Solar Jam Workshop

WHERE: London, UK
WHEN: 1 September 2008
CLIENT: The ICA, London

How can we turn our kitchens, homes and cities into community labs of researchers and non-experts sharing knowledge and experience?

For the London Design Festival 2008 the public were invited to experiment with the energy potential of berries, onions and citrus leaves to make cutting edge solar cells, jam and patterned textiles.

Solar Jam is an ongoing exploration by the studio exploring energy, food and metabolism in design.

We use public workshops to encourage playful experimentation with scientific processes. Proposing we turn our kitchens, homes and cities into community labs of researchers exploring new ways to live in an ever more resource scarce world.

Our aim is to blur the distinctions between kitchens and laboratories and strengthen the connections between traditional crafts and current research practices. Substances have skilfully been extracted from plants for thousands of years for medicinal, nutritional and energy needs. It could be said that the very root of science can be found in these ancient craft traditions.

The project began in 2006 when Rachel Wingfield was invited by chemist Tony Ryan and artist Helen Storey to develop design concepts around more sustainable forms of energy. Through the project Nobel Textiles (2008) we worked with the Chemistry Department at Imperial College London to deliver workshops at the ICA, London and at several European Academic Institutes.

Homemade solar cells

Homemade solar cells

Scientific Background

The mechanism of dye-sensitized solar cells mimics the process of photosynthesis in green plants, using dye rather than chlorophyll to absorb energy from light (photons). This absorbed energy excite electrons; these electrons are moved around inside the chloroplasts found in plant cells and through many reactions, ATP and NADPH molecules are formed. Through additional reactions glucose and carbohydrates are produced. In photosynthesis, the resulting voltage is used to generate ATP and NADPH, instead of an electrical current in the solar cells.

* This workshop is based on an article from Smestad, G.P.: Gratzel, M. J. Chem. Educ. 1998, 75, 752-756.