BY KEVIN ROBINSON-AVILA / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque startup Osazda Energy LLC is undertaking a two-year battery of tests to see how well its newly developed “MetZilla” paste can protect solar systems against cracking and degradation.
The U.S. Department of Energy approved a $1.25 million grant to test the composite material, which University of New Mexico and Air Force Research Laboratory scientists jointly created to prolong the life of solar modules.
The paste, dubbed MetZilla to indicate Godzilla-infused metal, is made by meshing carbon nanotubes with silver, the standard alloy used to conduct electricity in solar cells and panels. Osazda says the paste can keep metal conducting lines intact even as modules crack over time from extreme weather and other hazards.
The New Mexico Angels, a group of about 70 individuals who pool their resources to invest in startups, launched Osazda in 2017 to take MetZilla to market. But the company must first prove how well the material actually works, measuring its ability to keep solar cells and modules functioning under stress compared with systems without the paste, said Osazda Chief Technology Officer Sang Han, a UNM regents professor in both the Chemical and Biological Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments.
“We’ll do extensive stress testing beyond what would normally be required to certify effectiveness,” Han said. “We want to prove it will extend the life of solar cells.”
Four national partners will assist in the testing process, including Sandia National Laboratories, the CFV Solar Test Lab in Albuquerque, the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, and California company D2Solar.
UNCC will make the silicon solar cells and D2Solar will assemble the modules. CFV will conduct the stress testing, and Sandia will apply a digital imaging technology that captures views of the entire panel when it’s operating and of cracks in the cells.
“Sandia will image the modules before and after the stress tests to measure cracks with and without the composite paste,” Han said. “It’s a two-year project to prove our paste manages all cracks under different types of stress.”
The testing process can help Osazda improve the paste formation and application process while demonstrating its benefits as the company prepares for market launch, said New Mexico Angels President and Osazda CEO John Chavez.
“MetZilla has very minimal impact on the manufacturing costs for solar systems, but it has real benefits on the back end,” Chavez said. “It can prolong the life of solar systems, allowing for increased production, reduced maintenance, and less insurance costs for manufacturers to provide warranties on solar panels.”