Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Startup licenses IUPUI technology that could improve solar panel installation

March 24, 2016

Euzeli Cipriano dos Santos Jr.

Euzeli Cipriano dos Santos Jr.

Entrepreneurs who have licensed a patent-pending innovation developed by an engineering professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis say their startup can help people who install solar panels.
Lee Saberson, manager of business development at Delta Microinverter LLC, said installing contractors usually decide which solar photovoltaic system components to buy for clients. This includes the inverters, which turn the panels' direct-current output into the alternating current used in homes and businesses.

"The installer hires laborers to mount solar panels on a roof, and the inverters are connected. Inverters can be difficult to install, field labor is costly, and delays may cause an overrun," he said. "My colleagues and I think we have a solution: a patent-pending design by Euzeli Cipriano dos Santos Jr., assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI."

dos Santos, CEO of Delta Microinverter, said the product can be installed more easily and more quickly than traditional solar inverters.

"Delta Microinverter's triangular design performs the same as traditional inverters, but it has just one fastener necessary to attach it to the frame of the solar panel," said dos Santos. "This single-fastener attachment process reduces installation time and final installation costs. Laboratory tests at IUPUI's School of Engineering and Technology demonstrated the electrical functionality of the microinverter."

dos Santos received a $50,000 grant to participate in NSF Innovation Corps, a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. It instructs attendees on developing a product concept into a commercial product. The team of dos Santos, Saberson and Maryam Alibeik tested different parts of their business plan by conducting interviews with multiple potential customers each week.

"At the conclusion of the six-month NSF Innovation Corps program, we had interviewed 120 companies in person or by phone about the installation of solar panels," Saberson said. "During interviews, the majority of respondents liked the designed performance but also pointed to a need for a microinverter design to reduce the 'boots on the roof,' which is the labor time for the installation of a solar-panel system."

Saberson said there are several steps to further develop Delta Microinverter's product before selling it to the public.

"We will conduct field tests in South America this spring or early summer," he said. "We need to hire product-engineering and tech-support personnel and raise funding for three-phase string inverter field prototypes and first-generation production model tests, and get approvals."

dos Santos received research grants from the National Science Foundation and IUPUI to develop the microinverter. He disclosed the technology to Indiana University Research and Technology Corp., which submitted a patent application to protect the intellectual property and licensed it to Delta Microinverter. The company is also a member of IURTC's SpinUp program.

About Indiana University Research and Technology Corp.
IURTC is a not-for-profit corporation tasked with the protecting and commercializing of technology emanating from innovations by IU researchers. Since 1997, IU research has generated more than 2,700 inventions, resulting in over 3,900 global patent applications being filed by IURTC. These discoveries have generated $133 million in licensing and royalty income, including $111 million in funding for IU departments, labs and inventors.​

Steve Martin
Office 317-278-1505

Lee Saberson
Office 317-313-8814