A prototype multi-functional glass block, designed to be incorporated into the exterior of buildings, collects solar energy and converts it to electricity. Jim Drury reports.
Buildings consume more than forty percent of global electricity and reportedly cause at least a third of carbon emissions. Scientists want to cut this drastically - and create a net-zero energy future for new buildings. Build Solar want to help. The firm has created a glass brick containing small solar cells. SOUNDBITE (English) DR HASAN BAIG, FOUNDER OF BUILD SOLAR, SAYING: "On top of this we have placed in some intelligent optics which are able to focus the incoming sunlight onto these solar cells almost throughout the day. When we do that we are able to generate a higher amount of electrical output from each solar cell that we are using." As well as converting the sun's power to electricity, the bricks have other abilities. SOUNDBITE (English) DR HASAN BAIG, FOUNDER OF BUILD SOLAR, SAYING: "The product is aligned to provide three different things, including electricity, daylighting, and thermal insulation which is generally required by any kind of construction product. More importantly it is aesthetic in its look, so it fits in very well within the building architecture." Using Building Integrated Photovoltaics, the technology would be used in addition to existing solar roof panels. The University of Exeter spin-off is fine-tuning the design, which works in many colours. The company says the product could be market ready by the end of next year.