WattByWatt: the energy revolution of a Laval startup

“It is a mini-panel that transforms light energy into electricity. The magic is that it works from the inside,” explains Pierre Des Lierres, director of business development at WattByWatt. (Courtesy photo)

Can you imagine a future where your cell phone is simply recharged using daylight or a regular light bulb? No more batteries or charging cables for remotes, smoke detectors, headphones or other small electrical devices.

That future is much closer than you think, according to Laval-based start-up WattByWatt, which is setting up a modest production facility there, as well as a 5,000-square-foot research and development lab.

This young shooter installed mini photovoltaic cells of less than a square centimeter that generate up to 2 volts of electricity just by being placed in a bright spot.

“It’s a mini-panel that turns light energy into electricity,” explains Pierre Des Lierres, director of business development at WattByWatt, in a telephone interview. The magic is that it works indoors or outdoors on cloudy days. There is no more need for sun.

The benefits of this technology, which “works very well”, are immense in environmental terms.

“This avoids the consumption of electricity”, he emphasizes. If a laptop consumes 2 kilowatt-hours per year in charging and we multiply that by more than 6 billion devices worldwide, the energy reduction is significant.

“It allows you to get rid of all the cables of small devices and drastically eliminate or reduce the batteries or batteries of these devices”, he adds.

And this technology could, for example, be included in all sensors used for the Internet of Things or for the electronic display of prices in supermarkets.

Competitive advantage

To develop these photovoltaic cells, WattByWatt managed to create a synthetic form of a mineral, perovskite. Its patented technology is called “Perovton”.

“We are not the only ones in the world to synthesize perovskite, but we are able to develop it at room temperature in an ordinary laboratory,” says the spokesperson. No need for an expensive clean room. Our production costs are therefore much lower.”

This product can be applied to plastic or glass to create the cells that will transform light into electricity.

The start-up knocks on the door of multinationals that manufacture laptops or other electronic devices to adopt its technology. Laval’s facilities will thus serve as a showcase to convince Apples or Sonys of this world of the ease of manufacturing these cells that would be very discreet in the devices.

“We are going to manufacture them in Laval on a small scale to show how this can be done on a large scale,” says Pierre Des Lierres. We don’t have the capacity or experience to provide millions or billions. We would like to sign licensing agreements or enter into some other type of partnership with major players to spread our technology.

The SME will therefore go to the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas in January and to Intersolar in California in February, to make itself known.

Other projects

WattByWatt is also targeting the solar panel niche. She believes she can mix synthetic perovskite with silicone for large panels.

“It will be much less polluting to produce than those made only of silicone, which today are used in the composition of 90% of solar panels”, he says. They would be recyclable and could work even when it’s cloudy.”

Founded in 2020 by four scientists from INRS and the École de technologie supérieure, the start-up is also developing zinc-air batteries in parallel that can supplant lithium ones, which are more harmful to the environment.

Backed by the nonprofit Mitacs, this start-up has already raised $4.5 million in funding, but wants to raise $25 million for all of its future projects. “Others around the world have more resources than we do, but Mitacs’ research assistance has allowed us to move quickly,” says Pierre Des Lierres.

With about ten employees, it will double its workforce by the summer with the commissioning of its factory in Laval.

“We were just two a year ago, he points out. We’ve really become a business and it can turn into an industry. We are able to develop other expertise in Quebec other than hydroelectricity.”

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