Interview by Gary Thomas
Gary Thomas talks to Victor Rosenberg, CEO of Tropiglas Technologies, regarding new innovations in building energy efficiency in a new ‘Insights from Industry’ article.
GT: Could you please provide a brief introduction to the industry that Tropiglas works within and outline the key drivers?
VR: The key industries that Tropiglas Technologies works within are
Building Integrated PhotoVoltaics and Smart Glass Industry:
Glass-based Green House Industry.
No other BIPV glazing product has yet commercially delivered a normal looking clear window that generates power to the above-mentioned industries (as well as other Speciality Industries), and so we are very keen to be able to offer this product.
GT: Could you please give a brief overview of Tropiglas?
VR: Tropiglas technologies has a long history back to the late 90s when a Russian Scientist Baranov invented a method for spectrally selecting light wavelengths which could be diverted towards the edges of a pane of glass to prevent unwanted wavelengths from penetrating the glass and to enable solar capture at the edges of the window pane. Initial work was done with organic materials embedded in a polymeric laminate. Prototypes of this first generation Tropiglas technology were demonstrated to leading industry players who advised the company that the product in its then form was not sufficiently clear to be utilised in glazing applications. Tropiglas hence abandoned this line of research. In 2010 the company was introduced to the Photonics research team at Edith Cowan University, led by photonics pioneer Prof Kamal Alameh.
The research path taken by Prof Kamal Alameh’s team was to deposit inorganic materials on the surface of glass to enable the spectral selectivity of the organic materials used previously, and to introduce a nanotechnology waveguide to redirect the unwanted wavelengths to the edge of the glass, including for solar capture. The research brief also required that industry standard techniques or equipment should be used so that the final product developed was readily able to be manufactured. Over much iteration, the researchers developed ultra-clear glass with world beating IR and UV blocking properties.
The prototype glazing units comprising a spectrally selective coating, aimed at optimising the transmission of visible light while blocking Ultra Violet and near infra-red wavelengths, have been demonstrated to prospective clients and industry players who indicated that they would be more interested in a product that also had good thermal properties. A low E coating was therefore developed and added to the Solar control coating. Many manufacturers, in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Denmark, and Korea have expressed interest in Tropiglas products.
The first true prototype of the BIPV glazing unit measuring 20x20cm was made by ECU late in 2011 and has been extensively demonstrated at numerous events and to many industry players to a great deal of excitement and interest. Many customers are now requesting larger-scale Tropiglas EPower or Tropiglas Ultraclear SunE products.
GT: Could you explain the theory behind Low E glazing technology?
VR: TropiGlas energy-efficient, power-generating clear glass is based on cutting-edge Micro and Nano technologies. It removes heat, allows maximum natural light through and converts solar heat into electricity, thus reducing energy consumption and cost.
Spectrally-selective coatings are used in conjunction with Micro- and Nano- particles which selectively convert Ultra Violet radiation to longer wavelengths and deflect Infrared light to the edges of the glass for collection by PhotoVoltaic cells, therefore producing electricity, suppressing heat propagation and blocking unwanted UV and InfraRed radiations.
Currently, TropiGlas® EPower panels can generate up to 35 watts per meter squared, and it is believed that more than 50 Watts/m2 is achievable through ongoing R&D.
GT: How is tropiglas unique in its field?
VR: Tropiglas products can achieve the future goal of net zero energy-use buildings, using our advanced glazing systems and daylighting, featuring excellent thermal properties, solar control, power generation and dynamic control.
No other product allows 80% of all visible light through and blocks more than 90% of unwanted UV and IR radiations, and harvests them to produce electric energy.
GT: Tropiglas is based in Perth, Australia. Can you currently supply globally?
VR: Yes, Tropiglas can supply its product globally.
GT: What are the key environmental benefits of Low-e glazing?
VR: Tropiglas products enable the removal of the heating effects of solar radiation on the micro climate within a building by selectively reducing the amount of heat, infra-red and UV radiations entering the building without appreciably affecting the amount of visible useful light. The average city in the US has an average estimated 25 buildings in excess of 20 stories. For 100 cities, 900 MW-hours would be saved over 100 hot days. In Australia, buildings account for nearly a fifth of end use energy consumption, and are responsible for approximately 130 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions, representing 23% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Building energy consumption is also growing due to the population increases, increasing size of residential dwellings and rapid growth in the use of air-conditioning. Recently, the federal government has announced AUD 1 billion program for commercial building upgrades to improve energy efficiency commencing in 2011.
GT: How does the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) affect Tropiglas?
VR: Tropiglas actually is poised to benefit from the IGCC implementation. In fact, Tropiglas products are inherently designed to reduce the negative impacts of the built environment on the natural environment. The massive environmental benefits offered by Tropiglas products are not yet matched by any other counterparts.
GT: IBM recently conducted a survey that found the US could be doing much more to create ‘greener’ work environments – would your products be an easy way to start improving energy efficiency?
VR: Yes. Future Tropiglas products will comply with zero-energy-use buildings through reducing the lighting, cooling and heating related energy expenses.
GT: Tropiglas has recently been named as a finalist in the Australian Cleantech Competition 2012 – could you explain a little about this and what it means to the company?
VR: Being a finalist in the Australian Cleantech Competition 2012 will validate the relevance of Tropiglas technology in the BIPV market and grant us the funding to enter the market ahead of schedule.
GT: How will energy efficiency of buildings change in the future and how does Tropiglas hope to be a part of this?
VR: The construction / office building sector —comprising residential and commercial consumers — accounts for about one-fifth of the world’s total energy consumption. The energy efficiency of buildings is therefore of prime importance, and future building industry regulations will likely have strict energy-efficiency requirements imposed on the architectural design types and on materials to be used in construction. Since modern city buildings typically have small roof surface areas and large window areas, there are intrinsic limitations on the maximum possible power output that can be generated using conventional roof-mounted solar panels, yet a substantial additional power-generation potential can be enabled when using solar windows.
Tropiglas products offer new building-integrated PV systems capable of energy conservation simultaneous with energy harvesting will offer a pathway towards fossil-fuel-independent future in which we no longer need to sacrifice large land areas for large-scale renewable energy generation. Other targets include the auto vehicle ,Agriculture and specialty market sectors which although currently small are also experiencing consistent growth.