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Sustainable greenhouse energy breakthrough for researchers | Matthew Stone

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LONDON, UK – Via Matthew Stone, Chairman of NextGen Nano

Researchers at the North Carolina State University working alongside NextGen Nano, an organic photovoltaic cell (OPV) company, have shown that adding semi-transparent organic solar cells (OSCs) to greenhouses generates electricity and allows growers to simultaneously cultivate lettuce. This breakthrough green technology helps reduce greenhouse energy demands and lays the groundwork for sustainable greenhouse cultivation.

Cell Reports Physical Science published the research and found that red lettuce can be grown in greenhouses with OSCs that filter out the wavelengths of light used to generate solar power. This demonstrates the possibilities of using transparent solar panels in greenhouses to fulfil electricity demands without reducing the crop yield.

Four lettuce groups were grown under contrasting light colour compositions over thirty days using OSC filters. The research included a control group exposed to a full spectrum of white light. There was no significant difference found in fresh-weight or chlorophyll content between the control group and the experimental groups. This suggests that removing the selective portions of the light spectrum needed to generate electricity didn’t affect crop growth. The wavelengths stored from this process can then power the energy-intensive lighting, irrigation systems and thermal management required to run greenhouses.

Doctor Carr Ho, a research scientist at NextGen Nano, explains, “Greenhouses are used to grow plants because they drastically increase yield in non-native climates while lowering water consumption and pesticide use compared to conventional farming.”

“But greenhouse glazing has poor thermal insulation, so heating and ventilation systems need to be installed to help maintain optimal conditions. Along with supplemental lighting, this leads to large, unsustainable energy consumptions.”

“With this research, scientists at NCSU have found a way for greenhouse cultivation without the large energy demands traditionally associated with it,” continued Ho. “By using OSCs with the right optical coatings and design features, growers can manage the light transmission, power generation and thermal loads in a greenhouse for high-productivity at low-energy usages.”

Using DBR coatings provides an opportunity to increase power generation whilst also reducing overheating in greenhouses. The research in Sacramento, California, shows that greenhouse overheating can be reduced from 280 to just 82 h when implementing the OSCs with a DBR tuned to reflect NIR light. This result is expected to help improve crop demand without having a significant impact on energy demand.

Photo by Palu Malerba from Pexels

The OSC electrodes can also function as low-ε coatings have been shown to reduce the heating load of the greenhouse significantly. Combining the power generation, minimal impact observed on plant productivity and improved thermal management with ST-OSC suggests that integrating OSCs with greenhouses is a promising strategy to achieve environmentally sustainable high-intensity greenhouse-based agriculture.

“Further research is needed to develop OSCs capable of increasing production yield in greenhouses. But the research supported by NextGen Nano certainly suggests that integrating OSCs into greenhouse cultivation is a promising strategy to achieve sustainable, high-intensity greenhouse-based agriculture.”

NextGen Nano has developed a patented OPV device that can be used in the next generation of solar power and proves the support for this research. The green technology is made from robust yet flexible environmentally friendly biopolymers and aims to replace the traditional brittle solar cells made from toxin-heavy metals, such as lead perovskites.

View the full research paper on the Cell Reports website. Visit their website for more information on NextGen Nano’s green tech developments http://nextgen-nano.co.uk/

About NextGen Nano and Matthew Stone

NextGen Nano have developed breakthrough nanotechnology under the Chairmanship of Matthew Stone. This innovative tech can be applied to all kinds of flexible surfaces and as a result create affordable, durable energy production, with many real-world applications.

Matthew Stone is a major investor in clean technology and has worked with numerous companies within the clean energy sector. His previous clients have included some of the biggest corporate entities throughout the US, French, Asian and Indian exchanges as well as government agencies in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the US. He is currently the Chairman of NextGen Nano, a nanotechnology company who intend on revolutionising the energy sector.