How Cool is This? A Transparent Solar Cell

I’ve not been sharing enough of my “how cool is this?” moments, and believe me, I’ve had plenty of them in the digital and clean tech areas lately. I find this one very exciting: Michigan State researchers have developed a fully transparent solar cell that could be used for windows or device screens:

Instead of trying to create a transparent photovoltaic cell (which is nigh impossible), they use a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC). The TLSC consists of organic salts that absorb specific non-visible wavelengths of ultraviolet and infrared light, which they then luminesce (glow) as another wavelength of infrared light (also non-visible). This emitted infrared light is guided to the edge of plastic, where thin strips of conventional photovoltaic solar cell convert it into electricity. [Research paper: DOI: 10.1002/adom.201400103– “Near-Infrared Harvesting Transparent Luminescent Solar Concentrators”] …

So far, one of the larger barriers to large-scale adoption of solar power is the intrusive and ugly nature of solar panels — obviously, if we can produce large amounts of solar power from sheets of glass and plastic that look like normal sheets of glass and plastic, then that would be big.

The energy efficiency numbers are low, 1%, but they estimate they could go up to 5%. Figuring out how much cost this TLSC technology adds to large panes of glass and comparing that to alternative electricity prices is the next step in assessing its commercial viability. But the technology is seriously cool.


3 thoughts on “How Cool is This? A Transparent Solar Cell

  1. I repeat without demonstration that even if the solar cells were free and produced electricity at the quantum limits on efficiency. we could not afford solar power. Just remember that the sun sets every day.

  2. This is similar to Solar Roadways. It is a foolish effort to merge two disparate products (windows and solar panels) with disparate requirements. No one will ever use these in buildings. You would have to wire up every window to some power system. This technology is cool for a different reason: it wouldn’t be sensitive to direction. But if you read the paper, you will see that the scientists hope that some day it might get to 10% efficiency. Unless these are insanely cheap, they won’t even displace standard photovoltaic cells at that rate.

  3. Dear Mr. self-proclaimed Fat Man, I have an open mind but would like to see the demonstration (I will stipulate to the fact that the sun does set every day).

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