The world's first clear solar glass greenhouse has been opened at Murdoch University's new grains research precinct in Perth.
The glasshouse was built by Perth high-tech building materials company ClearVue Technologies using three different versions of its transparent solar photovoltaic glazing panels.
The ClearVue technology turns windows into a generator of renewable energy.
The facility will be used by Murdoch University geneticist Professor Chengdao Li and his team to develop new plant breeding technologies and use them to develop commercial crop varieties.
Murdoch University Vice Chancellor Professor Eeva Leinonen said the ClearVue greenhouse project was a number of years in the making but represented what universities and industry could achieve when they worked together.
"Murdoch's research strategy is focused on food, health and the environment and the interconnections between each," Professor Leinonen said.
"I am delighted ClearVue has become an important new collaborator as we seek answers to wicked global problems - increased food demand, environmental sustainability and food safety."
Constructed using a $1.6 million grant from the federal government's AusIndustry Co-operative Research Centre Projects program, the greenhouse uses clear solar glass that not only lets natural sunlight through but also generates power using the unwanted UV and IR light wavelengths and converts these to power from photovoltaics at the perimeter of the window.
The ClearVue greenhouse has a range of sensors that record and present data in real time providing scientists with accurate information relating to conditions like temperature, humidity and the amount of light that plants are receiving.
This information is used to make automatic adjustments to air conditioning, lighting, fans, louvres, blinds and reticulation systems which in turn allows scientists to maintain a constant micro-climate (23 to 26 degrees C) that provides optimum growing conditions - all while being powered by the energy generated by the ClearVue glass.
ClearVue Technologies executive chairman and founder Victor Rosenberg said ClearVue was also looking to expands into Japan, the US and Europe.
He hoped to develop a carbon sink which would capture all the carbon produced by the various equipment in the greenhouse and turn it into food-grade carbon dioxide which could be fed to the plants to boost growth.
"Estimates indicate the world's arable land has reduced by one third in the past 40 years," Mr Rosenberg said.
"By 2050, two thirds of the world's population is predicted to be urbanised, which will further impact the availability of land for agricultural production."
He said the ability to control the microclimate within the ClearVue greenhouse created an optimum growing environment to achieve higher yields.
Leafy plants required protection from harmful UV rays in the same way humans need to protect their skin, he said.
Plants did this naturally by producing a waxy substance that shielded them from harmful UV rays.
Mr Rosenberg said ClearVue glass blocked these UV rays so the energy required by plants to create the protective layer on leafy vegetables can be redirected to growing more produce.
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