Doubling Up Windows and Mobiles as Solar Cells

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A recent research led by Michigan State University, USA, has produced a transparent luminescent solar cell, which can be designed to absorb specific non-visible wavelengths of sunlight. According to this research, in theory, these transparent solar cells can be used on windows of buildings, on cell phones and on any devices that has a clear surface. The transparent solar panels could revolutionize the cities in future as every glass surface might produce solar power. The sci-fi like scenario was earlier introduced by German solar company ‘Heliatek’ (in March 2014). The company unveiled a 40 transparent solar cell that could generate energy from windows, glass car roofs and facades.

The research team, led by Michigan University’s Richard Lunt took this further by cleverly making a system that absorb very specific non-visible wavelengths of sun, like Ultraviolet and Infra-red. The glowing infrared light is then directed towards the edge of surface where it is converted into electricity by thin strips of photovoltaic solar cells. Lunt said in a statement that “Since the materials do not absorb or emit light in the visible spectrum, they look exceptionally transparent to the human eye.”

Mr. Richard Lunt

Mr. Richard Lunt

A transparent solar cell could be positioned throughout the urban areas in a non-intrusive way. Lunt also talked about using it on high quality mobile phones or e-reader. The researchers’ eventual aim is to make solar energy harvesting surfaces that we don’t know are there. The research in transparent solar technologies is ongoing in Oxford University too, where they are developing a product that could be used in any windows.

A research team in University of California developed a transparent that can be affixed to car roofs and windows. California research team added a layer of silica glass and placed it over the top of silicon solar cells to bring down the operating temperatures of the cell. By making the solar cells to stay cool, the conversion process of solar rays to energy occurs more efficiently. Earlier, this year, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University introduced solar cell material that replicates a touch-screen. The integration of solar cells into electronic devices led to these recent Michigan researches, which are more fine-tuned.

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As of now, the downside to these transparent solar cells is that its efficiency. Currently, these cells are converting at the rate of 1 percent, compared to 7 percent for the existing optimized solar cells. Lunt’s research team is trying to stretch it beyond 5 percent. It isn’t the most powerful way of collecting energy when compared with other sources, but the transparent solar cells’ omnipresent nature is better than existing solar cells. The glass solar cells can run off to become a secondary electricity source. These developments could revolutionize solar energy sector in the next decade, and also gives us a peek into the promising future.

 

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