Elizabeth, this is a great way to harvest energy. If the cost of the process is not unfavorable, then it could indeed be a revolution. This type of process could be used to retrofit existing buildings fairly easily, as well as being applied to new construction. With more efficient lighting and computing equipment I could see buildings using this energy primarily. With good storage technology, it would easily pay for itself.
"With designers using more and more glass in buildings, this could be a great technology, as long as the price is good."
Technochip, using more glasses for buildings are not ecco friendly because glasses can despite more heat. Inorder to maintain the normal room temperature, AC has to be work more. So instead of that, if we are able to stick these films over wall, it's becomes more economical.
I agree with you, Lou, I think this is a brilliant step forward for solar and I am really interested to see how the early adopters fare. As one commenter pointed out there is a slight concern about possible degradation over time, but as I pointed out (and you mention), the glass could be replaced when that happens. The cost just has to be right, as you also mention.
There is an americian company that has been working on clear glass solar cells for the past few years. It is New Energy Technologies,Inc. Go to http://www.newenergytechnologiesinc.com/ for more information on them.
Elizabeth, the idea of replacing windows in tall, large office buildings is not at all far fetched. MyDesign makes a point about glass buildings. Actually, it can be very efficient, and I do not think we will see the practice going away. It has more to do with construction methods and costs. The good thing is that with proper materials and systems these buildings can be made more energy efficient, much more. By making changes in the windows the Willis Tower (nee Sears Tower) save up to 60% in heating and cooling energy. If they had these solar windows, they could do that and generate electricity for lighting (whcih they have also improved) and IT.
Great post Elizabeth, and for me, who cares if it's only 16% if it's say 1/10 the cost and covers all of that otherwise unused area of a building. An additional benefit I think (at least in warmer climes) is that instead of that 16% of energy heating the glass and radiating it into the office and having to remove it with airconditioning, it could effectively be moved elsewhere in the building and therefore reduce the heat load. If the IT infrastructure using the power were in the lift wells that heat could be funnelled out.
Nice share Liz. It's really astonishing to see the developments being done in Solar Energy as the already present technology is very costly for the consumers. The only thing that worries me about these cells is the stability. Even if they are cheaper than the already present PVs, will they be able to remain stable for a longer period of time with minimum degradation?
Thanks, Daniyal, and yes, you bring up an excellent point, given the fact that the windows will be relied upon for electricity for these buildings. I suppose it will be hard to fully test stability and degradation but hopefully this is top of mind for developers of this type of technology. I think only over the long-term can it be seen how long they will last. But of course I assume they can be replaced as they wear out.
I'd love to see this available for home owners as well. Imagine upgrading small windows to this technology and taking a home off the grid or using the power generated for an electric car in the garage!
@NadineJ: Well a good point you have highlighted here but just one worry on the comment, what sort of a power methodology are you trying to suggest for this ? If its electricity, then obviously there is a loop hole in it in a case of a power failure. I may be wrong on this but I feel operating via battery is not a feasible option, isn't it ?
NadineJ, while the commercial market will be the first target for this type of technology, I am sure some day it will get to residences. There is more money to be made for companies in this market in the commercial sector; however, I think in some cases it would be easier to provide this for the home, although not as cost effective for those selling the glass and solar tech.
@Nadine, My concern in your application would be that single story detached housing tends to have a lot of near obstacles like trees and bushes etc. meaning that you will likely only get sufficient power for ancilliary use and a modest feed back into the grid. But then again I could be wrong.
@etmax-Obstacle can be an issue. But, one should approach setting up solar and even wind power like planting a garden. If a corner of the yard doesn't get much sun, don't plant flowers that need lots of sun there.
Of course if these windows could be installed in a private residence there would have to be an evaluation to determine if it's reasonable. Like you said, too many obstacles would limit the power that could be generated.
@Nadine, yes but in glass on a residence more savings may be gained with blinds and shade trees than can be saved with solar power. Roof installations are different in that 1. they are elevated and 2. solar panels reduce heat radiated into the roof space.I could be wrong but I don't see it being as viable as it is for high rise.
@etmax: Yes solar power has given another dimension to the world of electricity. I think it's a good option to use and I feel many industries can make the full use of it. Anyway an extensive search / research has to be made before trying it out in the real world
The idea for one mosaic window of solar energy-harvesting glass is an interesting one, NadineJ. That could not only be energy-efficient but also very creative. It would be cool if one day some clever engineers did something like this.
