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Passive (Energy Related) Product of the Year

Aerogel Solar Collector
Buro Happold and Brunel University in collaboration with Nuaire, Xtralite and Permarock Products

Aerogel Solar Collector_BPA 2013 Winner

The Aerogel Solar Collector is a flat-plate solar air heater incorporating translucent granular aerogel insulation in the cover, designed to improve the efficiency of heat recovery systems in Passivhaus refurbishments.

This prototype is the UK’s first solar air collector installation incorporating translucent granular aerogel insulation in the cover. Aerogel is a unique, nanoporous translucent insulation material with the best insulating properties of any solid. It effectively blocks heat transfer by convection, conduction and longwave thermal radiation. Meanwhile, it is highly transparent to light and short-wave solar radiation, making it an ideal material to incorporate into the cover of high-performance solar collectors. Compared to conventional single or double-glazed collectors, the heat losses through an aerogel cover will be significantly reduced, providing higher operational efficiencies, particularly at low ambient temperatures during the peak heating season.

This prototype was designed and installed as part of a collaborative effort. Detailed development was led by Dr Mark Dowson – an engineering doctorate researcher sponsored by Brunel University and Buro Happold – working with Nuaire Ltd, Permarock Products Ltd and Xtralite Ltd. The refurbishment team included Buro Happold, Fraser Brown Mackenna Architects, Martin-Arnold Associates, Gallions Housing Association and Axis Europe contractors. Monitoring equipment was installed by BSRIA and MD Electrical.

A full-scale prototype was successfully installed on a 1960s end-terrace house in south-east London as part of the Technology Strategy Board’s Retrofit for the Future competition. In situ testing has found that during cold, sunny conditions, peak outlet temperatures up to 45°C were observed, preheating the dwelling’s fresh air supply up to 30°C and facilitating internal temperatures of 21-22°C without auxiliary heating. The predicted financial and embodied CO2 payback for a range of cover thicknesses is seven to 13 years and zero to one years, respectively. Efficiency up to 60% and a financial payback period as low as 4.5 years is possible through an optimised design.

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