SPECIFIC is developing ground-breaking coatings for building materials that can be manufactured on an industrial scale in the UK. Once developed, these glass and steel-based products will be fitted to the roofs, walls and windows of new and existing buildings to generate, store and release safe, clean renewable energy.
Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV), which are factory applied to the roof sheeting, generate electricity from solar energy. Heat is supplied by Solar Air Collector on south-facing walls, which draws warm air into the building.
Energy generated by the building is released throughout via heating, lighting, electrical equipment and water use. Large area heating can be provided by a coating applied to floor tiles, walls and other surfaces.
Rainfall on the roof passes over a photoactive titanium dioxide-coated metal roof sheeting, which chemically breaks down organic contaminants. The water is collected, passed through a filter and stored for use in the building.
For photovoltaics to succeed they must move quickly from the lab bench to the factory floor. At SPECIFIC we are developing a range of solar cell technologies and processing techniques that will allow high-efficiency thin-film photovoltaics to be manufactured at scale using earth-abundant, low cost materials. We are also working to understand the stability and lifetime of these devices, by characterising their degradation mechanisms and finding ways to improve longevity.
We consider ourselves ‘technology agnostic’, which means that we work with the most promising photovoltaic technologies to find ways to manufacture them at scale. Currently we have people working on four distinct technologies: perovskites, CZTS (copper, zinc, tin, sulphur), organic photovoltaics and dye sensitised solar cells.
The SPECIFIC PV team works with a wide range of partners on various initiatives that support the development of photovoltaic technology.
Sêr Cymru Solar is a £7m initiative to establish a research cluster focused on the development of low cost, large area photovoltaic technologies. Based at SPECIFIC, with strong external collaborations including the solar research programme at Imperial College London, it is led by Professor James Durrant, and co-directed by Professor Dave Worsley and Professor Jenny Nelson.
The PVTEAM – Photovoltaic Technology based on Earth Abundant Materials – project aims to replace the costly, toxic and scarce raw materials currently used in solar cells with new active materials based on abundant and cost-effective elements that will be safer and environmentally sustainable. The project is a collaboration with the Universities of Bath, Northumbria, Bristol and Loughborough and industrial partners Tata Steel, Johnson Matthey and NSG. SPECIFIC is looking at ways to develop and implement processes compatible with large-scale manufacturing.
The STEELPV project aims to functionalise low-cost industrial steel products for use as substrates for photovoltaic applications. It is funded by the Research Fund for Coal and Steel and is a collaboration between SPECIFIC, The Welsh Centre for Printing and Coatings, Metallfolien, Fundacion ITMA, Abengoa Solar, Centro Sviluppo Materiali and Bangor University.View Photovoltaics Case Study
As well as generating electricity, the sun’s energy can be used to heat air for use in space heating or ventilation. Solar air collectors, such as Tata Steel’s Colorcoat Renew SC® , are installed as an additional micro-perforated steel skin onto a wall or roof, creating a cavity of heated air between the building and the metal. The heated air is drawn from the cavity into the building, where it can be used immediately or stored for later use.
The development of heat storage systems for use with solar air collectors is a growing activity within SPECIFIC. With effective storage methods, our aim is to enable solar air collectors to deliver 100% of a building’s space heating requirements all year round.
Day to day (diurnal) heat storage stores the excess heat generated during the day for use the next morning. This technology has been demonstrated at one of SPECIFIC’s sites since March 2013, where a solar air collector combined with a 20m3 thermal store, heat exchange system with heat pump boost have eliminated gas consumption and produced an estimated energy saving of 75%. This project is a partnership between Tata Steel, the Sustainable Building Envelope Centre and SPECIFIC and is suported by the Welsh Government.
The INTRESTS project is developing ways to store low-grade heat generated during the summer months and release it, on demand, during the winter. We are working with thermochemical materials, which use completely reversible chemical reactions to store and release heat. These are being tested in reaction chambers that have been developed within the INTRESTS team, the data from which will be modelled using computational fluid dynamic software and provide the information necessary to move from the lab to a full-scale building demonstrator by summer 2015.
The INTRESTS project is led by Tata Steel Europe, based at SPECIFIC in partnership with Nottingham University, European Thermodynamics Ltd, BASF and Eon. This work is co-funded by Innovate UK's Collaborative Research and Development programme, following an open competition.
Efficient electricity storage is one of the most anticipated developments in the field of renewable energy. It is an enabling technology: one that would allow wider adoption of all renewable energy systems.
The key factors in electrical storage are safety, lifetime and cost. As such, the mission of the battery group at SPECIFIC is to develop and optimise manufacturing technologies that will enable the fabrication of large-scale earth-abundant low-cost battery technologies for the built environment. Furthermore, we are working to provide a system for testing batteries such that each individual component may be characterised and optimised individually, and as a whole cell. The first phase of our research focuses on improving the efficiency of nickel-iron (NiFe) battery technologies.
SPECIFIC’s heated coating functions according to the long-established principle of resistive electrical heating, in which electrical energy is converted into heat energy. It has been designed for the smart buildings of the future, powered by a DC supply such as that from photovoltaics, but it can also be powered by a standard AC supply.
We are currently demonstrating and commercialising a range of products based on this technology, including a heated floor tile, a foot warmer and heated wall components. More information about business opportunities relating to these can be found on our work with us page.
SPECIFIC’s water treatment project is an innovative product, which spun out of our work on titanium dioxide layers in photovoltaic cells. A photoactive coating of titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanotechnology on water containers, roofs or walls, is activated by UV, and degrades organic pollutants. There are many possible applications of this technology, but the potential for use by the textile industry to remove dyes from waterways is perhaps the most significant.
...and many moreView Water Treatment Case Study
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