Glass specialists' expertise comes into play as technology moves on from traditional silicon.

Saint Gobain SA and Royal Dutch Shell PLC have struck a deal to develop new technology solar panels that incorporate a thin film of copper indium selenide (CIS) on glass, instead of traditional silicon wafers. No financial details of the deal were released.

Shell has been developing the CIS technology for four years, which is says offers record efficiency, especially under low illumination conditions. The collaboration will allow this technology to be married with Saint Gobain's experience with film desposits on glass, which it has acquired from its operations in the auto and construction industries.

Saint Gobain said in a statement that the partnership would "strengthen [its] competitive advantages in its technical business through innovation, which is consistent with the group strategy of increasing its research and development effort in the high performance materials and flat glass sectors."

As part of its focus on CIS technology, Shell also announced that it has sold its silicon solar panel activities to Germany's SolarWorld AG.