Michigan State University researchers have created a solar panel that resembles a typical piece of glass, which can be placed on top of a window to collect solar energy. Clean solar power may be the future of energy. Transparent solar panels that seem just like normal glass may make that future real.
Called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator, the panel uses organic molecules made to absorb invisible wavelengths of light, such as ultraviolet and near infrared light. The material moves this unseen light to the edges of the panel, where strips of photovoltaic solar cells pick it up and convert it to electricity.
There have been past attempts at similar tech, but the results that have been produced were not transparent enough or were tinted. Such colorless transparency would allow these solar panels to have a wide variety of uses.
There are residential and commercial uses of windows using this technology, or gadgets like mobile phones and tablets with these solar cells embedded in the glass, or electronic signs that charge themselves, or even in cars or other vehicles with such windows.
The current version of the transparent solar cells is about one percent efficient, but the research team aims to increase that beyond five percent. Colored luminescent solar concentrators can get efficiency up to seven percent. Opaque solar cells can have an efficiency of 15% or more.