Research

exploring potential

We are pushing the aesthetic versatility of energy generation technology and finding new ways to craft artworks. We have started with Silicon solar cells, but hope to work with a range of energy generation technologies over time.

It’s important for us to understand what happens when you work with the tech in this way. With support from Ian Hankey at the Fab Lab in Plymouth and Katie Shanks at the University of Exeter we have tested:

etching techniques and were surprised to discover that some processes actually increased the energy output of the cells by 5-7%. Apparently this is due to the increased surface area and the light slowing down. We are now working on how to use this in our designs.

cutting solar cells is a bit like cutting eggshell, so it was tricky to figure out how to do it. We went down a number of ineffective routes until we met Dave and Jo at LaserCutz who sourced a specialist laser cutter and we are now able to cut intricate shapes.

creating a mask on the back surface of the glass is one of the main differences to a standard solar panel that we introduced in our pieces. This allows us to hide some of the tabbing wires and opens up the possibility of hand made marks and spaces in between the cells.

 

re-imagining solar panels as art

You know what solar panels look like right?  Rows upon rows of inky rectangles in fields and on rooftops. At the start of 2018, we knew enough about solar photovoltaics to realise that it was possible for solar panels to look different.

  • Solar cells come in a multitude of colours.
  • These cells don’t have to be square and neither do the solar modules.
  • The silver lines on the surface of the cells don’t have to be grids
  • It’s possible to texture the glass on the surface
  • There are new solar technologies being developed all the time.

We saw that the aesthetic versatility of the tech could lend itself to making artworks.

Seeing energy generation technology as a medium for creativity may result in engaging aesthetic energy generation solutions for special places.

Considering what new thoughts are possible through the medium is also intriguing.

Wondering if the production of these artworks can bring about a new ‘energy lens’ or a way to understand and experience our integration in energy systems.

In exploring the materiality of silicon based solar panels, we are also exploring a somewhat existential question. What comes after the dark?

 

what next?

We have used our new found knowledge to make a number of solar panel artworks that we will be touring throughout the next year. 

We also plan to push the materials further, researching what might work aesthetically and efficiently. 

We are always on the look out for research partners.

we hope to…

  • Increase our understanding of how to use energy generation technology aesthetically
  • Teach people how to work with art and energy materials
  • Use our knowledge to produce artworks that produce green energy for special places