Research centre to develop power-producing coatings

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A new research centre at Swansea University has the aim of transforming buildings into ’power stations’ through the commercialisation of functional coatings that can be applied to steel and glass to capture, store and release energy.

Researchers from industry and academia will work at the centre - called SPECIFIC (Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings) to develop a portfolio of affordable large-area solar collectors that could generate more than one-third of the UK’s total target renewable energy by 2020 (10.8GW peak), reducing CO2 output by six million tonnes per year.

The researchers will realise this by developing materials that can be manufactured by industry in large volumes. The products will be suitable for fitting on both new and existing buildings, which is important since 50 per cent of the UK’s current CO2 emissions come from the built environment.

The key focus for the centre will be to accelerate the commercialisation of IP, knowledge and expertise held between the university partners (Swansea, ICL, Bath, Strathclyde, Glyndwr and Bangor) and UK-based industry in three key areas of electricity generation from solar energy (photovoltaics), heat generation (solar thermal) and storage/controlled release.

Critical to the success of the project is the involvement of the steel giant Tata and the glass manufacturer Pilkington, because both steel and glass not only dominate the facings of the building stock, they are surfaces that can be engineered.

In addition, major chemical companies (such as BASF, Akzo Nobel, Beckers and Johnson Matthey) are involved in the project, as well as specialist suppliers to the emerging PV industry (such as Dyesol).