Australian researchers have found a new way that could serve as a next big step in the creation of carbon-neutral skyscrapers.
The research would allow a building’s glass facades to produce renewable energy through the implementation of solar cells in windows, lending new meaning to the old saying ‘the glass is half full.’
The research was outlined in an article penned by Justin Norrie, editor of ‘The Conversation.’ The article, titled ‘Solar technology could transform office blocks into new power producers’, discusses the work of Flinders University student Mark Bissett, who created the revolutionary new concept while working on his PhD.
The glass used for facades would be conductive and would contain a layer of carbon nano-tubes, which would serve as the key to producing energy.
“When light shines on the cell, electrons are generated within the carbon nano-tubes and these can be used to power electrical devices,” Bissett said.
The idea could move beyond new builds, as well. In time, it could be possible to spray the nano-tubes onto existing windows, creating buildings that produce energy simply by being exposed to light. The nano-tubes will not affect the transparency of the glass, ensuring the energy production would be silent and invisible.
Of course, given the price of solar technology, the concept could be seen by some as being too pricy to implement. Bissett said, however, that once the technology is ready to roll out, likely in 10 years or so, prices will likely have dropped as new technologies emerge. This, coupled with long-term cost savings, would make for a sound long-term investment for property owners.
“In a new building, or one where the windows are being replaced anyway, adding transparent solar cells to the glass would be a relatively small cost since the cost of the glass, frames and installation would be the same with or without the solar component,” Bissett said.
Should the technology prove usable, it could help bring about more than carbon-neutral buildings. If it can be implemented on a wide enough scale, the concept could mean the advent of truly carbon-neutral cities.