Solar power could move from rooftops to pavements thanks to a team of scientists at a Scottish university.
Researchers have come up with a power-generating tile which can be used in almost any public walkway exposed to daylight, with the potential of revolutionising the renewable energy market in urban areas.
The device is due to be tested at the world’s biggest sporting event when the World Cup is hosted in the Gulf state of Qatar in 2022.
A team at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) led by Dr Azmy Gowaid developed the tiles, which are epoxy-based rather than glass, and are supported by a recycled plastic frame with an embedded concentrator lens and photovoltaic cells.
The concept was given life when organisers of the Qatar World Cup invited competitive pitches for innovative designs from around the world as they look to develier tournament powered by as much renewable energy as possible.
The subsequent pitch from Dr Gowaid and his team won them $100k funding from the organising committee to build a prototype, which will be developed further before use at the global football tournament.
The solar tiles are also equipped with an innovative cooling mechanism that allows the tiles to function in a hot climate. The surface temperature in Qatar can reach 80°C.
It is currently planned that a walkable area will be in place around one of the stadia currently under construction for the tournament. This will be used to test the concept in a real environment, collect operational data, and market the product during the World Cup.
Dr Gowaid said: “It is not a matter of choosing between traditional solar panels or walkable tiles, it is a matter of taking solar installations to a new territory that was not possible with traditional technology. This tile design can function effectively in hot climates and is both cost-efficient and eco-friendly.
“The spread of solar energy means roof space will be a diminishing resource. Meanwhile, cities are getting more dense as electricity demand rises.
“As the tiles are situated on the pavement, you can have the system feeding into street lighting or traffic systems.
“Should this prove successful, it is our dream that this product can eventually be installed at mass scale anywhere in the world – even in rainy old Glasgow. We want to see the tiles contribute to the energy supply mix of stadia, other sporting facilities and beyond to public squares, pavements, schools and university campuses.”
GCU will provide support to Dr Gowaid and his team throughout the research and development process. The five-member research team includes two students and a technical advisor from Alexandria University, Egypt, and a research engineer at Texas A&M University in Qatar.