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Skyscrapers shape our city skylines. All around the world, iconic cityscapes are outlined through the enormity of their buildings. But skyscrapers also contribute massive amounts to carbon emissions and urban air pollution.
Here Duncan Clark, director of operations at nanotechnology researchers NextGenNano, explains how the integration of organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells to commercial buildings can assist in the production of green energy for cleaner cities.
Because skyscrapers usually take their power from the tradition fuel grid, they play a significant role in polluting the air in major metropolises. However, there is another way. By applying OPV cells within these buildings, there is major potential to create sustainable energy and clean up the air quality.
According to the United Nations, the world’s urban population will rise from 3.6 billion to 6.3 billion between now and 2050. As more people decide to live in big metropolises instead of small, rural villages, skyscrapers are not only the symbol of modern urban cities but are a necessity in order to provide enough space for both living and business purposes.
Since skyscrapers include offices and apartments and need to accommodate a vast number of people, they require more energy than small houses. One study shows that electricity used per square metre of floor area isnearly two and a half times greater in high-rise office buildings than in low ones. This study also shows that the gas for the heating in skyscrapers is 40 per cent higher than normal buildings and total carbon emissions aredouble.
The problem with glass skyscrapers is related to heat leaks in cold weather and extreme high temperatures in the summer, which increases the need for air conditioning as people are not allowed to open windows. By using air conditioning constantly, carbon emissions from offices are currently 60 per cent higher than offices that use a natural ventilation.
OPV solar cells generate energy and lower emissions
NextGen Nano has developed an innovative solution to these problems that incorporates building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) during the construction phase. By replacing some traditional building materials used in roofs, skylights and facades with BIPVs, electricity can be generated.
Integrating BIPVs reduces labour costs and the demand for traditional constriction materials and they produce energy. This makes them the ideal solution for the constantly increasing emissions associated with building skyscrapers and high-rise buildings in urban centres.
There are four BIPV product categories:
- Double glass solar panels incorporating internal square cells.
- Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS)-based cells that can be mounted directly onto the building envelope substrate or on flexible modules laminated to the building envelop element.
- Amorphous crystalline silicon based thin film solar photovoltaic modules that can be light, hollow and different colours and used for transparent skylights or as a glass curtain wall.
- Crystalline silicon based solar panels to generate power on rooftops or at ground level.
While BIPVs do not use carbon fuels in the generation of energy, many of the products are manufactured using materials that damage the environment. The exception is panels that are constructed using organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells, which is what NextGen Nano produces.
A nanotechnology game changer
Nextgen Nano is leading the way in the development of transparent organic solar cells using advanced nanotechnology. By integrating advanced nanotechnology, it is developing flexible organic solar cells that are energy efficient and offer the potential to decentralise the energy industry on a massive scale.
Nextgen are currently developing highly efficient, flexible organic solar cells that support efforts for decentralisedenergy generation and power consumption. This innovation has led the company to develop OPVs that have the potential to significantly improve the efficiency currently achieved by third-generation solar technologies.
The company’s PolyPower division explores the use of earth-friendly organic materials that can provide alightweight, flexible and affordable approach to solar energy. PolyPower is developed at a nano level with transparency and flexibility, which means it had the exciting potential to be applied as a semi-transparent thin layer to the surface of a skyscraper and its windows, allowing power generation, lighting and temperature control.Essentially, adopting this technology allows skyscrapers to be aesthetically stunning and environmentally sustainable.