Western students to present solar window in D.C.

Western Today staff

Windows that collect solar energy? It's possible, and a team of Western Washington University students have built a prototype to prove it.

They'll travel to Washington, D.C., this weekend to participate in the Environmental Protection Agency’s “P3: People, Prosperity, and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability.” At the conference, the team will present a smart solar window based upon a recent series of advances in luminescent solar concentrator technology at Western and the University of Washington.

The interdisciplinary team of eight students includes one student from the University of Washington. The students' to date have been supported by a $15,000 grant from the EPA, and depending on how the competition goes, as much as $75,000 could be awarded in additional funding to help the students turn their design into a real-world application and potentially move it into the marketplace.

The luminescent solar concentrator consists of a thin, polymer film containing luminescent quantum dots that can be applied to a glass window pane, allowing it to collect ultraviolet light and concentrate it at the edges of the window. Thin strips of photovoltaic cells attached at the edges convert the concentrated sunlight into electricity. The window appears transparent, but instead of reflecting UV light, it harvests it to generate power. This power is used to run sensors and actuators which intelligently open and close the window, synergistically providing cooling and airflow in wireless coordination with the building’s HVAC system.

The new technology thus has the potential to generate more renewable power within the same building footprint while substantially reducing HVAC power consumption, representing an important step toward the development of fully carbon neutral buildings and communities.

Last year’s P3 winners included teams from institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Cornell, and Purdue.

The P3 team:

  • Team leader James Kintzele, Michigan City, Ind. - WWU Department of Engineering and Design
  • James Mayther, Olympia - WWU College of Business and Economics
  • Ryan Sumner, Ridgefield - WWU Chemistry Department
  • Sarah O’Sell, Kenmore - WWU Engineering and Design
  • Hannah Bouscher, Spokane - WWU College of Business and Economics
  • Adam Slater, Ravensdale - WWU Engineering and Design
  • Ashley Loper, Redmond - WWU Engineering and Design
  • Tyler Dawson, Bellingham - WWU Engineering and Design
  • Christian Erickson, Bellingham - Department of Chemistry at the University of Washington

Team member James Mayther said the competition has already provided a wealth of experience in terms of working with a design and production team that crosses so many areas of expertise.

“The interdisciplinary team dynamic has been very valuable and exciting to be a part of.  The competition will also help this innovative technology gain national exposure, which will hopefully lead to much-needed funding and financing, as our goal is to take a product to market at scale,” he said. “I am truly privileged and honored to be a part of a group of people that puts in so much hard work for the project, on top of their already busy full time class loads and sometimes other work schedules. The initiative, focus, and overall excellence this group of people is committed to is inspiring.”

For more information on the P3 team and its Luminescent Solar Collector technology, contact David Patrick (360-650-3128, david.patrick@wwu.edu) or Ed Love, (360-650-4614, ed.love@wwu.edu) P3 faculty advisers.

Thursday, April 9, 2015 - 9:12am