The snap-together PV panels combine with heat pipes to create a system that generates electricity and makes use of waste heat.
Brunel University’s £10m project aims to solve several problems at once: the loss of waste heat; the compromised conversion efficiency of over-heating solar cells; and the ease at which solar panels can be fitted onto the rooftops of conventional houses.
To do this, the team will build hybrid photovoltaic cells with flat heat pipes. The heat pipes, which transfer unwanted heat away from domestic surfaces, will be used to cool the solar panels - which is key in increasing the cells’ conversion efficiency. The heat removed from the cooling can then be reused and the electricity will power the home.
The Lego-style panels will also be designed to snap together and the £260-a-square-metre panels will be fitted onto the roofs of social housing, public buildings, and offices. According to Brunel, this PVadapt technology can be assembled quickly.
"With our system, there is no waste heat," says Professor Hussam Jouhara, the technical coordinator who invented the multifunctional flat heat pipe. "The approach focuses on low-cost, high-efficiency and modular prefabricated ‘Lego’-type construction elements for near-zero-energy buildings."
"Our solar panels are PV coated for the most southerly-facing aspect of the roof and are designed to clip together as a weather-tight roof as simply as clicking together Lego or laminate flooring."