Andluca Technologies: Solar Powered Smart Glass
“Over half the buildings that stand right now will still be in use in 2050. As you can imagine, it’s a lot harder to retrofit, improve, and upgrade existing buildings than it is to build an energy-efficient new one.”
Buildings in the United States are responsible for more carbon emissions than most countries. Existing building stock is a huge problem in terms of our energy intensity, and available smart glass systems require major renovation.
Nick Davy, Co-Founder and CEO of Andluca Technologies, shares how the Princeton University spinout developed a smart glass solution that can be installed quickly and without disruption.
How substantial is the problem that Andluca Technologies is addressing?
[ND] 40% of the U.S. carbon footprint is attributed to buildings, and windows are a key culprit in building energy waste. Overall, there’s about $52 billion worth of energy wasted in the U.S. every year due to inefficient windows.
Over half the buildings that stand right now will still be in use in 2050, and that’s generally speaking across the states. In New York City and other cities, that number is over 90%. As you can imagine, it’s a lot harder to retrofit, improve, and upgrade existing buildings than it is to build an energy-efficient new one. That’s why we’re focused on this space.
How is your technology different from competitive smart glass solutions?
[ND] Current smart glass systems require wiring, which in turn requires electricians and adding channels in the walls. For those reasons, smart glass isn’t really being used in existing buildings.
We’ve developed ultraviolet (UV) solar powered smart glass. We’re harvesting UV light to power our smart glass, which can change intelligently to control the visible light that enters a building. That combines to optimize energy efficiency while reducing glare and maximizing comfort, which is important in these big glass-box type buildings of modern architecture. Because our system is UV solar powered and there’s no need for wiring, it makes the technology much more affordable and adoptable in existing buildings. Through our partnership with INOVUES, we can take a wireless smart glass system and attach it to glass for a hermetically sealed unit. The space is not disrupted, and you’re able to extend the life of the existing glass.
What prompted your team to work on this problem?
[ND] I was doing my PhD at Princeton in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, and I was working on organic semiconductors for organic solar cells. We designed materials to harvest ultraviolet light effectively and we made an organic thin film solar cell with those materials.
From a naive academic perspective, we basically had a solution without a problem, which is not how you typically approach entrepreneurship. We had to study the space and we ultimately found that this marriage between UV solar cells and smart glass is very compelling.
How did the Andluca Technologies team form?
[ND] I founded the company out of Princeton University along with Lynn Loo, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering. She’s also the Director of Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, which brings together industry members, government stakeholders, and academia to solve macro problems related to energy and the environment.
Andluca Technologies first formed in 2017 but we really didn’t get going until we received a Phase I STTR award from the National Science Foundation in 2019. We were then able to do some technology de-risking and development, and a prototyping pilot of ten smart window inserts at Princeton. Then COVID hit and we were forced to shift into a product development phase. In 2020, we competed in the Cleantech Open Northeast Accelerator, and we won the Northeast regional competition. I met Keith Moran and Noah Reimers through that experience, and they joined the team full-time.
How have you benefited from your time in the Luminate accelerator so far?
[ND] We’ve participated in other accelerators before, and Luminate is definitely next level in terms of rigor, the scientific and technical capabilities, and the resources and expertise. With other accelerators, you’ll learn some valuable things and connect with mentors that can help you develop your business plan and understand your market. Luminate can help with all those things as well, but what’s unique is the optoelectronics community and technical support. It’s vital for deep tech companies, especially in the optics space. It’s been great to have access to that.
Any advice for startups or entrepreneurs?
[ND] If I was just starting out, I would focus on the team. When people think of startups or entrepreneurship, they often think of celebrity founders like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. In reality, successful startups are all about relationships and communities of people. The stronger the team and the community around that team, the better your chances of success and the faster you’ll make progress.
Find people that are talented and passionate who aren’t exactly like you but complement your skill sets. I think it’s important to find people who you enjoy being around and who are happy already. Happy people are productive and easy to work with.