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Solspaces project to test year-round solar heating system


December 3, 2013

The "Flying House" will be used to test a new solar thermal heating system as part of the Solspaces project

The "Flying House" will be used to test a new solar thermal heating system as part of the Solspaces project

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Researchers at the University of Stuttgart are preparing to test a solar heating system capable of long term storage as part of "Solspaces," a three-year project that kicked off in March 2012. The heating concept uses a solar thermal system in conjunction with a sorption tank for storing heat from solar collectors throughout the warmer months that can then be released when the mercury drops.

The Solspaces concept has the potential to reduce the required storage space for solar heating systems and address the issue of heat retention. It involves a thermochemical heat storage tank with three to four times the energy density of water and improved thermal insulation, enabling more compact storage with less susceptibility to heat loss than conventional solar thermal systems relying on water as the heat storage medium.

Integral to the process is the microporous mineral zeolite, which boasts high energy density, low drying temperature and the ability to uptake large amounts of water vapor. During winter, the zeolite acts as a sorbent, adsorbing humidity from the moist air flowing through the reservoir. The binding of the water vapor with the sorbent produces heat energy, which is used to heat the building.

In the summer months, the process is reversed with solar collectors heating the air flowing through the reservoir to 180° C (356° F). This desorbs the water molecules, allowing the sorbent to dry out and be ready to store heat once again. The team says this process has the potential to almost entirely eliminate heat loss as it doesn't require water in the tank to be maintained at a high temperature year-round.

The experiment will be conducted on a prefabricated compact house known as "Flying Spaces" that was provided by German company SchwörerHaus. The building comes in sizes of up to 48 sq m (516 ft sq) in size and was selected for the experiment due to its volume to surface ratio, which according to the research team, would make the findings of the project applicable to buildings of larger size.

The "Flying Spaces" buildings can be purchased with a conventional heating system, which the research team will initially study before installing the newly-developed solar thermal system so as to accurately determine its effectiveness compared to that of the traditional system.

“With the new research building at the University of Stuttgart we have the possibility of realizing a solar heating system with which the heat requirements of a building can be covered throughout the entire year”, said the Head of the Research and Test Centre for Solar Systems, Dr Harald Drück and Project Leader Dr Henner Kerskes.

Germany's Federal Ministry of Environment has provided the project with €650,000 (US$881,000) in funding, with its completion expected in February 2015.

Source: University of Stuttgart

About the Author
Nick Lavars Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches. All articles by Nick Lavars

With concentrated solar you could use caustic soda as the absorbent.


Really fantastic if they can make this work. So many countries/regions with great summer sun feel pretty cold in winter time.

Richard Guy

I like it. Please bring it to market in a way that will be both understood and approved by municipal planning desks. Nothing like trying to build a house that gets held up indefinitely by city planning dept.


That is really neat! I hope it works and that they bring it to the market. I am looking for some green energy efficient way for heating in Kamloops. It can get pretty cold here.

Brandie Black
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