Researchers from University of Michigan (U-M) have partnered with China's Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) to explore how high-efficiency smart facades can capture and store solar energy, and transmit its light while simultaneously controlling heat transmission.

Net-zero facade systems will interact with internal lighting and climate controls to collect, store, and distribute light.
“Our work on this challenge starts with a transparent window system,” said Harry Giles, a professor in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at U-M. “The challenge is to upgrade the thermal insulation values of a window, while taking advantage of the fact that it is also light-transmitting. We are looking to integrate within this system an energy harvesting component through the use of photovoltaics and to use it as a medium for not only controlling heat transfer, but for generating light.”

The net-zero facade systems envisioned by Giles will interact with internal lighting and climate controls to collect, store, and distribute light. The team’s research explores new organic photovoltaic (PV) and solid-state lighting technologies that provide potential to harvest and generate light, while maintaining a window’s required transparency. Giles and Max Shtein, a U-M professor and materials scientist, are examining the organic PVs and their ability to conduct electricity across a large window span. Giles is also working with P.C. Ku, a U-M professor and electrical engineer, on optical wave-guide technology that combines with solidstate lighting to illuminate a window area. Taubman College professors Mojtaba Navvab and Lars Junghans, specialists in lighting simulation and human interface with a building’s environmental controls, are also contributing to the analysis.

Giles is looking to blend the U-M team’s technology development in materials and environmental behavior with his patent-pending automated window manufacturing system together with his SJTU partners’ expertise in equipment systems simulation, prototype application, and performance monitoring in full-scale building component prototypes.

“Ultimately, I’d envision a proven technology that would allow you to clad an entire building in this material,” Giles said. “It would offer net-zero energy losses with advanced properties and added values of providing light, transparency, durability, and, importantly, a new aesthetic that will combine to transform the built-environment. We’re looking at two-year feasibility solutions, which can be transformed into longer term market-ready solutions.”

Lighting Technology Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2011 issue of Lighting Technology Magazine.

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