3M unveils new solar technology in Japan7th Oct 2011
New solar technology from 3M could see ordinary household windows turned into giant solar panels by as early as next year, some technology reporters are predicting.
The firm has debuted a new see-through film made from organic photovoltaic material and printed in sheets at the Ceatec electronics conference in Japan this week.
While the new product - which still allows for high visibility through windows - only generates approximately 20 per cent of the energy created by traditional silicon solar panels, it is likely to be considerably easier and cheaper to install.
3M construction markets division senior manager Yasuhiro Aoyagi said that the new technology makes renewable energy generation accessible to everyone, IDG News Service reports.
He said: "An average person could go to the store, buy some of this, and then bring it home and install it themselves."
While it is less efficient than traditional solar panels, another advantage is that as the film can be attached to existing windows, it takes up no additional space in a house or workplace.
As 3M's technology tends to focus on easy-to-fit adhesives, it is likely to appeal to an energy-conscious household or business that may not have the budget to make a full-scale solar photovoltaic installation.
One square metre of the new solar film can generate enough energy in peak sunlight to charge an Apple iPhone, 3M claims. Aoyagi estimated that in ideal conditions, the material can generate approximately five volts at seven watts.
Furthermore, the film acts as a sun shade for windows - blocking or absorbing more than 90 per cent of infrared light and 80 per cent of visible light.
3M is expected to market their innovative new panels to government and corporate buildings, with production to escalate when it becomes available for general use.
Aoyagi remarked that the price of the solar energy film - which has not yet been revealed - is likely to decrease as production ramps up.
3M already manufactures a Scotchtint Sun Control Film, which helps to reduce solar heat and is commonly fitted behind tinted or clear glass.
The new energy-generating technology also has the added benefit of keeping rooms cool and shady - with demonstrations at Ceatec showing a distinct difference between the temperature on the outside and inside of a window.
Posted by Mike Peacock: Solar Correspondent