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Of shingles and solar cells

NSF Award:

CAREER: Energy in Sustainable Infrastructure - Multi-scale/physical Approach to a Novel Hybrid Solar Roofing Panel  (Columbia University)

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Next-generation roofing shingles could contain solar cells because researchers at Columbia University recently designed a low-cost solar cell that integrates into shingles. Unlike traditional solar cells, which only capture light energy, the cells capture energy from both light and heat. A built-in cooling system improves the cells' efficiency in high-temperature climates as well as provides hot water for household purposes.

What's remarkable about this design is the combination, in a single device, of materials that convert light and heat into electricity. Harnessing both light and heat energy increases the potential power each solar cell can generate, which may provide significant cost and energy savings.

The device consists of a photovoltaic cell that converts sunlight to electricity, and a thermoelectric module that generates electricity from the temperature difference that exists between the upper and lower surface. Water lines that cool the cell from below increase the efficiency and power output of the device and also generate hot water.

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  • solar cells that harvest energy from both light and heat integrate into shingles
Solar cells that harvest energy from light and heat integrate into shingles.
Huiming Yin, Columbia University

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