"Oxford University physicist Henry Snaith -- is using a material called perovskite to develop thin-film solar cells that can be printed directly onto glass to be used as semi-transparent, solar-energy harvesting material in large buildings"
Elizabeth, I think rather than pasting these films over glass, it's better to be pasted over the outside walls of big buildings. so large areas can be covered and it's a cost effective solution too.
Interesting point, Mydesign. I am not sure how that would work or if it would work, but I see what you mean about the glass in buildings causing more heat to enter. But I think the glass will not be completely transparent and therefore not allow as much sunlight into the building as to make it so hot; I think it actually will absorb it and turn it into energy first. I could be wrong, but I am sure the developers thought about this.
"but I see what you mean about the glass in buildings causing more heat to enter. But I think the glass will not be completely transparent and therefore not allow as much sunlight into the building as to make it so hot; I think it actually will absorb it and turn it into energy first."
Elizabeth, it's a study from environmental group, with buildings having glass structure. The study shows that buildings with glass structure dissipate more heat than concrete buildings and this has put extra effort on AC to maintain at normal room temperature.
Thanks for the information, Mydesign. I trust the study, but I am thinking if the glass is acting as a solar panel, generating electricity, then perhaps the building itself will not get so hot? Although of course concrete buildings are cooler, no doubt about that. I still think this is a great way to generate electricity for the building, and perhaps the tint of the glass will dissipate less heat.
"I am thinking if the glass is acting as a solar panel, generating electricity, then perhaps the building itself will not get so hot?"
Elizabeth, buildings are fitted with glass because of air circulation (open & close mode) and semi transparency of light. There are some methods, where we can fix PV films over the window glasses for generating solar energy.
Thanks for the explanation, Mydesign, I understand that. I was just wondering if that electricity that is being generated would pull some of the heat out of the building. Do you know what I mean? But perhaps not.
My pleasure, Ann. It's funny--this is the type of thing that seems to have broad appeal, even to non-techies. In fact, I even had a friend today call me about this type of technology because he is about to build a home and he was hoping it was available for residences. His girlfriend had seen my article and told him I might know about it. I think it does have a lot of promise and hopefully if things go well in the commercial sector it will make it to residential homes as well so people like my friend can take advantage of it.
After reading and commenting, I realized i've actually seen (and written about) several such technologies that promise similar results. Too bad it will be quite a while before some of them are developed and then get produced in large enough quantities to reach consumers like your friend. There are films available to homeowners and builders that promise a lot in this department but don't really do what we want them to, or work as well, and many are still quite expensive.
I didn't realize some of this technology was already available to residential customers but it doesn't sound like it's quite ready for prime time and, as you say, they are probably cost-prohibitive for people who are trying to build economically, like my friend. It will be really good once this technology is tried and tested and trickles down to a larger customer base, but seems like it may take awhile.
I don't believe any of this type of tech is available to consumers yet. I was referring to what we've both written about several times that's still in the R&D stage, mostly R. I enjoy writing about, and reading, accounts of new materials or technologies in R&D, but it sure can be a long time before they become available to consumers.
Ah, OK, it seems I misunderstood you, Ann. And yes, as we all know, there is often a big time gap between R&D and commercialization, and sometimes even the most interesting technologies don't make it out of the lab. I hope it's not the case with some of the solar technology. It's good to see a company like this making a real effort to get this to market.
"Thanks for the explanation, Mydesign, I understand that. I was just wondering if that electricity that is being generated would pull some of the heat out of the building. Do you know what I mean? But perhaps not."
Elizabeth, it has two advantages. First it will protects sunlight from entering to room and hence the room temperature will be reduced.
Thanks, MyDesign, for explaining that. Your comments are always thoughtful and I appreciate the dialogue about matters that I am not so well-versed in. I am always impressed by how much I learn from our readers.
