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Nanosolar prints solar panels onto sheets of aluminum foil, grabs $70M

Nanosolar raised $70MSolar company Nanosolar believes that solar panels don’t have to be heavy slabs. That’s why it developed a way to print solar cells as thin as a sheet of aluminum foil.

Nanosolar announced today it has raised $70 million in equity from new and existing investors OnPoint Technologies, Mohr Davidow Ventures, and Ohana Holdings. In the past, the company received investments from Reid Hoffman, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Benchmark Capital.

Nanosolar prints copper, indium, gallium, selenium and nanoparticle inks on to thin pieces of aluminum foil to create what it claims are the thinnest and cheapest solar panels in the world. Unlike the typical solar panel we’re used to seeing, Nanosolar doesn’t base its design on semiconductors — an approach it feels lowers the cost of production significantly.

Part of the allure of Nanosolar’s technology is that these thin solar cells can be added to other building structures, not just placed into a dedicated solar panel. Instead of mounting a large, thick solar panel on your roof, a solar cell could be attached to your existing roof shingles. Printed solar cells could also work their way on to windows or the sides of a house.

Founded in 2002, Nanosolar is based in San Jose, Calif. and has offices in Germany. The company has raised copious amounts of funding, including a $20 million round in 2007 and $300 million in 2008.