Sunny memories

Solar is Red Hot. And Green and Pink and Clear and….

What can be transparent or colorful, absorb energy from the sun even in the shade, and takes inspiration from Nature’s photosynthesis? A novel solar breakthrough called dye-sensitized solar cells, of course, invented by Michael Graetzel at the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Switzerland.

The technology’s design potential is limitless. See for yourself at the exhibit, Sunny Memories, on display at the California College of the Arts Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, now through April 24th in San Francisco.

The exhibit is the culmination of a project initated by EPFL+ECAL Lab that put design students in charge of the next generation of solar goods. Based on the dye-sensitized solar cells, Sunny Memories challenged students at four leading schools, the University of Art and Design Lausanne (ECAL), California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco, the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle (ENSCI) in Paris to come up with products that could be made from the technology.

Their results are spectacular. Clothes that charge laptops, park benches that glow at night, Do Not Disturb signs that act as nightlights. See what two student participants from CCA had to say about their projects at a recent preview of the exhibit below.

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But dye-sensitized solar cells, which use dye to transfer the sun’s energy into electricity, aren’t only finding use in the imagination. Companies in Japan, the US, and Europe are commercializing the technology to make backpacks that charge mobile devices, solar panels that decorate and provide energy for buildings at the same time, even sunglasses that charge an iPod as you walk around wearing them. Read more about some of these companies and the Sunny Memories exhibit in a recent San Francisco Chronicle article here.

Don’t miss the Wednesday, April 21st program at swissnex San Francisco on the science behind the exhibit, with leaders in the solar energy field from industry and academia. And join us for a public reception at CCA on Thursday, April 22nd celebrating Sunny Memories and its participants.