Solar Energy Harvesting Shingles Developed at the University of Delaware

Achievement date: 
2016
Outcome/accomplishment: 

Bob Opila, a faculty member at the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) at the University of Delaware (UD), partnered with Faculty Advisor, Liyun Wang of the UD Mechanical Engineering department, to lead five mechanical engineering seniors—known as Team 109—in designing and prototyping solar energy harvesting shingles.

Impact/benefits: 

Building-integrated photovoltaics have good potential to transform the renewable energy market. Aesthetically pleasing solar panels in the form of solar shingles could play a significant role in the residential solar space. The early prototype solar harvesting shingles developed at UD are compatible with traditional shingles in terms of manufacturing, installation, tooling, and handling. The final product envisioned is expected to encourage easy home integration of renewable energy technologies.

Explanation/Background: 

The solar energy harvesting shingles project was co-sponsored by Bob Opila and QESST. Dr. Opila and QESST scholars Abhishek Iyer and Jimmy Hack participated in the NSF I-Corps Sites program with the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship at UD, where they began exploring the potential for building-integrated photovoltaics. Wang’s students, Andrew Koster, Colleen Gegeckas, Kangning Guo, Kenneth Eland and Jessica Booth, then joined on for the solar shingle design effort, choosing to pursue it over twenty other projects for their senior design course.

The project with the senior design students aimed at creating a product that would not only power residences like solar panels do, but also protect the home like traditional shingles. The shingle should be durable in accordance with roofing standards. Working with Dr. Opila, Team 109 conducted engineering analysis, calculated static loading, thermal simulation, and heat transfer for reliability. The finalized concept was a solar shingle design of layered Phenol Formaldehyde (PF) shingle housing for support, an aluminum fin for heat transfer, and tedlar backing for weatherproofing. Team 109 then developed a prototype with a 2u4 solar cell array (polycrystalline solar cells) to use for further customer discovery and in approaching venture capitalists. Extensive early testing resulted in the prototype shingles passing most key metrics. However, the team plans to conduct further ventilation testing for outdoor use during summer while refining the connection between the shingle units. These efforts focus on continuing to understand the market for solar shingles.