Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Energy positive buildings countdown

Until quite recently, suggestions that buildings might contribute positively to the environment deserved to be treated with at least caution, if not actually contempt.  But, it turns out that technology does develop remarkably fast, and buildings with a potential to 'heal' rather than further wound natural systems may not be too far away.

The most remarkable progress is in developments in photovoltaics suitable for integration into building construction.  From the one issue of INHABITAT - the New York based forum for all things green - comes news of two radically different, but hopeful developments.

The first is that scientists at the University of Southern California have developed a new type of solar cell made from nanocrystals that are so small that they can be made into an ink and painted or printed onto clear surfaces. They appear to have solved the problem of increasing the conductivity between the nanocrystals, such that efficiency of the new cells is now looking useful.  The bad news is that the new surface coating is made of the semiconductor cadmium selenide, which can’t be used commercially because of its toxicity. “While the commercialization of this technology is still years away, we see a clear path forward toward integrating this into the next generation of solar cell technologies,” USC chemistry professor Richard L. Brutchey said in a press release.  So what is the big attraction?  Apparently, the method would also allow solar cells to be printed on plastic instead of glass in a low temperature process, without encountering the problem of merger – which would give a flexible solar panel mouldable and adaptable at will anywhere. 
Read more: USC Researchers Develop Liquid Nanocrystal Solar Cells that Can Be Printed Onto Plastic | Inhabitat

 The second snippet to catch my eye is a tongue-in-cheek application of Biophotovoltaics  in the form of a 'moss table'.  Apparently electricity is generated by mosses and algae as a byproduct of photosynthesis, and is already successfully harnessed to power small appliances such as clock radios.
Read more: Moss Table by Biophotovoltaics Generates Electricity Through Photosynthesis | Inhabitat

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