Flexible Solar Strips Light Up Campus Bus Shelter
June 11, 2009
There won’t be anymore waiting in the dark at this campus bus
shelter. New flexible solar cell technology developed by a group
of engineering researchers at McMaster University has been installed
to power lighting for night-time transit users.
The researchers are also hoping that the prototype will help boost efforts
to commercialize the new technology. The bus shelter is located
on the west side of University Avenue between the John Hodgins Engineering
Building and the Life Sciences Building.
“Our goal is to provide a clean, affordable power source for bus
shelters that will let transit companies run Internet-based scheduling
updates,” said Adrian Kitai, a professor of engineering physics
at McMaster who guided the project. “The solar technology
can also be used to light up bus shelter signage and provide lighting
for general safety.”
The flexible solar cell project started as a master’s thesis for
Wei Zhang, who subsequently worked as an engineer in the Department of
Engineering Physics. Julia Zhu, a research technician in the department,
and Jesika Briones, a master’s of engineering entrepreneurship
and innovation graduate, also helped develop the initiative.
The ability to bend the solar cells to fit the curved roof of the bus
shelter is one of the main features of the technology. The flexibility
is achieved by tiling a large number of small silicon elements into an
array, mounting them onto a flexible sheet, and connecting them through
a proprietary method. The two solar strips installed on the McMaster
bus shelter are about 90 centimeters long and 12 centimeters wide. Each
strip has 720 one-centimetre square solar cells and generates up to 4.5
Watts of power.
With the help of Facility Services at McMaster, a solar strip was mounted
at each end of the bus shelter roof and connected to two energy-efficient,
multi-LED, light fixtures. Each light fixture uses only 600 milliwatts
of power and produces about the same light output as a three watt regular
tungsten bulb or what a small night light would use. The lights
are bright enough for easy reading.
From left: Julia Zhu, Adrian Kitai and Wei
Zhang developed flexible solar strips that are being used to
power lighting for a bus shelter on the McMaster campus.
The solar cells capture sunlight during the day and convert it to electricity
to recharge batteries located in each lighting unit. The batteries
can hold enough charge to light the shelter for the better part of a night.
The solar cell research team is monitoring the installation to determine
how much solar power is required to fully recharge the batteries based
on weather conditions. Winter months will be a particular focus as
shorter and overcast days, snow and cold can affect the charging ability
of the solar cells and batteries.
Funding for the initiative was provided through an NSERC strategic grant
and an NSERC I2I grant.
The team is interested in hearing from transit riders about their experience
with the lit bus shelters, and any suggestions they may have. They
can email: email@example.com.
Photos of the solar bus shelter can be found