A completely transparent solar panels, which can have numerous applications in architecture, and other fields like mobile electronics or automotive industry was developed by the researchers from Michigan State University.
There have tried before to create such a device, but the final results were never satisfying.
They developed a transparent luminescent solar concentrator, or TLSC, which can be placed over a clear surface like a window as they focused on the see-through factor.
It has the power to harvest solar energy without affecting the transmittance of light.
Organic molecules which absorb light wavelengths which are not visible to the human eye, such as infrared and ultraviolet light have been used for this technology.
According to Richard Lunt, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science at MSU’s College of Engineering:
“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. The captured light is transported to the contour of the panel, where it is converted to electricity with the help of thin strips of photovoltaic solar cells.”
These devices could make the most out of the buildings’ facades as the vertical footprint is bigger than the rooftop one, especially in glass towers. Even though they would not affect the architectural design they will represent a far more efficient technology. It can be also used for integration into old buildings.
According to the New York Times:
“If the cells can be made long-lasting, they could be integrated into windows relatively cheaply, as much of the cost of conventional photovoltaics is not from the solar cell itself, but the materials it is mounted on, like aluminum and glass. Coating existing structures with solar cells would eliminate some of this material cost.
If the transparent cells ultimately prove commercially viable, the power they generate could significantly offset the energy use of large buildings, said Dr. Lunt, who will begin teaching at Michigan State University this fall.
“We’re not saying we could power the whole building, but we are talking about a significant amount of energy, enough for things like lighting and powering everyday electronics.”
The Center for Excitonics, an Energy Frontier Research Center financed by the Department of Energy has been funded for further research.