For most homeowners, installing rooftop PV panels is a nothing more than a cost-saving measure when it comes to generating electricity. Yet, the aesthetics of solar panels are still preventing many more from converting their homes to solar energy.
An engineering team at Michigan State University came up with an interesting alternative to the bulky and intrusive classic solar cells through a more visually appealing option: “see-through solar cells”.
Led by Richard Lunt, the group developed a transparent luminescent solar concentrator that creates solar energy without disrupting the view when placed on a window. This brand new system uses organic molecules to pick up ultraviolet and very close infrared wavelengths of sunlight.
They guide them to the edge of the surface they are on so as to be processed into electricity by thin strips of photovoltaic solar cells. Thanks to its plastic-like materials, it can be used on buildings, car windows, cell phones and any other devices with clear surfaces.
Additionally, by harvesting only invisible light, the devices can supply equal electrical power compared to rooftop solar panels whilst introducing additional functionality. Thus, the deployment of the technology will enable electric vehicles to convert sunlight into extra mileage and personal technology devices to extend battery life.
As a result of their study, the researchers identified the efficiency of the system and estimated that, if the see through paneling can be scaled up to cover 5 to 7 billion square meters of glass surfaces in the US, it could meet 40% of American energy needs.
Until now this new technology has reached one third of its overall potential: 5% efficiency versus 15-18% with traditional solar cells. The research team aims to upgrade all aspects of the technology, thus offering a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on both small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible.
This revolutionary system will enable any glass-like surface, traditionally used to perform basic functions, to generate electricity passively, hence providing new perspectives to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Islam, Consultant, Leyton France