enhance the LCA higher for the setting. And it’s self-powered. And it’ll enable the person to take part and assist slightly bit to a greater world, proper? With no cost cable, no charging within the wall, much less batteries and all that. So our technique was to develop such a robust know-how in order that we might combine into these corporations/companions merchandise.

Cass: So I assume the query there may be— so that you come to an organization, the corporate has its personal inside growth engineers. It’s acquired its personal folks arising with product concepts and so forth. How do you evangelize inside an organization to say, “Look, you get within the door, you present your demo,” to say, product supervisor who’s pondering of recent product traces, “You guys ought to take into consideration making merchandise with our know-how.” How do you evangelize that they suppose, “Okay, yeah, I’m going to spend the following six months of my life betting on these headphones, on this know-how that I didn’t invent that I’m type of trusting.” How do you get that inside buy-in with the inner engineers and the inner product builders and product managers?

Fili: That’s the Holy Grail, proper? It’s very, very, very tough. Takes a whole lot of time. It’s very costly. And the purpose, I feel you’re touching slightly bit once you’re asking me now, as a result of they don’t have a man ready to purchase or a division or division ready to purchase this versatile indoor photo voltaic cell that may seem like leather-based. They don’t have anybody. Who’s going to purchase? Who’s the choice maker? There’s not one. There’s a bunch, proper? As a result of this can have an effect on the battery folks. This can have an effect on the antenna folks. This can have an effect on the branding folks. It should have an effect on the mechanic folks, and so on., and so on., and so on. So there’s so many individuals that may say no. Nobody can say sure alone. All of them can say no alone. Any certainly one of them can block the challenge, however to proceed, all of them should say sure. So it’s a really, very robust equation. In order that’s why once we realized this— this was one other huge studying that we had that we couldn’t go along with the gross sales man. We couldn’t go along with two gross sales guys. We needed to go along with a whole staff. So we wanted to convey our design man, our branding individual, our mechanics individual, our software program engineer. We needed to go like big groups to have the ability to reply all of the questions and mitigate and clarify.

So we needed to go each prime down and clarify to the top of product or head of sustainability, “Okay, you probably have 100 million merchandise out in 5 years and so they’re going to be utilizing 50 batteries per yr, that’s 5 billion batteries per yr. That’s not good, proper? What if we will get rid of all these batteries? That’s good for sustainability.” “Okay. Good.” “That’s additionally good for whole value. We will decrease whole value of possession.” “Okay, that’s additionally good.” “And you may promote this and this and this fashion. And by the way in which, right here’s a story we give you. We now have additionally made some belongings, motion pictures, photos, texts. That is how different folks discuss this.” But it surely’s a really, very robust begin. How do you get the primary huge identify in? And massive corporations, they’ve so much to danger, so much to lose as nicely. So my recommendation could be to begin smaller. I imply, we began primarily on account of COVID, to be sincere. As a result of Sweden stayed open throughout COVID, which was nice. We lived our lives nearly like regular. However we couldn’t work with any worldwide corporations as a result of they have been all closed or nobody went to the workplace. So we needed to flip to Swedish corporations, and we developed a number of merchandise throughout COVID. We launched like 4 or 5 merchandise in the marketplace with smaller Swedish corporations, and we launched a lot. After which we might simply ship these headphones to the big corporations and inform them, “ what? Right here’s a headphone. Use it for a number of months. We’ll name you later.” After which they name us that, “ what? We now have used them for 3 months. Nobody has charged. That is sick. It really works.” We’re like, “Yeah, we all know.” After which that simply made it a lot simpler. And now anybody who desires to make a cope with us, they will simply purchase these merchandise wherever on-line or in-store throughout the entire world and check out them for themselves.

And we ship them additionally samples. They will purchase, they will order from our web site, like growth kits. We now have software program, now we have partnered up with Qualcomm, early semiconductor. All the large electronics corporations, we’re now certified companions with them. So all of the electronics is highly effective already. So now it’s very simple now to construct prototypes if you wish to take a look at one thing. We now have places of work internationally. So now it’s a lot simpler. However my recommendation to anybody who would need to begin with that is try to get a number of prospects in. The essential factor is that additionally they care in regards to the challenge. If we go to certainly one of these giant corporations, 3M, they’ve 60,000 merchandise. If they’ve 60,001, yeah. However for us, it’s like the challenge. And now we have managed to land it in a manner. So it’s additionally essential for them now as a result of it simply touches so a lot of their essential areas that they work with, so.

Cass: So by way of future instructions for the know-how, do you might have a growth pathway? What sort of future milestones are you hoping to hit?

Fili: For positive. So in the intervening time, we’re specializing in shopper electronics market, IoT, sensible residence. So I feel the following huge factor would be the sensible office the place you see big building websites and different areas the place we join the employees, something from the sensible helmet. You get hit in your head, how exhausting was it? I imply, why can’t we let you know that? That’s simply ridiculous. There’s all these sensors already accessible. Somebody simply must energy the helmet. Location providers. Is the suitable individual in the suitable place with the right coaching or not? On the development aspect, do you might have the coaching to work with dynamite, for instance, or heavy lifts or completely different stuff? So you may add the geofencing in several websites. You’ll be able to add well being information, digital well being monitoring, pulse, respiratory, temperature, completely different stuff. Compliance, in fact. Are you following all the principles? Are you sporting your helmet? Is the helmet buttoned? Are you sporting the right different gear, no matter it’s? In any other case, you may’t begin your engine, or you may’t go into this website, or you may’t no matter. I feel that’s going to drastically enhance the proactive security and well being so much and improve income for employers so much too on the identical time. In a number of years, I feel we’re going to see the American unions are going to be our greatest gross sales power. As a result of after they see the greatness of this complete system, they’re going to demand it in all tenders, all greatest initiatives. They’re going to say, “Hey, we need to have the related employee security stuff right here.” As a result of you may simply stream– if you happen to’re working, you may stream music, discuss to your colleagues, take pleasure in related security with out invading the privateness, realizing that you simply’re good. In the event you fall over, if you happen to faint, if you happen to get a coronary heart assault, no matter, in a number of seconds, the suitable folks will know and they’re going to take their applicable actions. It’s simply actually, actually cool, these items.

Cass: Properly, it’ll be attention-grabbing to see how that seems. However I’m afraid that’s all now we have time for immediately, though that is fascinating. However immediately, so Giovanni, I need to thanks very a lot for approaching the present.

Fili: Thanks a lot for having me.

Cass: So immediately we have been speaking with Giovanni Fili, who’s Exeger’s founder and CEO, about their new versatile powerfoyle photo voltaic cell know-how. For IEEE Spectrum‘s Fixing the Future, I’m Stephen Cass, and I hope you’ll be part of me subsequent time.

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