Building Integrated Solar Thermal Electric Generation (BISTEG)

EPA Grant Number: SU835686
Title: Building Integrated Solar Thermal Electric Generation (BISTEG)
Investigators: Vortherms, Kaitlin , Arveson, Alex , Cano, Alex , Hendrix, Alyson , Seager, Payson , Smith, Maxwell , Stauffer, Jason , Tugaoen, Neil
Institution: Arizona State University - Main Campus
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2014 through August 14, 2015
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability

Objective:

This project investigates a new device for generating electricity from sunlight. The proposed research will build an experimental prototype and establish: 1) the solar conditions under which the technology generates electricity, 2) thermodynamic efficiency and cost, and 3) the most effective thermoelectric materials. Additionally, this project will contribute to the education of a diverse team and contribute to public education through presentations, demonstrations, and production of videos explaining the physics and operation of the device.

Approach:

Current building-integrated solar power technologies focus primarily on photovoltaic panels (PV) that are suitable for roof-mounted applications but are rarely used on exterior walls (i.e., the building façade), where aesthetic concerns dominate. Unlike PV technologies, the proposed research relies on a unique solar thermal technology that takes advantage of recent advances in thermoelectric materials that generate electricity from temperature gradients. The proposed device is constructed of a glass block, tilted upwards to trap direct sunlight in a partially evacuated chamber. Mounted on the back of this chamber is a thermoelectric component that generates electricity from differences in temperature. An array of these devices is then incorporated into a new building façade that can be used to retrofit existing building or be incorporated in new construction. The sunlight trapped behind the glass raises the temperature of the hot side of the thermoelectric material, while the rear is maintained close to ambient temperature by air flowing from the ground.

Expected Results:

Current building-integrated solar power technologies focus primarily on photovoltaic panels (PV) that are suitable for roof-mounted applications but are rarely used on exterior walls (i.e., the building façade), where aesthetic concerns dominate. Unlike PV technologies, the proposed research relies on a unique solar thermal technology that takes advantage of recent advances in thermoelectric materials that generate electricity from temperature gradients. The proposed device is constructed of a glass block, tilted upwards to trap direct sunlight in a partially evacuated chamber. Mounted on the back of this chamber is a thermoelectric component that generates electricity from differences in temperature. An array of these devices is then incorporated into a new building façade that can be used to retrofit existing building or be incorporated in new construction. The sunlight trapped behind the glass raises the temperature of the hot side of the thermoelectric material, while the rear is maintained close to ambient temperature by air flowing from the ground.

Supplemental Keywords:

Solar energy, renewable energy, solar thermal electricity, industrial ecology, green building, sustainable infrastructure design, design for the environment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final