Although we often see buildings with photovoltaic panels on the roof, the fronts of these buildings are usually panelless,media New Atlas reported. German researchers are trying to use facade-based solar panels to make use of the space. The technology was originally developed by a team from the Fraunhofer Silicon Photovoltaic Centre, along with researchers from the University of Applied Technology leipzig and the University of Industrial Technology in Dresden, as part of the SOLAR.shell project.
Their experimental system aims to make aesthetics more pleasing, rather than simply placing traditional panels flat on the front of buildings, while receiving sunlight more efficiently to convert it into electricity. The latter is achieved through a design in which each panel tilts toward the sun rather than facing outwards from the side of the building. As a result, the unit provides up to 50% more energy than the same number of conventional vertical mounting panels.
Although panels can be fixed to existing facades made of conventional concrete, researchers are particularly interested in combining them with a durable new experimental material called carbon concrete composites. Unlike conventional reinforced concrete with steel wire, it contains carbon fiber. Facade sways made of this material can be cast into panel-shaped recesses that, once added, make them look smoother and more fitting.
The SOLAR.shell research project itself has ended, and the subsequent SOLARcon project is now focused on the commercialization of the system.