The solar shakeout has been spreading far and wide, with the most recent announcement of 40-year-old BP Solar quitting the mix thinning competitors even further.

There have been various strategies for survival for the remaining players as they attempt to keep up with rapidly dropping panel prices but steady manufacturing costs. One California-based solar PV company, HyperSolar, recently announced it would abandon solar panels altogether and will focus instead on making solar powered nanoparticles that can float in wastewater to clean it and at the same to,e produce methane gas.

The company has hired Eric McFarland who, with a PhD in engineering from MIT and a medical degree from Harvard, is a promising bet to lead the effort.

According to HyperSolar CEO Tim Young, it was McFarland who thought of the idea of using something with a negative value, like waste water, to produce a much-needed product with positive value, like methane gas. The nanoparticle has a cathode on one end and an anode on the other and oxidizes the water to produce hydrogen gas while at the same time removing contaminating agents from it. The resulting hydrogen gas is them combined with carbon–either from the atmosphere or from carbon dioxide waste–to produce CH4, methane gas.

Young says the new HyperSolar product, which is still in its testing phase, could be optimally used near an existing thermal power plant. Nearby waste water could be combined with carbon dioxide emitted by the plant to produce fresh gas that can be channeled towards the plant’s turbines to create more electricity.

The methane gas that is produced is not unlike biogas or anaerobic digestors that produce methane from animal or plant waste. But Young emphasized, in an interview with Breaking Energy, that HyperSolar’s chemical nanotechnology can be used alongside any factory that produces carbon dioxide gas and can also produce clean waste water.

To be used for drinking water, the produced clean water would need to be further purified, but the HyperSolar process does remove the major contaminants from waste water.

For Young it is important to emphasize that the process starts with solar power, which excites the electrons and starts the chemical process of the nanotechnology. But he stressed that developers will need to start thinking outside the box in order to use solar power optimally.

It could be, he said, that HyperSolar’s solar to hydrogen model is “the only economically viable source of energy from the sun.”