UNH Developing Groundbreaking Solar Technology
UNH Developing Groundbreaking Solar Technology

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs Writer

Where there is a large roof and sunlight, there is the potential for a next generation skylight, one that can illuminate a building, generate electricity and produce hot water – all while drastically cutting energy costs. 

UNH students have developed such a prototype. The groundbreaking solar technology, which they’ve named TriSol, generates three useful energy streams in one device. 

(L-R) Ravi Gorthala and Shu Kai Chang

Undergraduate students first developed TriSol in the Solar Testing and Training Laboratory in the Tagliatela College of Engineering under the direction of Ravi Gorthala, associate professor of mechanical engineering. Tristan Cowan ’13 and Kevin Jalbert ’13 designed, built and tested a TriSol prototype as part of their senior capstone project.

Development of the prototype was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund. The University has filed for intellectual property protection and is hoping to advance the technology and commercialize it rapidly, Gorthala said.

Gorthala can envision the TriSol skylights on the sprawling and expansive roofs of commercial properties, warehouses and shopping malls, as well as on apartment complexes and smaller buildings, infusing the buildings with light and cutting energy costs.

By combining three features into one product, the manufacturing and installation costs are greatly reduced, Gorthala said. “That makes this technology very attractive,” he added. “There is no such product on the market now.”

The goal of the project was to research and develop a novel, cost-effective building-integrated photovoltaic specifically for next-generation skylight technology. Daylight would stream in through the skylight and that sunlight would be put to use, generating electricity and producing hot water.

Since its initial design, graduate students have also collaborated on the project. This semester, Shu Kai Chang, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, is developing a TriSol thermal modeling. Chang said he spends at least 25 hours a week on the project, developing computer models that would allow for changes in size and scope. “The work is very complex and very interesting,” he said. 

“As a leader in experiential education, we want our undergraduates and our graduate students to be innovators and inventors,” Gorthala said. “This project takes persistence, hard work and teamwork, the qualities employers seek in their employees.”

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