See-through solar cells have been created which could turn windows into small-scale power plants.
Researchers at Michigan State University have developed thin, transparent, plastic-like material that can act as an energy-generating coating on windows, and provide additional power when coupled with a rooftop solar installation.
While the technology has existed in its early stages since 2015, it is only now developed enough for projects of scale.
The technology works by utilising organic molecules within the transparent film that absorb ultraviolet and infrared lightwaves – which are invisible to the human eye – and converts them into electricity by directing these lightwaves to small photovoltaic cells at the edge of the screen, while letting visible light through.
The film itself is less than one-thousandth of a millimetre thick.
Currently, the technology is recording energy efficiencies of more than 10 per cent, while traditional solar panels are between 15 and 18 per cent efficient.
“Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications,” Michigan State University professor of chemical engineering and materials science and developer, Richard Lunt, said.
“We analysed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles and mobile electronics.”
The technology can be used to improve existing solar panels efficiency levels by creating an additional layer of energy collection without interfering with conventional photovoltaic cell operation.
The application of the solar film exists for small-scale electronics, such as mobile phones, e-readers and wearables, and has been put forth as a way to extend battery life.
“That is what we are working towards,” Mr Lunt said.
“Traditional solar applications have been actively researched for over five decades, yet we have only been working on these highly transparent solar cells for about five years.
“Ultimately, this technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible.”
This was originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald.
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