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Inside Iowa State
Gold bar
March 17, 2003

Energy on a roll

Good for Business
by Diana Pounds
Think solar technology and you probably visualize a blue panel jutting from the ground like an oversized photo frame. Picture this instead: A plastic sheet not much thicker than a heavy-duty garbage bag, flexible enough to roll and packed with photovoltaic devices. It can power or recharge your cell phone, portable disc player or PDA. Take a roll of it camping and you could charge lanterns, flashlights, radios and (if you're Type A enough to take one along), the laptop.

The stuff is PowerFilm and it's produced by Iowa Thin Film Technologies. The Ames manufacturer uses a unique process to produce PowerFilm and a second product, thin semi-conductor devices, on a continuous roll.

Potential uses for PowerFilm modules, which draw energy from sun or light, are many -- small electronics, ag equipment like water tank heaters, even space shuttle gadgets. The semiconductor devices can be used in things such as TV screens, computer monitors, medical imaging and digital cameras.

With its technology platform well established, Thin Film's focus has turned to growth and partnering with companies that use its technologies in their products. The forecast is sunny for the 25-employee manufacturer thanks, in part, to assistance from Iowa State University business experts.

Staff at the ISU Research Park, Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Center have provided valuable business consulting support to Iowa Thin Film Technologies, says CEO Mike Coon.

"They understand how to support and develop high technology companies," he said. "They're a great sounding board on everything from funding to sales distribution to the kinds of support available to small companies through various government programs."

Iowa State is good for business.

... Becoming the Best
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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