The architectural glazing market will soon welcome an innovation that will allow windows to generate energy. The integration of solar cells into glass window panels will allow the harnessing of sunlight to thermally insulate buildings while controlling light levels to the interior.

The revolutionary development is led by Dr Anita Ho-Baillie, a senior research fellow in the Faculty of Engineering at UNSW. Ho-Baillie has partnered with the University of Sydney’s David McKenzie and Viridian Glass for the project. The team has successfully developed high-insulating, energy-generating glass by integrating semi-transparent perovskite solar cells into double-glazed vacuum-insulated window units.

The project is supported by the Australian Research Council Linkage Grant program, which has provided $365,000 in funding. The key objective of the research team is to develop a high-performance glazing system that can mitigate heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter, and control the entry of light while generating electrical energy. The revolutionary building material is being called “the ultimate energy solution for future cities”.

Perovskites are remarkable for their ability to be spay-coated, printed or painted onto almost any surface. The highly versatile material allows different levels of transparency to be created based on the power rating required for the fa├žade, and can also be tuned to display different colours, allowing architects to meet both functional and aesthetic objectives. It is expected to revolutionise the building and construction industry.

While perovskites currently experience durability problems related to exposure to fluctuating temperatures and moisture, continued research is expected to extend their lifespan significantly. Ho-Baillie’s project will use a vacuum-sealed double-glazing unit pioneered by the University of Sydney and Ho-Baillie's research partner, David McKenzie. Ideally, this will provide an extremely high level of insulation by removing thermal bridges, while also protecting the perovskites from moisture damage.

Image: Anita Ho-Baillie, UNSW