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National Science Foundation

NSF 07-43, Benchmarks of NSF Innovation

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Researchers are developing a thin-film technology that adheres both solar cells and heat pumps onto surfaces, ultimately turning walls and windows into climate
control system--and harvesting the sun's energy to both heat and cool.

NSF-funded researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have built a prototype Active Building Envelope system. Made of solar panels, thermoelectric heat pumps, and a storage device to provide energy on rainy days, the system silently cools and heats with no moving parts.

Thin-film advances could make it possible to seamlessly attach the system to various building surfaces, possibly rendering conventional air conditioning and heating equipment obsolete.

The researchers hope the system's thin-film version will be used in a range of industries, from aerospace to the automotive industries. If applied to automobile
windshields and sun roofs, the technology could heat or cool a car's interior.

blue sky with the glare from the sun

This thin-film technology harvests the sun's energy for heating and cooling.

Credit: Microsoft.

'Power Plastic:' Bright in Any Light [Next]


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