Imperial College spinout SolarStructure has been awarded £30,000 by NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, to develop a solar power device designed to be mounted in double-glazing.
The technology differs from other solar devices by separating direct sunlight from ambient, non-direct sunlight, which has multiple benefits. It allows diffuse ambient light to pass through the solar cells, decreasing the need for internal lights, while filtering out direct sunlight and reducing the heat load on the building and consequently, the need for most air-conditioning.
Other advantages of the technology include the cells’ ability to harness the sun’s power to generate electricity and produce hot water for the building.
“Buildings are one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels in our economy, therefore the implications of this technology reducing the carbon load on a building are enormous,” said SolarStructure’s chairman, Barry Clive.
“Carbon consumption is a global problem and not primarily a British problem, but it will make a big difference in this country to our Kyoto targets as well.”
The technology is similar to that used in photonic devices and optical communication systems, so customised production facilities aren’t required to manufacture the cells, making it a cost effective and affordable option.
The SolarStructure technology emerged from research carried out by Imperial College into solar cell production. Barry Clive joined the team of scientists and engineers in 2001 to lend his expertise in solar concentration for buildings.
The technology is still in development phase, but the team hope to take the product into pre-production in approximately 18 months. SolarStructure is already meeting with positive feedback from some of the world’s major consulting engineers and curtain walling manufacturers.