I am an associate of Oxford PV and have an intimate understanding of their process. I also design conventional BIPV for the building envelope industry so this is a very close subject for me. The Oxford process, once fully matured, will provide a glass coating that can be applied to glass using a very low-cost and high efficiency process and will be available in a range of colors and opacities. An architect will be able to choose color and VLT. Certain color shades will produce greater amounts of PV current as will higher coating opacities. For the owner, the decision to deploy this technology will be triangulated at the nexus of cost, architectural aesthetic and power production. The coating may also replace low-E in many cases, as it will have light attenuation properties. Concerning stability, I acknowledge that the empirical data will only come with time, however, there are a couple of key variables which are extremely positive. First, it is a non-organic process. Organic dyes have serious long-term stability issues due to prolonged exposure to UV. The Oxford process takes all of the best aspects of the dye-sensitized or "Graetzel cell" and removes the organic elements. This is really the breakthrough here. The perovskite and TI02 create a photon absorber and current transporter with high efficiency and inorganic chemistry, which eliminates the weaknesses of the organic dyes. Second, the testing which has been done to date exposing the cells to continuous high intensity light has demonstrated only a tiny fraction of the degradation comparative dye based cells and seems to be heading towards a process which will compete easily with traditional Si PV. This new hybrid is a brilliant innovation and Henry Snaith is genius to be sure and he has a great team. If it scales up successfully it will revolutionize the glazing industry.
Excellent post Elizabeth--In my opinion, the search for suitable sources for alternatives relative to energy will NOT go away. Breakthroughs such as this will push these efforts to the forefront, as they should be. We will never completely move from fossil fuels but we definitely should continue exploring alternatives. Years ago, I was involved with producing a solar water heater. The glazer (glass) was far from cutting edge but even that worked to some degree. Obtaining the efficiencies mentioned in your post is the real breakthrough. Again--great post.
I agree, bobjengr. Imagine the impact of using this film on hundreds of thousands of large buildings in the downtown area of a big city -- especially on sunny days. I'd love to know how many Watt-hours can be harvested with this technology. Great post, Liz.
Thank you, bob. It's always good to hear real-world perspective on the technologies we write about. It's interesting that you were working on similar technologies quite some time ago but now it is actually coming to market. It's quite true that efficiency is really the key to the solar game, and right now there is a lot of research in this area that's quite promising. This research is bringing solar cells up to the threshhold of and even in some tests surpassing what were thought to be limits to their efficiency.
Elizabeth--I worked on a project in the late "70s to design a water heater driven by solar energy. We used a glazer upon which was deposited a carbon material produced from incomplete combustion of an atmospheric gas burner. We then coated the tube sheet/carbon assembly with a clear coat to hold the carbon in place. The atmospheric burner was very similar to the type used in the citrus industry to produce "fog" needed, insuring a warmer atmosphere during freezing temperatures. These are called "smug pots" (for lack of a better word). Compared to technology existing today, it was absolutely Neanderthal, but we did get heated water with a 50 to 60 degree rise. Using a Gunfros pump, the water was circulated on a continuous basis. Makeup water was introduced using a solenoid valve actuated by a float assembly mounted in a small tank adjacent to the storage vessel. (Can't believe I'm remembering all of this!!!!!!) We were the first water heater manufacturer offering a solar water heater, at least in the "states". Most of the sales were in the southern part of our country due to lesser overcast you find in more northern states. The big problem was, at that time the cost per KW-hr was about $0.025 AND the payback was about three years. Good project but very time-consuming for the number of unites sold. ( I probably should enter this in the "Designed by Monkeys" category although I did get to use my heat transfer "book learning". ) Again, great post.
Thanks for sharing your story, bobjengr. It shows the steps that often need to be taken along the way to achieve innovation, and it's interesting to see how far engineers have come. It sounds like at the time your invention was pretty state of the art! But you look back now and consider it "made by monkeys." It's always interesting the hindsight experience gives us.
It will be wonderful to have such technology in the energy sector in today's world which is becoming more and more hungry each day. Energy sources are depleting and we have already witnessed the conflict over energy. This technology in solar energy arena will be a great addition to our energy mix and will go a long way in environment friendly energy resources quest.
@ Ann R. Thryft, time is always the problem, so is the cost and expected-actual results equation. Many governments across the world have benefits in keeping such technologies on the back burner because they have financial interests in fossil fuels. Besides, such technologies are mostly expensive and government subsidies are needed to facilitate the adoption. But subsidies in this regard could be viewed as investment which will pay off soon.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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