Scientists working at the Edith Cowan University’s Electron Science Research Institute (ESRI) in Perth, Western Australia, have developed what is believed to be the World’s first clear, energy harvesting glass which, if used in greenhouses could produce crops in any climate or season. The glass is embedded with nanoparticles that work to draw out 90% of the ultraviolet and infrared rays from the sun and transfer those rays to solar cells embedded on the edge of the glass panels. The rays are converted into energy (around 35 watts per square metre of glass) while allowing 70% of visible light to pass through. The energy harvested is used to power the structure – for example providing lighting, heating, cooling, and water desalination and irrigation systems.
ESRI director, Professor Kamal Alameh, said: “Being able to convert unwanted radiation into electricity could be a huge cost-saver in greenhouses. We hope to end up with a self-sustainable greenhouse that doesn’t need the power from the grid and then it can be producing its own energy to produce the maximum crop yield.”
The technology has been developed in conjunction with ClearVue Technologies, whose chairman, Victor Rosenberg, said: “The glass would provide farmers safety and security of product and reduce the need for chemicals.” A prototype bus-shelter has been set up to test the glass and ESRI has received a grant of £980,000 from the Federal Government’s Cooperative Research Centre and to fund a 300 sq metre trial greenhouse to be built in the Perth area,
There are currently similar products on the market and still in development but according to Professor Kamal, the solar-glass developed at ESRI was the only energy harvesting glass that was also clear. He commented: “There are other technologies that embed solar cells into the glass so they are not fully transparent or you could say that are partially opaque.”
Image – bus shelter used to test energy harvesting glass in Australia.