Solar power is widely considered to be the most promising form of alternative energy due in large part to the universal availability of its energy source, the sun. It’s for this reason that so many researchers are working to advance the technology, spawning a plethora of innovative developments for the technology. The latest such development is that of transparent solar panels that look and feel just like regular glass.
Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) have developed a new solar panels that perfectly resembles regular glass. The panels can be placed on top of a window to collect solar energy without obstructing the view that the window provides. Called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator, the panel uses organic molecules that are made to absorb wavelengths of light that aren’t visible to the human eye, such as ultraviolet and near infrared light. The material redirects the light to the edges of the panel where it is converted to electricity by strips of photovoltaic solar cells.
The panels are supposed to be extremely affordable due to the cheap materials that are used to produce them. The problem is that, since the panels are very limited in the types of light that they can harness for energy, they are pretty inefficient. According to MSU College of Engineering lead Richard Lunt, the panels can only capture somewhere around 1% of the light that passes through them, but he hopes that that number can be brought up to 5% once the technology has been fully optimized.
“It opens a lot of area to deploy solar energy in a non-intrusive way. It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader. Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there,” said Lunt.
Read more about the story at MSU Today.