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Powering Up Buildings with Paint

Friday, March 22, 2013

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UK researchers are developing coatings for steel and glass that can turn new and existing buildings into power stations.

Coatings scientists at SPECIFIC (Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Coatings), an academic and industrial consortium led by Swansea University, say their technology for roofs and walls will allow buildings to generate, store and release renewable energy.


The team uses screen presses and roller coating techniques to cover glass and steel with chemical compound layers that generate electricity.

The development has the potential to become a £1 billion ($1.5 billion USD) UK industry, and is forecast to generate up to 10,000 new jobs in the supply chain, SPECIFIC has announced.

In the UK alone, there are more than four billion square meters of roofs and walls forming the building envelope.

“Most of this could potentially be used to harness solar energy,” the group said.

New Pilot Facility

Last fall, the team opened doors to its new pilot manufacturing facility in Baglan, Wales.

The facility is equipped with a sheet-production line that “will turn out functional, conductive steel and glass building products on a pilot scale—integrated into the fabric of roofs, walls and ceilings of new and existing buildings,” the researchers note.

The team uses screen presses and roller coating techniques to cover the materials with layers of chemical compounds, such as carbon graphite and silver, according to reports on the research.

Swansea University / YouTube

Coating researchers say that the sun delivers enough energy each day to power the planet for 27 years. The team wants every building to be able to capture that energy.

The conductive building materials are expected to be taken up by industrial partners for large-scale production, the researchers said. The first panels will be used on buildings in late 2013, with a whole building covered with the technology by 2014, reports relate.

"This center will speed up the commercialization of innovative industrial coatings, creating a whole new manufacturing sector and new business opportunities, not to mention long-term environmental benefits, including turning buildings into sources of power,” according to Vince Cable, UK’s Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

‘Open Approach’

SPECIFIC says it has an “open innovation” approach to the research, bringing together a multifunctional team of engineers, scientists and business professionals to develop and test the technology.

In addition to Swansea University, the partnership involves other university researchers from Imperial College, Bath, Bangor, Cardiff, Glyndwr and Sheffield. Multinational corporate partners include Tata Steel, BASF, Akzo-Nobel, and NSG Pilkington.

The research is funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Technology Strategy Board, and the Welsh Government.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Coating chemistry; Coatings technology; Design; Energy efficiency; Research; Solar energy; Specialty functions

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