The folks at Michigan State University have developed the next level of solar power technology: a fully transparent solar concentrator. This new product means that any clear object, like a window, can be turned into an energy-creating device for the household, car or workplace. Until now, solar panels have been unattractive, obtrusive objects. This innovation makes solar technology more feasible and attractive for a range of uses.
The research team, led by Richard Lunt, argues that the technology could be useful in large and small formats, from “tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader.”
Transparent solar cells have been under development for a while, mostly unsuccessfully. The success of the newest device lies in its ability to layer a solar concentrator that harvests light for power, on top of a clear piece of glass, without obstructing the transparency of the glass itself. The perimeter of the cell contains small photovoltaic strips, making it a miniature solar panel – as one would see on top of a roof.
The new cells are currently only 1% efficient, which is unrealistic for sales or mass production. Researchers are predicting, however, that they will soon be able to reach an efficiency level of 5% or more. While these numbers might sound small, when spread across all the windows of a house or office building, these cells will have a massive impact.