Australian researchers from Edith Cowan University have received a $1.6 million grant to improve the development of a type of solar glass that could improve food production in greenhouses. The glass currently generates 50 watts of power per square meter of surface area.
The glass allows the researchers to selectively control light radiation. Controlling solar radiation within the greenhouse enables growers to maximize crop yields. The generated power is stored and used for desalinization, irrigation, heating and cooling. Those activities could allow greenhouses to work at maximum production outside of the natural growing cycle and independent of their environment.
An independent greenhouse could allow food production to take place in areas that are naturally too hot, too cold or that lack water, and could not otherwise sustain agriculture. According to the researchers, worldwide greenhouse agriculture generates as much production as 1.2 million acres of natural agricultural land. In Australia, greenhouses account for about 20% of the country’s annual vegetable production. In other areas of the world, independent greenhouses could provide enough sustainable agriculture to address chronic food shortages.
The glass is interesting not only from an agricultural perspective, but also for its ability to generate power under other circumstances. The glass that makes the power production possible includes an active IR and UV resistant layer sandwiched between two panes of glass. The interlayer allows the transmission of visible light through the glass, but harvests the non-visible frequencies and redirects them toward energy production.
The makers of the glass, ClearVue, hope to see the glass included in construction projects, and in areas where power is needed but isn’t readily available.
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Photo Credit: Marian Dork, via Flickr