Capture power with your curtains ( Week 4)

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Capture power with your curtains ( Week 4)

Post  HikaRu on Sun Jul 20, 2008 3:43 pm

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Imagine every time you closed your curtains, you were capturing enough solar energy to power your laptop. The technology is available, but no one's packaged it up in a handy DIY kit at your local hardware store.
Sheila Kennedy hopes to be the first. She's not an interior designer but an architect and professor in practice at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is convinced that solar textiles will revolutionize the way we collect and consume power.

"I've been thinking about what happens when power and light become flexible, literally flexible," she said.

She calls it "soft power," as in the "soft energy path," a term coined Amory Lovins in the 1970s as a way to describe a world where renewable energy would gradually replace the centralized grid.

Later, Joseph Nye used the term "soft power" to describe the ability of persuasion, values and culture to influence change.

Kennedy's work with soft power builds on both of these ideas. For her , soft power is the ability of flexible materials to convert sunlight into energy.

"The soft power approach says there are some incredibly sensual, compelling, beautiful spaces and products that we can be producing using these emerging energy-harvesting materials," Kennedy said.

Her Boston-based firm, Kennedy & Violich Architecture, has been working with thin-film photovoltaic material, a fabric that looks and moves like cloth but does the job of a solar panel.

"These are materials which can be prepared in the chemistry lab or can be found in nature. They produce electricity when exposed to light. They are very efficient and flexible," she said.

"We are pairing the thin-film photovoltaic material with another semi-conductor material, the light-emitting diode; they're two sides of the same coin. One takes a little bit of the energy of sunlight and transforms it into electricity; some takes that electricity and turns it into light."

Rechargeable batteries pocketed into the hem of the curtains gather energy that can be downloaded into a larger home battery.

"From a technical view, the thin-film has the potential to be produced in very high volumes, with a very low embodied energy and a low carbon footprint. These new photovoltaic materials can be produced in the same way one might print and produce a newspaper, roll to roll. That can make it very affordable," Kennedy said.

Its limitations are its performance. It's less efficient that glass-based solar technology, but Kennedy predicts that's going to change.

"Right now there's research being done on developing sensitivities in thin-film that will allow the energy to continue to be harvested, even at night. That's going to revolutionize the applications for solar textiles," she said.

The current technology can be found hanging in the Vitra Design Museum in Essen, Germany, in a prototype pre-fabricated home called the Soft House.

Farther south and west, the designers are taking their ideas from the Soft House and applying them to a research project for a Soft City.

Kennedy and her team have calculated that by covering just 10 percent of a roof area in Porto, Portugal, solar curtains could provide as much as 70 percent of the average electricity used by a typical household each day.

"It goes to show that you don't need a very large area. We've calculated that 15 square meters would be enough."

Kennedy envisions a future in which a single homeowner or a group of neighbors would decide to wean themselves off the centralized grid and power their homes using the energy they've "harvested" themselves from the sun.

"You could look at it as a type of urban farming," Kennedy suggested, adding that one of the reasons people aren't doing it now is not the lack of technology but old habits and inherited centralized building systems in architecture.

"Instead of tucking way electricity and lights in walls and accessing that with a plug, we have the possibility of thinking of a whole new experience for energy, energy-harvesting and for light."

She talks about material that you could reel in from the roof and wrap around to make a new type of instant room, a Zip Room. Plastic wall plugs would cease to exist; instead you'd harness your appliance into the surface or edge of the textile.

Her ideas may seem radical to homeowners who don't give much thought to where their power comes from or how much it costs, which is why Kennedy is so keen to see the solar curtains in consumer-friendly packs on hardware store shelves.

"Energy-harvesting solar textiles are a very good beginning point. I think that the notion of tying in a new technology with something very familiar really has its advantages if one's about large-scale uptake and widespread adoption of a new energy regime."

Regime may sound like a hard word to be used in the context of soft power, but as Kennedy says, it's up to architects and designers to convince homeowners that there are more efficient alternatives to traditional homes.

Her firm is going one step further with the offer to work with developers and manufacturers who are interested in building digitally fabricated Soft House demonstration projects.

"My team is actively interested in speaking to people who are serious about realizing a pilot program that adapts the Soft House model to actual needs on urban or rural sites. I do think the moment is now."

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Commentary :
This article is useful as it introduce us a new technology that could help to reduce pollution. This technology make use of solar power to give us the energy we need , however power collection is done in a different way. Now this way of collecting solar power is better as it save place and are affordable . Even though it is not as efficient as the old method we use , but as we can see , technology is constantly improving , thus i believe that this limitation would not be a problem in future. In addition, it is really interesting to know that how the technology is improving over the years , from pollutive to none pollutive invention , from inefficient to efficient and most importantly , from impossible to possible. So solving environmental problem is not impossible , even though some damages done areas irreversible. Who knows that in the future , we could reverse these irreversible change ?


The Link of the article ~
http://edition.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/07/01/solar.textiles/index.html


Lol nothing to do ~ how come nobody reply one ~~
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HikaRu

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Re: Capture power with your curtains ( Week 4)

Post  Weiliang on Sun Jul 27, 2008 11:53 am

In Singapore, installing solar panels is not an option for the majority of the population since HDB housing houses 80% of the population. This could be the first technology that allows renewable energy to be tapped from every household. However, the introduction of this technology may not be able to create a significant impact on our energy consumption. Considering the money spent per energy saving, the easiest and most cost-effective method now would be replacing older, less energy-efficient electrical appliances with newer appliances. The E2 Singapore already has a energy efficiency rating for appliances of 1 to 5 ticks with 5 being the most efficient. Singaporeans should follow this ratings and lower their own power consumption before considering generating electricity with curtains.
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Re: Capture power with your curtains ( Week 4)

Post  Aik Kun on Sun Jul 27, 2008 3:11 pm

This may be an alternative way in collecting power in a country. Yes, i agree that it is cheaper than installing solar power panels on rooftops and taking up space on flat lands. Money and land can be saved and diverted to other areas in improving the standard of living of the people in the country.

However, i doubt the effectiveness in this system if it were to be implemented in Singapore. Not every household may install curtains on every window they have. Furthermore, if such system were to be implemented, the prices of such curtains will definitely rise. This is the concept of supply and demand. How much would such 'power-capturing' curtains then cost? Will everyone in Singapore able to afford it? In addition, the performance of the curtains will reduce when night comes or when there is cloud cover. The feasibilty of this system is in doubt.

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Re: Capture power with your curtains ( Week 4)

Post  HikaRu on Sun Jul 27, 2008 9:04 pm

Yo people ~ i print the article already ~ so give your comment tml ba ~
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