Brunel develops Lego-style solar panels

Photovoltaic cells combined with flat heat pipes to transfer unwanted heat away from surfaces and re-use it

Solar panels that click together ‘like Lego’ are being developed at London’s Brunel University as part of £10m sustainable energy scheme.

Funded by Horizon 2020, the project aims to perfect a flexible, solar-powered renewable energy system that generates heat from hot water and electricity.

The ‘PVadapt’ hybrid panels combine photovoltaic (PV) cells with flat heat pipes, which transfer unwanted heat away from surfaces. PVadapt aims to use the heat pipes to cool the PV cells to make them more efficient and longer lasting – with the removed heat being reused.

‘There is no waste heat with our system,’ said technical coordinator Professor Hussam Jouhara. ‘The approach focuses on low-cost, high-efficiency and modular prefabricated, Lego-type construction elements for near-zero-energy buildings.’

PVadapt is a team effort involving 18 organisations from 11 countries. Click-in-place hybrid solar roof panels are to be installed into eight buildings – including homes, offices and shops – in Spain, Greece, Austria and Portugal.