A researcher’s experience of Ecobuild 2017

We were invited by the EPSRC-funded ARCC knowledge exchange network to exhibit work from our lab in their future materials and processes feature at Ecobuild 2017, held at the Excel in London from 7 to 9 March. While we had never been involved with trade shows and exhibitions in the past, we thought this would be a great opportunity to expose our research to a type of audience very different from the academics that we typically reach out to through scientific conferences and journal publications.

Our exhibition

Our stand was based in the low carbon theme and we managed to squeeze in three of our technologies:

  1. Luminescent Solar Concentrators are an example of the emerging next generation of building integrated photovoltaics, designed to absorb both specular and diffuse incident light, and guide it to the edges, where discrete solar panels can be attached to generate electricity. This removes the need for solar tracing technologies – which help orientate panels towards the sun as it moves – required in conventional concentrated photovoltaics.
  1. Thermochromic materials with the ability to respond to the ambient temperature and modulate the amount of infrared radiation that enters a window. These temperature responsive, “smart” windows can significantly reduce the need for air-conditioning, especially in countries with temperate climates.
  1. Low surface energy materials that repel water and are also antireflective. We demonstrated 6 inch, Si-wafers (the workhorse material in solar cell applications) that self-clean and are also black with their reflectivity suppressed to <2%.

In addition, we presented a paint-based technology that can convert almost any surface – even fabrics and paper – into superhydrophobic. This latter technology was developed in Professor Ivan Parkin’s group in the UCL Department of Chemistry.

BRE Academy talks

We gave two seminars at the BRE academy talks. On Tuesday, Mark Portnoi, a PhD student in the photonic innovations lab, presented our latest developments on luminescent solar concentrators. I gave a talk on “smart” thermochromic windows and self-cleaning surfaces on Wednesday.

Both of these talks were very well attended and it was good to see that they were received positively by the public. Most of the questions were around the sustainability of the materials used, the cost and payback time of our technology, and the lifetime if these products were introduced into the market. These are very useful questions that we scientists do not necessarily think of when we initially embark on a research project, but ultimately we need to have reliable answers to.

Overall assessment

The event was very well organised and the help of ARCC, and particularly of Briony Turner and Tanya Wilkins, was exceptional. Days were intense and long but we all came together as a group and managed to put together a very strong stand. We interacted with a variety of people from architects to property developers and from policy makers to fellow academics, which is only possible at an event of the scale and prestige of Ecobuild. The BRE academy talks and in general the many seminars that were concurrently organised all around the exhibition were very informative and educational.

I would definitely recommend to everyone to attend in the future.

Ioannis – future materials at Ecobuild 2017

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