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TECH: Using Coloured Glass to Create Electricity
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Using Coloured Glass to Create Electricity
By Amber Oneal

BT 202008 TECH 01Electricity is a major power source that is used in industries and households, and the search for alternatives continues. Researchers and scientists are always experimenting with new ways to get electricity other than the conventional methods. Solar energy is considered a very environmentally friendly way of getting electricity, but even in this, there are a few issues. Apart from the cost and weather dependency, solar cells are toxic and are associated with pollution.

However, there is new research that has won Dr Henry Snaith and his 17-member team two awards in one year. One was a British Renewable Energy Award, and the other was the Best Early-stage Investment in a Disruptive Technology Business award from the UK Business Angels Association. This team developed coloured glass which converts solar energy into electricity and usable power. This glass can be used in windows and on top of the buildings for this purpose.

Making this glass is an expensive process and costs 10% more than making normal glass. Usually, the cost of the glass per square foot is around 800–1200 USD. Adding solar cells to it increases the cost from 80USD to 120USD per square foot. In addition, the team of academics working and researching it needs to be increased as well.

How does it work?

BT 202008 TECH 02This technology is called Building Integrated Photo Voltaic technology (BIPV). Using this technology, non-toxic solar cell material is directly printed onto the glass. The material of the cell is coloured yet transparent.

More research is being done to increase the efficiency of the glass. Recently it has announced that the efficiency of the BIPV is 15.4%, but more funds are required to increase it further.

Furthermore, the efficiency is also dependant on the colour being used, with black-coloured glass being the most efficient, followed by red and green. Blue is the least efficient. So, the colour chosen by the customer will determine the efficiency they get.

This expandable panel that generates cheap and clean energy is ready to be mass-produced and commercialized with proper funding.

What to expect in the future

BT 202008 TECH 04A company called Onyx Solar is already making large panels of PV glass that are used in buildings for the generation of green electricity by using the energy and light from the sun. These glass panels can be used on the rooftop and the side walls as well.

BT 202008 TECH 03A Dutch designer, Marjan Van Aubel, is designing windows and tables that generate electricity through sunlight, and she is also trying to make everything in your house capable of generating electricity. There is a paint company that launched paint that can create electricity.

Another important research study is underway to produce two-layered glass which uses static energy created when two different materials collide with each other. That energy is saved between the layers and electricity is created using the triboelectric effect using a nanogenerator between the two layers. It can be used even when sunlight is not present, in places with excessive rainfall and lightning.

The bottom line is that a lot of research is being done on the creation of efficient, cost-effective, clean electricity and alternate sources of energy. Sunlight is a very cheap source of energy which is consistent. There will always be sunlight, and even in cloudy or rainy weather, you can still use solar energy for electricity generation.


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