Partnership with public solar company largest deal yet for this Los Alamos startup


By Jacob Maranda,  New Mexico Inno

Hunter McDaniel sees big potential in New Mexico’s growing solar industry for his nanotechnology startup, UbiQD. Striking a partnership deal with one of U.S.’s largest solar companies could be an important step toward realizing that potential, the startup’s CEO said.

UbiQD, based in Los Alamos, announced Tuesday it had formalized a joint development partnership with First Solar Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR), a solar panel manufacturing company headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. That partnership will see the two companies build on existing work to incorporate some of UbiQD’s quantum dot material technology into First Solar’s photovoltaic (PV) module designs.

Quantum dots — the tech from where UbiQD gets its name — are semiconductor nanoparticles used to optimize harvesting light across a range of color spectrums. The startup used that nanotechnology in greenhouse glass design under its UbiGro brand and, more recently, in anti-counterfeit security inks.

Working with First Solar marks an extension of quantum dots into PV cell applications, McDaniel told Albuquerque Business First.

“If successful, this application in solar modules could be a perfect example of the broad applicability of our core technology,” he said in a statement. “With emerging applications in food and energy, these novel nanomaterials are proving to be a key tool in humanity’s urgent response to climate change and further sustainable economic development.”

McDaniel said UbiQD and First Solar have been working together since early 2022, when the CEO of a California-based startup introduced the two companies. Tuesday’s announcement formalizes that work under a joint development agreement and paves the way for what he said could be a decade-long relationship between UbiQD and First Solar.

The agreement also marks the largest single deal for UbiQD, which McDaniel founded in 2014. Although he declined to provide a specific number for the amount of money the Los Alamos startup would receive for its work under the agreement, he said the deal is worth upwards of $1 million for his company. That money would cover hiring, purchasing equipment and any design work under the agreement, McDaniel said.

Inking the deal means that UbiQD can capture everything that comes out of a joint development partnership, like access to intellectual property and downstream customer rights. While the two companies had proven over the past year that using quantum dots in PV modules could bring benefits, the formal partnership will allow UbiQD and First Solar to refine the engineering and prepare to scale, McDaniel said.

“As we work towards developing the next generation of photovoltaics, we are exploring a range of enhancements that could allow us to convert more sunlight into energy,” Markus Gloeckler, chief technology officer for First Solar, said in a statement. “We are interested in the potential use of quantum dots in optimizing the absorption of light and look forward to continuing our work with UbiQD on exploring this possibility.”

First Solar is one of the U.S.’s largest solar manufacturing companies, with a market cap of around $23 billion. It announced plans earlier this month for a $1.1 billion manufacturing facility in Louisiana, which could start operations in the first half of 2026 and increase the company’s capacity by 3.5 gigawatts, according to a July 27 Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

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