Anew two-in-one solar panel and bat- tery uses living cyanobacteria and circuitry printed onto paper in an affordable
process discovered by researchers from
Imperial College London, the University of
Cambridge and Central Saint Martins.
Using an off-the-shelf inkjet printer, the
team printed electrically conductive carbon nanotubes onto a piece of paper, then
printed cyanobacteria (photosynthetic
microorganisms that can produce small
PAPER-PRINTED PV PANELS RELY
ON OFF-THE-SHELF TECHNOLOGY
Are you getting the most out of your smart building technologies? Using
sophisticated tools to control and optimize
building systems can unearth savings from
a variety of sources, like dialing back HVAC,
lighting and plug loads in vacant spaces or
shutting off non-essential equipment after
But not all buildings are extracting the
maximum benefit from these technologies.
A recent report by the American Council for
an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) investigates how four commercial sectors (office,
retail, hospitality and health care) stand to
benefit the most from adopting more smart
Office buildings could attain a savings
of roughly 18% on whole-building energy
consumption just from installing smart technologies, the report posits. Because more
employees are working remotely, office
space is often partially occupied, so reducing HVAC and lighting in unoccupied workspaces and conference rooms can deliver
Reducing plug loads can also save a substantial amount of energy. Offices stand to
benefit the most from installing advanced
power strips to control plug loads, as well as
smart thermostats, advanced rooftop controls and energy management systems.
Customers rate lighting and temperature
as important factors that affect their experience, so brick-and-mortar retail establishments would do well to invest in smart thermostats (which are generally low in cost)
and smart lighting systems. Both can also
deliver impressive energy savings – in fact,
the average store can save 14% of its annual
energy consumption by installing smart
Occupancy sensing technologies can
deliver value beyond optimizing lighting and
HVAC; they can also track where customers
move in the store to aid analysis of shopping behavior.
The average hotel stands to save about
8% on its consumption, mostly from reduc-
ing HVAC in vacant rooms. Tie lighting and
room conditioning to check-in to automate
part of this process.
Energy management and information
systems will deliver the highest savings for
hotels, according to the report.
Hospitals are one of the most energy-intensive building types, but smart technology can help trim energy consumption
without negatively affecting patient health,
the report notes.
The average hospital could save 14% of
its annual energy use with some strategic
efficiency investments, with optimized
HVAC controls and operations representing
the biggest opportunity. Water heating and
lighting also offer important opportunities
Ready to get the ball rolling on a smart
technology retrofit? See detailed recommendations for all four building types in the
full report, Smarter Buildings: A Deeper Dive
into Market Segments, at www.aceee.org.
amounts of electricity) onto the nano-
tubes. The technology, broadly referred
to as microbial biophotovoltaics (BPV),
uses cyanobacteria and other algae that
convert light into electrical currents with
water as a source of electrons.
Previous BPV projects were expensive
to develop, delivered a low power output
and didn’t last long, but the paper printing
process suggests an easier, more affordable way to scale up the technology for
potential commercial use.
“Paper-based BPVs are not meant to
replace conventional solar cell technology for large-scale power production, but
instead could be used to construct power
supplies that are both disposable and biodegradable,” explains Dr. Andrea Fantuzzi,
a co-author of the study from Imperial
College London. “Their low power output
means they are more suited to devices
and applications that require a small and
finite amount of energy, such as environmental sensing and biosensors.” B
SOLAR PANELS AND BATTERIES printed
onto paper using an off-the-shelf inkjet
printer suggest an easier, more affordable way to build biodegradable, small-scale power supplies.