Researchers at The Australia National University (ANU) are working on several new technologies that could revolutionise the solar energy markets. Among their projects: a new type of solar-powered air-conditioning system and a spray-on solar panel that could reduce costs while boosting efficiency.
The air-conditioning system being developed by engineering and computer science professor Mike Dennis reduce the threat of peak period power shortages while also eliminating the need for environmentally damaging refrigerants.
Dennis’ design relies on a solar-powered thermal compressor, rather than an electrical compressor, to drive the cooling system. As added benefits, the system could also provide heating in cold weather and year-round hot water.
“The sun shines when we need to cool and Australia has an excellent solar resource,” Dennis says. “The air-conditioner is very similar to a household split-system with which most people are familiar, except for the power source.”
ANU is now proceeding with a commercial development programme in hopes of having the system manufacture-ready in 2010.
Meanwhile, ANU and Spark Solar Australia recently embarked upon a joint research effort aimed at developing a spray-on material for solar panels. Undertaken in cooperation with Finnish materials company Braggone Oy, the project seeks to significantly reduce the costs of producing standard photovoltaic cells.
The research effort is scheduled to run through the end of 2011.