In 1974, while researcher at MIT, Day Chahroudi founded Suntek, Inc. to develop and commercialize some of his previous inventions – Low-E, Cloud Gel, Weather Panel, and the Climatic Envelope – with grants from the National Science Foundation and MIT.
1976: Suntek moved to the Silicon Valley area where, with $1 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding, Suntek developed its first product, Low-E windows. Chahroudi’s physicist colleagues at MIT were uniformly skeptical that such a material could ever be prepared in the laboratory at any cost, let alone by the square mile for $.03 per square foot (€0.2 per square meter), as it is today.
1980: Suntek spun off Southwall Technologies to manufacture Low-E. Chahroudi hired the senior staff, raised the $5 million start-up funds, designed the product and production machinery, and supplied the patent protection. Southwall did a hostile takeover of Suntek and used the production machinery Chahroudi invented to make Low-E for making stealth coatings for CIA airplanes.
1981: Suntek restarted, with focus shifted to Cloud Gel. Chahroudi did a comprehensive literature search on possible Cloud Gel chemistries, backed up by laboratory work at the University of Toronto, which also did accelerated aging tests. The basic materials and production processes were established.
1987: Southwall goes public with a value of $65 million.
1989: Chahroudi invests $1.8 million in Suntek, and relocates it to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
1992: In only 3 years: A Cloud Gel chemistry was developed that passed accelerated aging tests; A Cloud Gel Polymer Factory was built and brought on stream; A factory to laminate the Cloud Gel Polymer between plastic films was invented, built, and brought on stream.
1993: The Presidents of the major glass manufacturers were visited. Their response was uniform: “Cloud Gel is an excellent product, but put it in glass.” And, “Market entry will be with a double-pane glazing with Cloud Gel and Low-E used in skylights and sunrooms.”
But Marc Van Ossel, the President of Saint-Roch, wanted Suntek’s most advanced product. He agreed to a $500,000 development and evaluation contract with Suntek to build a solar heating roof, and paid the European Union’s BBRI $500,000 to field test a building with this roof. Saint-Roch also spent approximately $500,000 internally to demonstrate that Cloud Gel glazings can be mass produced at low cost, are durable, and marketable.
1994: European Union field tests showed that Cloud Gel, used with Low-E to make roof panels for solar heating and illumination, provide 85% solar heat, in a climate where 50% had been tops. Thus proving that these panels can supply one-sixth of world energy.
1995: From drums of Cloud Gel polymer supplied by Suntek, Saint-Roch manufactured Cloud Gel glazings for a test structure to show their customers.
1996: Saint-Roch was absorbed into Saint-Gobain, and Marc Van Ossel was sent to develop eastern European markets for Saint-Gobain. Thus Cloud Gel lost its product champion at Saint-Gobain, and the Cloud Gel evaluation was managed by a research director hostile to innovation (this attitude is not unusual in commodity industries). Suntek was contractually bound to Saint-Gobain, and could not seek a friendly partner.
1997: Cloud Gel passed Saint-Gobain’s aging tests. This made Saint-Gobain contractually obligated to negotiate a licence agreement with Suntek. But instead, Saint-Gobain increased the specifications for Cloud Gel to less than 1% haze in the clear state after accelerated aging. This specification is meaningless for Cloud Gel, since it turns white. Suntek learned that Saint-Gobain was chemically analyzing Cloud Gel samples, in violation of their contract.
Suntek’s President and fundraiser left, at his wife’s insistence, after 8 years of 60 hour weeks with very high stress. Suntek’s cash flow was greatly reduced, making it difficult to supply large quantities of samples on schedule.
2000: Cloud Gel passed Saint-Gobain’s increased specifications. Chahroudi foolishly informed Saint-Gobain that Suntek has developed a new Cloud Gel chemistry with improved aging and optical performance, and with 40 times the production line speed. Since this chemistry was unpatented, and since Saint-Gobain analyzed samples, and since the old chemistry had passed their tests, Suntek did not supply Saint-Gobain with samples of the new chemistry.
Suntek’s cash flow had deteriorated to the point where Chahroudi was the only employee, and could not supply samples. Suntek’s last funds were spent on a marketing trip to Europe, which resulted in:
ARUP, the world’s largest architectural engineering firm, wanted a Cloud Gel roof put over the top story of their London office building, so their staff could have lunch in the open air during the summertime, while protected from the sun’s glare and heat. This would start their engineers and customers specifying Cloud Gel in large projects around the world.
The Eden Project in England wanted to use 40 acres of solar heating Weather Panels to cover domes with various climates that house the 20,000 plants most useful to humans. These gardens have thousands of visitors every day. The Millennium Dome in London also wanted to use many acres of Weather Panel. As did Jacques Herzog of Germany – who has been called the world’s leading renewable energy architect – for the all-glass water sports stadium at the Beijing Olympics.
None of these break-through opportunities materialized, however, because Suntek did not have funds to supply samples. This failure of the financial community has delayed for a decade the marketing of a free source for one-sixth of the world’s energy, resulting in 15 million deaths from fossil fuel pollution.
2001: Suntek’s cash flow had deteriorated to the point where Chahroudi was the only employee, and could not supply samples. Suntek's last funds were spent on a marketing trip to Europe, which resulted in:
2002: Chahroudi continued inventing Cloud Gel chemistries, manufacturing machinery, and product configurations—creating capital.
2005: An automated factory for making glass Cloud Gel glazings was invented and put out for bid. A patent was filed that includes all of Cloud Gel inventing and laboratory work since 1992.
2009: With clean energy becoming fashionable in the financial community, $0.5 million was invested in Suntek. This was used to upgrade the factory, make samples, and to build a website and slide show that explain Chahroudi’s 40 years of inventing, and Cloud Gel and the Weather Panel's market potential and solar heating and illumination applications.
2010: A strategic partnership was formed with the world’s largest Glass manufacturer, Asahi, with $10 billion sales. They are repeating Saint-Gobain’s evaluation of Cloud Gel. The Cloud Gel materials and manufacturing patent was granted.
2011: A Chinese investor group is evaluating Cloud Gel and Weather Panels for manufacturing and marketing there.