Digital Garden

Component based origami solar panel, diverts direct and indirect light incident to the users façade, deeper into their apartment. Light reflects within the screen, generating electricity via multiple bounces between the geometry and integrated solar panels.

54% of the worlds population lives in urban areas. This number is increasing. With this trend, is also multi-unit apartment buildings, and decreasing home ownership.
How then, can the majority of the worlds population help solve the problem of global warming, particularly the energy crisis?

We developed the Digital Garden, window based, impermanent solar panel screen to tackle this challenge.
In an apartment, window area and light is a number 1 priority. So unlike existing early phase products, we want to provide something that not only generates electricity, but increases internal illumination, and promotes positive living conditions.

The design is based on two tenants:

1. Todays most efficient solar panels reflect 66% of light that reaches them, they cannot absorb more. This allows us to bounce the lost light multiple more times between solar panels. 66% → 44% → 33% etc.

2. The geometry of a standard light-reflecting louver, common to office spaces, can be adapted into a three dimensional, component based form to reflect light in all dimensions within the panel.

Combining these two tenants, sees the development of a flat printable geometry, that is folded into three dimensions. It collects light based on the natural, and human intervened patterns of urban light, a single touch is all that is needed to concertina the screen, to change the angle of light it receives, and also emits.
The screen is half open - where the light channels through, bouncing between the panels, and half closed, housing the backside of the panels and cable management.

Currently it uses thin film DSSC.

The initial idea was nothing like the project currently. 

Based on research to turn the city and its people from consumers to producers, we were using hair waste generated by barber shops, extracting the melanin, and using it to replace the expensive and toxic element in DSSC, the dye itself. This worked, however the focus of the project shifted to how we could develop a more effective solar geometry, that would exist in a users apartment window, and be adaptable by them, thereby personalising their private space, on exhibition to the public. Much in the way hair is an expression of self.

Solar panels are expensive, and largely, individuals don't feel they are to blame for the energy crisis. Therefore we knew we had to make it more attractive, a piece of art that effects them more than purely the energy it produces. The project has been called the fashioning of energy production. Personalised energy.
This niche has positively been discussed with Japans largest solar distributor.

Geometrical development started with a large (800%) screen in 2015, to today where we have optimised the geometry to only 50mm deep, like a window blind. This small size of geometry is still being developed to perfect its operability.
Solar tests at the large scale are yet to be scaled down.

The Digital Garden not only allows multiple bounces of light between solar panels, placed in a collapsible light tunnel, to increase efficiency, but also helps redirect light falling onto the front of the facade, further inside the apartment.

Therefore increased illumination of interior, is coupled with increased energy generation. For the first time, positive internal living conditions, are the result of positive environmental benefit, as apposed to negative.

We see two major avenues for our development:

1. Geometry. With the correct size panel now produced (50mm deep), we are looking to optimise the joints and production quality using proper die cast molds to help fold the origami. We are looking to make the process increasingly automated, as producing the screens up until now has been labor intensive.

2. Solar. For this we have created DSSC panels from scratch. And experimented with pre bought panels for reflection studies. We're looking to partner with a company that can make custom cells in the shape we require.
Ideally in the future we print the cells ourself, and fold into shape.

2017

Research

2nd Place in James Dyson Innovation Awards