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Researchers at MIT have created designs for flexible photovoltaic materials, known as solar textiles, that can also be draped as curtains, which may change the way buildings receive and distribute energy.
According to a report in Science Daily, these new materials work like the now-familiar photovoltaic cells in solar panels. Made of semiconductor materials, they absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity.
To design the solar textiles, Sheila Kennedy, an expert in the integration of solar cell technology in architecture, from MIT, used a 3-D modeling software. This software generated membrane-like surfaces that can become energy-efficient cladding for roofs or walls.
'Surfaces that define space can also be producers of energy,' said Kennedy. 'The boundaries between traditional walls and utilities are shifting,' he added.
A recent project, 'Soft House,' exhibited at the Vitra Design Museum in Essen, Germany, illustrates what Kennedy means when she says the boundaries between walls and utilities are changing.
For Soft House, Kennedy transformed household curtains into mobile, flexible energy-harvesting surfaces with integrated solid-state lighting.
Soft House curtains move to follow the sun and can generate up to 16,000 watt-hours of electricity - more than half the daily power needs of an average American household.