Bic Stevens can remember his first glimpse at some dazzling solar power technology developed at the University of Massachusetts Lowell back in 2001. Scientists had produced a “little quarter-sized solar cell, entirely out of plastic, and it made a little propeller go,” Stevens says. The appeal of a “dirt-cheap,” pliable, and easy-to-manufacture solar material was that almost anything, from the roof of a bus to the top of an Army tent, could start generating electricity from the sun.
Stevens put the first $50,000 into creating a company that would commercialize the UMass research, and helped recruit a Nobel prize winner in chemistry to advise the new venture, Konarka Technologies. (The company was named after a temple in India built to honor the sun god Surya.)