Energy: A glass for houses that produce energy, insulate and clean itself!

I read about an interesting research, one of those pieces of technology that can revolutionize the world. I hope they move to production versions quick and without any government or companies trying to stop them.

Original article from: cens.com

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A research team led by Associate Professor Chin-huai Young of the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology`s Department of Construction Engineering has developed a unique kind of window glass with self-cleaning, electricity-generating, and thermal-insulation properties.

Young, who started the development project in 2003 with three graduate students, says “We`ve developed this glass out of concern for the environment.” The glass, which has patents pending in the United States, Japan, China, and Taiwan, gains its unusual functions via three layers of materials which are applied to its surface: a nanometer titanium-dioxide coating as a photocatalytic interface, a silicon film to serve as a solar cell, and an insulating film.

The team chief explains that the titanium-dioxide coating gives off O2 and OH when it is struck by ultraviolet rays, and that these elements break down organic substances that fall on the coating, and these substances are then washed away in the rain.

A one-meter-square solar-cell layer can generate up to 90 watts of electricity at noon on a clear day, and an average of 35 watts throughout the day, according to Young. On cloudy days, the figures are 30 watts maximum and 25 watts average. At that rate, Young says, “The system can generate 6.8 kilowatts of power per hour at a cost of only NT$10 per month.”

Exposed to simulated sunlight consisting of ultraviolet and infrared rays from a 1,250-watt lamp, the insulating layer blocks 90% of the heat and all of the rays. Only 7% of visible light can make it through. “We purposely let in some light so that the glass can be partly see-through,” Young explains. “Other insulating glass lets in an average of 63% of visible light rays and captures all ultraviolet rays, but it cannot keep infrared rays out completely. So heat builds up as light is continually absorbed.”

A miniature house equipped with this glass maintained an interior temperature of 25 degrees Celsius, despite being bombarded with 34-degree heat from the mock sun. Young claims that the little heat that gets in can be easily dealt with by a cooling system powered by the same window glass.

Before the new glass is put on the market, it will undergo two field experiments. The Ministry of the Interior has concocted a plan to build three-storey solar-powered stand-alone houses using Young`s glass as solar generators, and an experimental avant-garde house now under construction at the university will employ the new glass along with four other avant-garde technologies.

The stand-alone houses will have glass panels on their roofs to generate electricity, and they will be cooled by “earth tubes” that take in cool air from under trees and run it through underground tubes to outlets inside the houses.

Glass Panels and Earth Tubes

The eight-storey sail-like beam structure of the avant-garde building will be entirely covered with the new glass and will also utilize “earth tubes” which, Young says, will be laid 10 meters underground and deliver 25-degree air into the building.

There will be no batteries to store excess power from either of these two types of buildings, so power from the electricity grid will be used on sunless days and at night.

The eco-friendly glass project is being financed by the Ministry of Education out of an NT$50 billion (US$1.5 billion at NT$33:US$1) fund aimed at inspiring colleges to develop forward-looking technologies for local industries.

Young notes that the use of eco-friendly building materials is a rising trend all over the world and has already become standard in some advanced countries, such as Germany. “Germany is currently the world`s biggest market for solar panels,” he comments, “largely because the of the government`s generous offer to buy electricity form the private sector.” Young expects that a similar incentive in Taiwan would give his glass a big boost.

Young hopes to combine his glass with reinforced concrete into a standard building block, and a one-square-meter block now costs around NT$20,000 (US$606). This high price could hamper popularization, but Young hopes to bring the figure down to NT$7,000 to NT$8,000 (US$212-242), which, he says, is around the current price of a granite block.

The associate professor is upbeat about Taiwan`s ecological building materials industry because of the government`s “green building materials” policy. Under this policy, green building materials must make up at least 5% of the total interior area of a new building.

Dr. Chen Wen-ching, a senior engineer with the Energy and Resources Laboratories of the government-backed Industrial Technology Research Institute, predicts that eco-friendly building materials have the potential to take over 15%, or NT$30 billion (US$909 million), of the island`s building materials market.

Chen emphasizes that the promotion of eco-friendly building materials in Taiwan is critical, since the building industry accounts for a third of the island`s total energy consumption. The use of green recycled materials can help cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least 80% compared with virgin materials, he says.

(by Ken Liu)