NSF Grant Will Further Development of Solar Windows

solar window prototype
Monday, July 26, 2021
Interdisciplinary team is led by Associate Professor of Architecture Kyoung Hee Kim.

A research project to develop high-performance regenerative windows integrated with climate responsive solar cells will move to a new phase of development thanks to a $250,000 Partnerships for Innovation - Technology Translation (PFI-TT) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Principal Investigator Dr. Kyoung Hee Kim, associate professor of architecture, and her co-investigators Dr. Chengde Wu, a research fellow in the School of Architecture, and Dr. Abasifreke (Aba) Ebong, professor of electrical and computer engineering, will lead an interdisciplinary team that includes graduate and undergraduate student researchers and Dennis Richter, president of Richter Development and Solterra Partners.

NSF PFI-TT grants offer the opportunity to translate prior NSF-funded research results in any field of science or engineering into technological innovations with promising commercial potential and societal impact. Born in the School of Architecture’s Integrated Design Research Lab (IDRL) and nurtured through the University’s Ventureprise entrepreneurship program, the solar window project received a 2020 NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) grant to launch their effort to promote net zero architecture practices by incorporating concentrated micro-photovoltaic cells within double pane glass. Last summer the team carried out a preliminary proof of concept, fabricating small-scale prototypes (pictured above) and conducting computer simulations and lab measurements. In this next year, they will further the proof of concept through prototyping and performance verifications in both the IDRL and Photovoltaic Research lab (PVRL) in EPIC, the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center in the William States Lee College of Engineering.

illustration of solar cell in window“The proposed high-performance window system incorporates a closed air cavity where solar cells are suspended in a conditioned, closed air space to prevent heat build-up, dust accumulation, and moisture formation resulting in high energy conversion efficiency and system longevity,” the team wrote in their project abstract. The geometry of the solar cells is configured in response to a site-specific sun’s path to maximize energy production. And in addition to producing clean energy, the windows will have additional attributes, such as acoustic and thermal insulation, good shading capabilities, year-round daylight penetration, and view-out, while maintaining an aesthetic appeal.

Dr. Kyoung Hee Kim is the director of the Integrated Design Research Lab. A registered architect, her expertise lies in performance-based design, innovative building systems integration, and high performance, regenerative façades as a way to improve the sustainability of the built environment. Her ongoing research in microalgae window systems has received grants from the NSF and the American Institute of Architects.

Dr. Chengde Wu has been a lecturer in the School of Architecture and a research fellow in the IDRL for the past several years. His areas of interest are building simulation, advanced parametric modeling, Building Information Modeling (BIM), digital fabrication, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR). In August he will accept a new position at Iowa State University.

Dr. Aba Ebong is a professor and the director of the graduate program in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is an expert in the field of photovoltaics, including the characterization and understanding of solar cell materials-contacts and interfaces. His research includes the design, modeling, fabrication, classification and analysis of solar cells including crystalline, thin films and organic solar cells.