Pane relief on its way with transparent solar cell technology

stacked uPVC windows

Is this what solar panel warehouses will look like in the future?

Completely transparent windows that generate solar power have been a goal for researchers for many decades. Previous attempts at transparent solar cell technology have achieved only partial success with the windows left with a decided tinted effect and the resulting office/room space.

This is not the ideal working conditions for offices, unless of course you work in a discotheque!

However now a team of researchers at Michigan State University have resolved that problem by unveiling their unique transparent solar cell technology, which creates energy from the sun when placed over a window or glass surface.

As Richard Lunt, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science at MSU explains, the object was to create a solar concentrator that allowed windows to be truly transparent.

“No one wants to sit behind coloured glass,” said Lunt, “It makes for a very colourful environment, like working in a disco. We take an approach where we actually make the luminescent active layer itself transparent.”

The potential for this new solar generator is immense as it creates the opportunity for whole buildings — even whole towns and cities — to generate their own solar power through their window space. Called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC), the team use small organic molecules developed by Lunt and his team to absorb specific non-visible wavelengths of sunlight, according to a MSU press release.

The infrared light is “guided” to the edge of the material where it is converted to electricity via thin strips of photovoltaic solar cells.

As Lunt explains: “We can tune these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near infrared wavelengths that then ‘glow’ at another wavelength in the infrared.”

“Because the materials do not absorb or emit light in the visible spectrum, they look exceptionally transparent to the human eye,” he adds.

While the expected efficiency level of around five to seven percent is low compared to current PV technology, this must be balanced by the fact that the solar concentrator can harness vast areas of factories, high rise buildings and ordinary houses into solar energy generators while allowing the people to see clear light.

The MSU researchers see a bright future for transparent solar cell technology not just in windows and other clear surfaces but also powering handheld devices such as phones and gadgets. Indeed the TLSC is at the vanguard of a new form of solar harvesting, producing solar energy from surfaces “…that you do not even know are there,” said Lunt.

Would you consider putting transparent solar cell technology on your windows?

Comments

  1. This is such an amazing innovation, easily the greatest invention of the century, I would have this technology in a heartbeat! Such potential, when you think of all those glass skyscrapers….
    They could generate masses of power with all that surface area!! I am off-grid with just 10 panels and when the sun is out I can easily run anything and everything there is just so much power coming in. Imagine what one tall city building could produce.

    • Exactly Simon,

      The future for this type of technology is pretty much unlimited. Interesting too about the developers talking about moving “beyond” windows to almost any clear surface.

      The mind boggles.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Rich

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