Harvesting sunlight to generate electricity has been a goal for several years now and there are plenty of solar panels doing exactly that. However, being able to harvest solar power from an apartment window remains an open goal.
There are some companies, like SolarWindow, that offer a special coating to cover the top of skyscraper made of glass, others that provide transparent covers for buildings serving as photovoltaic panels, like Onyx Solar, others, like Solargaps, are offering external blinds serving as photovoltaic panels, and others that are working on special window glass, usually tinted, that lets just a portion of the visible light go through blocking the rest, including the infrared part, and using it to generate electricity. Clearly these solutions decrease the amount of light that ends up illuminating the room. They are fine where there is plenty of sunlight and actually they can help in decreasing the need for air conditioning by decreasing the Sun generated heat. Some recent glasses can even be trimmed to finely tune their adsorption hence decreasing or increasing their effects. Notice that the solution using special glasses requires either to replace existing ones or having them used in the first place as the building is constructed.
Now an Australian design firm, in cooperation with a Japanese company, has come up with a curtain, in the shape of origami, that can be hanged inside the apartment, like a normal curtain, to both adsorb light transforming it into electricity, and increasing the amount of light in the room, if so desired.
Now, their claim of being able to produce electricity and at the same time increase the amount of light in the room seems something like claiming you have find the way to perpetual motion… Hence my curiosity and the need to dig a bit deeper into this.
It turns out that the claim is both right and wrong: they are not, as one would expect, creating energy out of nothing, rather they have found an ingenious design of the curtain, and use a particular material, that captures incoming light rays and bounces them around in the origami structure of the curtain. Some rays are adsorbed and converted into electricity, and they are able to get a high yield because of the mirroring of rays that lead to a higher adsorption rate, and the others are released in the room. Now here comes the cherry on the cake. The Sun rays entering through a normal window are coming from many directions (not just from the Sun, although most do, since they are scattered by the atmosphere -we got a blue sky, haven’t we?) and many of them are not actually illuminating the room. By using a smart design of the curtain the rays that are not adsorbed are distributed more evenly resulting in a better room illumination (that is what happens when we use a lamp cover, the light from the bulb is distributed more evenly and the result is that a lamp illuminate the room better than just a bulb).
An important point is that they claim the process to manufacture theses curtains is relatively cheap, hence they should be affordable.
The big hurdle that I see is that when you are proposing something to be part of the room decor you have to convince people that it is nice and fit nicely in their ambient. It becomes a matter of design, rather than functionality. It may be likely that we will start see these curtains in office space and over time as we get use to their design they might find a way into my home. I’ll have to talk to my wife about these. We are basically level, yet she still has 51% of shares when there’s a decision on house decor….