Seeing the future
A team of eight students from the US are at the helm of a project that could revolutionise the future of windows.
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In a crucial step toward carbon-neutral buildings and communities, the team built a prototype of a “Smart Solar Window” that can harvest the sun’s energy to generate power, much like traditional solar panels do.
In April, the students presented their design in Washington, D.C., and came home with a $75,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The team won the money in the EPA’s “P3 – People, Prosperity, and the Planet” sustainable design competition involving more than 30 university teams from across the country. With the grant, Western’s team can now investigate ways to bring their solar window to market, says David Patrick, a chemistry professor at their university.
“We had a lot of confidence in this fantastic team and were very excited when they claimed the prize,” Patrick says. “There are other windows out there right now that can produce electricity, but they’re too expensive and inefficient for widespread adoption. So there’s a real need for the Smart Solar Window as we try to make our cities greener and our buildings more sustainable.”
The team’s window is the first transparent window that harvests energy from the sun and converts it to electricity. That power could reduce a building’s heating and cooling costs by up to 30 percent by automatically opening and closing windows to aid cooling and ventilation. The system could be operated remotely from a phone, computer or ventilation system.