Greenbang was once a university student. She remembers how having to study endless dry tomes and sitting through hours of tedious lectures often felt like watching paint dry. Well, believe it or not, one Swansea University engineering student has made this very pursuit the focus of his doctoral thesis – resulting in some nice discoveries in the field of solar.
The anonymous student’s research into observing how sunlight interacts with and degrades paint has inspired his department to develop a new paint that can capture solar energy.
The solar-cell paint being developed by the Swansea research group is incredibly efficient at capturing low light radiation, making it better suited to the British climate. Thanks to a grant from Welsh Assembly government’s Welsh Energy Research Centre (no, Greenbang neither…), academics from Swansea worked with experts from steel giants Corus to assess the feasibility of manufacturing a solar cell system that could be painted onto the outside of a building.
Their encouraging results meant that the group was awarded a £1.5 million grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for a three-year research project. Swansea and other universities are now working on a commercially viable process of painting layers of solar cells onto steel.
According to Dr Dave Worsley, a Reader in the Materials Research Centre at the University’s School of Engineering:
“Corus Colours produces around 100 million square metres of steel building cladding a year. If this was treated with the photovoltaic material, and assuming a conservative 5% energy conversion rate, then we could be looking at generating 4,500 gigawatts of electricity through the solar cells annually. That’s the equivalent output of roughly 50 wind farms.”