SUNTEK HISTORY

1974: While a faculty member and researcher in the Architecture Depart­ment at MIT, Day Chahroudi founded Suntek with a $300,000 in grants from the National Science Foundation and MIT to develop and commercialize some of his inventions: LowE, Cloud Gel, and the Weather Panel.

1976: Suntek moved to the Silicon Valley area where, aided by $1 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding, Suntek developed its first product, Low-E. Because over 100 scientific papers stated that a continuous silver layer cannot be made less than 10,000 atoms thick, Mr. Chahroudi’s physicist colleagues at MIT were uniformly skeptical that the 100 atom thick layer that is needed for Low-E could ever be prepared in the laboratory at any cost, let alone by the square mile for $.03 per square foot, as it is today.

1980: Suntek spun off Southwall Technologies to manufacture and com­mer­cialize Low-E. At Southwall, Chahroudi was responsible for raising the $5 million in start-up capital, hiring its management team and tech­nical staff, and for the design of the production machinery and the product, both of which he had invented. (Low-E: U.S. Patents 3,953,110; 4,085,999; Low-E production machinery: 4,204,942; and 4,298,444). In 1981 Mr. Chahroudi left South­wall and returned to Suntek to focus on Suntek’s second tech­nology, Cloud Gel, with library research and subcontracted chemistry lab work research.

1987: Southwall Technologies went public at a market value of $65 million. Chahroudi then invested $1.8 million in Suntek with Southwall Technologies stock, and relocated Suntek to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Offices and a chemistry labora­tory were estab­lished, and the design of two factories was started, one to produce Cloud Gel polymer, and the other to laminate the polymer between two plastic films. A leading expert in the degradation of polymers by sunlight joined the product development team, along with a lamination production process engineer.

1989: A new chemistry and production process for the Cloud Gel polymer was developed which enabled making a high-performance, low-cost polymer from commercially available chemicals, and with a product life of 5 years. For encapsulating Cloud Gel polymer in between two transparent plastic films, a production process was invented and a production laminating machine was invented, built, and brought on stream.

1990: Cloud Gel Limited Partnership was formed to raise the additional capital needed to continue the development of Cloud Gel. $ 5.9 million has been raised through this vehicle to date.

1992: Suntek had optimized the production processes for making the Cloud Gel polymer and for laminating it between plastic films. Cloud Gel’s useful lifetime was extended from 5 to 20 years. The Cloud Gel polymer factory has achieved 99% repeatability, with 135 polymeri­zation runs and only one failure.

1993: Suntek’s Cloud Gel factories had the capability to operate at full capacity, and produce 10 million square feet per year of Cloud Gel in plastic film.

1994: Suntek performed an extensive market study of the various international glazing industries to determine Suntek’s market entry point -- the glass multinationals. Contacts were established with the presidents and research directors of the half dozen glass manufacturers who make 95% of the world’s glass, and preliminary discussions were initiated regarding product evaluation programs and potential licensing agreements.

Responding to feedback received during its marketing research, Suntek changed its technical direction, shelving the plastic film encapsulated product, and concentrating instead on encapsulating Cloud Gel in glass.

Saint Roch, the $1.5 billion technology-leading subsidiary of Saint Gobain, was selected to co-develop Cloud Gel as Suntek’s strategic partner because its president saw clearly the enormous market potential for the Cloud Gel, and also found the technology exciting. Saint-Gobain, with annual revenues of $ 10 billion, was then the largest glass manufacturer and the largest building materials manufacturer in the world. It is a leader in introducing advanced glazing products to the European and world markets. With an invest­ment of approximately $1.5 million, Saint-Roch initiated a Cloud Gel evaluation program to:

Both Suntek’s and the Building Research Institute’s computer modeling showed that Cloud Gel makes possible a performance of 85% solar heating in a climate so cold and cloudy that it had not previously been considered possible for solar heating to work.

1996: Suntek had completely redesigned its manufacturing processes to encapsulate Cloud Gel in glass, and had developed a fundamentally new chemistry for this production process.

1997: Saint-Gobain had successfully demonstrated to its own satisfaction that Cloud Gel could be mass produced at low cost and has a large, profitable, and accessible European market.

2000: The last technical hurdle was completed for product development with a life expectancy of 20 years, according to Saint Gobain’s accelerated aging test program.

2002: An entirely new Cloud Gel polymer chemistry was invented and developed to production readiness. This new chemistry increased the production line speed by a factor of 40, in response to Saint-Gobain’s earlier request, and also increased Cloud Gel’s lifetime from 20 to 40 years.

2003: An automated factory for making Cloud Gel glazings from this new polymer was invented and designed. Manufacturers of the relevant machinery were surveyed for a turnkey, automated, high speed production line for Cloud Gel in glass with a capacity of 10 million square feet per year, and bids were received, ranging from $1 - 2 million.

2004: An international patent application was filed, covering the new Cloud Gel polymer chemistry and the new high speed production process and its production machinery. Also included was all of the other work done on Cloud Gel chemistry since 1992.

2005: To stimulate market interest, visits were made to some of Europe’s leading architects, including Thomas Herzog of Germany, who has been called the world’s leader in renewable energy architecture, Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, probably England’s most prominent architects, and ARUP, the world’s leading architectural engineering firm. All of them wanted Cloud Gel as an option for future projects. The Millennium Dome in London wanted to use a square kilometer of Cloud Gel, as did Herzog for the all-glass water sports stadium at the Beijing Olympics. 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.  None of these break-through opportunities materialized, however, because Suntek’s funding level had dropped.

Suntek’s steady climb to the marketplace slowed when Suntek’s fund raiser left for personal reasons, and our angel investor lost his wings. At the same time, Saint-Gobain’s manager of their Cloud Gel program had changed from the very strong advocate to the typical technophobic research director found in commodity manufacturers.

2006: For the purpose of supplying Cloud Gel with the improved polymer chemistry to large future projects, changes were made to the polymer production line so that it can make polymer for 10 million square feet per year of Cloud Gel in plastic film or in glass.

2007: A roofing panel was invented which, as well as solar heating in cold, cloudy winters and also cools a building in sunny summers. This easily developed invention will extend Cloud Gel’s largest market, solar heating, to a broader range of climates where summer cooling is also a problem.

2009: A website was built with 140 typewritten pages and 150 diagrams and images as well as a 120 slide show that explain Chahroudi’s 40 years of inventing, and Cloud Gel and the Weather Panel’s solar heating and illumination applications and product configurations and market potential, as well as the radically different and improved architecture that the Weather Panel makes possible.

2010: A strategic partnership was formed with the world’s largest Glass manufacturer, Asahi, with $5.5 billion sales. Suntek supplied for $0.5M three sets of twelve samples for accelerated aging, each with slightly improved chemistry and performance. These samples were made with the new chemistry for high speed production and a 40 year lifetime. The Cloud Gel materials and manufacturing patent was granted.

2012: The Cloud Gel passes Asahi’s tests, but due to the recession they closed factories and canceled all new product marketing throughout the company.

2013: An alliance was formed with Velux, the world’s largest skylight company, whose sales of skylights are much larger than Asahi’s. The size of Cloud Gel in glass samples from 6 x 6 inches for laboratory testing to 4 x4 feet for field testing to evaluate Cloud Gel skylights’ performance regarding uniformity of illumination and air conditioning savings. Four test structures with climate controlled rooms were built at Velux.

2014: Sample production was scaled up to 4 x 4 feet on a hand-assembly model of a full sized production line of Cloud Gel sandwiched in glass. A patent has been applied for covering the new Cloud Gel product configuration for skylights described here and laboratory work done since 2005.