Glass build­ing blocks can gen­er­ate so­lar en­ergy

Montreal Gazette - - HOME FRONT - Post­media News

Re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Ex­eter in Bri­tain have cre­ated a new build­ing block ca­pa­ble of gen­er­at­ing its own clean en­ergy.

As In­hab­i­ re­ports, the sci­en­tists put to­gether a series of glass blocks each em­bed­ded with small so­lar cells. Th­ese blocks not only gen­er­ate en­ergy, but also ac­com­mo­date ther­mal in­su­la­tion and al­low for nat­u­ral light to pen­e­trate build­ings.

The blocks, named So­lar Squared, are em­bed­ded dur­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing process. Each con­tains a va­ri­ety of op­ti­cal el­e­ments that fo­cus sun­light on mi­nus­cule so­lar cells. Th­ese blocks have been cre­ated to en­sure max­i­mum so­lar ab­sorp­tion, even in low light ar­eas.

As the aca­demics from the univer­sity’s Col­lege of En­gi­neer­ing, Math­e­mat­ics and Phys­i­cal Science ex­plain in a state­ment: “The mod­u­lar de­sign is com­pletely scal­able, and al­lows for seam­less ar­chi­tec­tural in­te­gra­tion. The stream­lined na­ture of the tech­nol­ogy en­ables it to be em­bed­ded in con­ven­tional con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als, mean­ing that its ap­pli­ca­tions are myr­iad.”

So­lar power has been deemed one of the green­est en­ergy sources. Yet the fi­nan­cial ex­pense of putting in pho­to­voltaic pan­els on build­ings and their neg­a­tive vis­ual im­pact on build­ing ar­chi­tec­ture have ham­pered the power source’s de­vel­op­ment.

“Peo­ple tend to make com­par­isons with stan­dard so­lar pan­els found on roof tops but it’s nec­es­sary to also in­clude the value of the un­der­ly­ing build­ing ma­te­rial in or­der to quan­tify the value propo­si­tion,” says Dr. Hasan Baig who, along with Prof. Ta­pas Mal­lick and IIB Re­search com­mer­cial­iza­tion man­ager Jim Wil­liams, hope their pa­tent-pend­ing So­lar Squared de­sign will at­tract test sites and in­vestors in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try.

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