A consortium funded by Innovate UK is developing building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) devices that will generate their own solar power and allow for greater thermal control.
The project includes the UK’s Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), alongside Cambridge-based BIPV firm Polysolar, and Merck. According to the consortium, the transparent organic photovoltaic (OPV) panels will be lightweight and low-cost, and could be used as windows, skylights, facades and roofing.
“Modern architecture faces a dilemma of wishing to maximise natural light delivery and reduce building energy consumption,” said Hamish Watson of Polysolar.
“With our OPV glazing, we deal with these conflicts while also generating carbon-free renewable energy, thus enabling buildings of the future to be truly zero carbon.”
At the heart of the project is an upgraded version of Merck’s semi-transparent grey-coloured lisicon formulation, a ready-to-print organic semiconductor material for OPV. These polymer materials can be processed as liquid solutions, so a wide range of printing processes can be used when producing solar cells, including spin coating, ink-jet printing and roll-to-roll processes such as gravure and flexo printing.
“We are excited to be part of this important project,” said Brian Daniels, head of Merck’s Advanced Technologies unit. “This presents a unique opportunity to further develop the commercial use of grey OPV modules and to drive more widespread adoption of BIPV.”
The project will look to achieve similar costs, performance and lifetime to that of high performance glazing currently used in the construction industry, while at the same time delivering energy comparable to today’s conventional solar. However, the consortium said that work would be needed to progress the technology from prototype to the volumes and performance characteristics that industry requires.