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Solar-Powered Smart Windows Can Help you Save Energy Costs: Researchers

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Solar-Powered Smart Windows Can Help you Save Energy Costs. Pixabay
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  • The new self-powered version promises to be inexpensive and easy to apply to existing windows
  • The smart window controls the transmission of visible light and infrared heat into the building
  • The researchers chose the material because its chemical structure could be modified to absorb a narrow range of wavelengths

New York, July 2, 2017: By applying a new solar cell technology, researchers have developed a self-powered version of smart windows that could help save energy costs. Smart windows equipped with controllable glazing can augment lighting, cooling and heating systems by varying their tint, saving up to 40 percent in an average building’s energy costs. But these conventional smart windows require power for operation, so they are relatively complicated to install in existing buildings.

The new self-powered version promises to be inexpensive and easy to apply to existing windows, the researchers said.

This system features solar cells that selectively absorb near-ultraviolet (near-UV) light, so the new windows are completely self-powered.

“Sunlight is a mixture of electromagnetic radiation made up of near-UV rays, visible light, and infrared energy, or heat,” said Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo, Professor at Princeton University, New Jersey, US.

“We wanted the smart window to dynamically control the amount of natural light and heat that can come inside, saving on energy cost and making the space more comfortable,” she added.

ALSO READ: Wind, Solar Projects Give Boost to Employment Opportunities Up to Three Lakh

The smart window controls the transmission of visible light and infrared heat into the building, while the new type of solar cell uses near-UV light to power the system.

“This new technology is actually smart management of the entire spectrum of sunlight,” Loo said.

In the paper published in Nature Energy, the researchers described how they used organic semiconductors — contorted hexabenzocoronene (cHBC) derivatives — for constructing the solar cells.

The researchers chose the material because its chemical structure could be modified to absorb a narrow range of wavelengths — in this case, near-UV light.

“Using near-UV light to power these windows means that the solar cells can be transparent and occupy the same footprint of the window without competing for the same spectral range or imposing aesthetic and design constraints,” Loo added.

The researchers explained that the near-UV solar cell technology can also power internet-of-things sensors and other low-power consumer products.

“It does not generate enough power for a car, but it can provide auxiliary power for smaller devices, for example, a fan to cool the car while it’s parked in the hot sun,” Loo said. (IANS)

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Solar-Power Inflatable Lights: A New Invention

The company also sells the LuminAID light to customers through their Give Light, Get Light program.

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Solar power system, Pixabay

People need light for daily activities, but in some places in the world, access to reliable power is a problem, and hurricanes and earthquakes can make the matter worse.

Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork understand how important light is to people in need. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Sreshta and Stork, then graduate students in architecture and design at Columbia University, wanted to do something to help.

“We wanted to create something, a basic necessity and we focused in on lighting,” says Sreshta.

As a school assignment, Sreshta and Stork designed a lighting product that was lightweight, portable and wireless and with solar power something that might help improve the safety and living conditions of Haitians.

The result was the LuminAID light. An inflatable plastic, waterproof rectangle light that can be recharged with solar power.

Solar Power
LuminAID Portable Solar Lighting. VOA

What was only a school project for Stork and Sreshta turned into a more serious endeavor when friends and contacts began sending the lights to those in need.

“We made this in our kitchens and we built the first 50 prototypes by hand,” says Stork.

In their final year of architecture school, Sreshta and Stork filed a patent for the portable lamp, which had solar power and shortly after graduating, the two traveled to India and conducted field tests on their prototype.

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LuminAID co-founders Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta. VOA

Stork says visiting villages without stable access to electricity but ready for solar power products was really meaningful to them.

“It helps us understand the houses and the conditions that these people were living in. And what was so interesting is one of the villages that we’ve visited the house was made out of really thick cement, so even in the daytime, it was completely dark inside the house. So we saw a real need for portable lighting,” Stork says.

Also Read: India’s Government Hosts First Ever CSR Awards

In 2011, Sreshta and Stork launched their business LuminAID. They admit that when they started their business, they didn’t know much about disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

“We knew we had a product that could potentially make a difference in people’s lives after disasters like the earthquake in Haiti or even in places where people lack stable electricity,” says Sreshta. “We have been fortunate enough to work with partners like non-government organizations, humanitarian groups and disaster relief organizations which distribute our lights to people in need.”

The company also sells the LuminAID light to customers through their Give Light, Get Light program. And for each purchase by an individual, the program sends a light to someone in need.

“Seeing our lights being used by people around the world creates a mix of emotions for us,” says Stork and Sreshta. “From feeling relieved that we were able to produce and deliver our product, to being humbled by the ability to touch the lives of people we will likely never meet.” (VOA)