TROY, N.Y. — Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have announced the development of a new window system that stores solar energy. According to the research team, the Dynamic Shading Window System (DSWS) uses a newly developed solar technology to convert the sun’s light and diverted heat into storable energy that can be used to heat, cool, and light a commercial office building.

“Our system, which can be incorporated into existing commercial buildings as well as new ones, could become a significant part in the development of an overall energy plan to reduce dependence on the national power grid. This could save businesses — the biggest consumers of energy — untold utility costs and significantly reduce U.S. need for fossil fuels,” stated Anna Dyson, assistant professor of architecture who co-developed the system.

The DSWS system is made of clear plastic panels that fit in between two panes of glass. On each panel are dozens of small, pyramid-shaped modules, made from semi-translucent focusing plastic lenses, connected to motors that allow the modules to track the motion of the sun. Sensors, embedded in the walls or the roof, activate the tracking motors to ensure that the modules are always facing the sun to capture all incoming rays while at the same time deflecting harsh, unwanted rays from the building’s interior, says the research team.

Each module holds a miniaturized photovoltaic (PV) device used to collect light and heat that is transferred into usable energy to run the motors, also embedded in the building’s interior walls. The remaining energy is then used for heating, air conditioning, and lighting. Any surplus energy can be directly distributed through wires inside a building’s walls, or stored in a group of batteries for later use, say the researchers.

Publication date: 09/08/2003