21 July 2012

"Highly transparent" solar cells

UCLA researchers have developed a new transparent solar cell that is an advance toward giving windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still allowing people to see outside. Their study appears in the journal ACS Nano.
The UCLA team describes a new kind of polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70% transparent to the human eye. They made the device from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into an electrical current.
"These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications..."
Very cool.  It's developments like this - not more drilling - that can most effectively and permanently decrease dependence on foreign oil.

More at the UCLA Newsroom and the Reddit discussion.


  1. I want that for my car. I'd be happy with just the IR-filtering part, but if it can charge the battery or even charge it enough to run the A/C or heater (depending on season) for just before when I want to use the car...

  2. Sounds good, but I can't help thinking that that infrared would normally be warming the room as well. I do hope they only use this on spaces that are way too hot already ; ).

  3. Could just be the first layer of an acrylic/glass/argon/glass sandwich. If it produced enough electricity to charge the batteries to power smart glass (www.smartglass-systems.com/) I'd be sign up to be a salesmen for that product today!.

  4. Hmm.. doesn't infrared energy only comprise something like 39% of all solar energy? So even if your solar cell in the IR was 100% efficient in capturing all the infrared energy, it would at most be only 39% efficient in capturing the energy of sunlight? (You can buy solar cells today that are over 40% efficient) Most solar energy is in the visible frequencies -- that's why our eyes evolved to take advantage of where most of the solar energy is.

    The key in this is that its designed for transparent options, such as building-integrated solar systems (BISS, or BIPV for BI Photo Voltaic ). If this technology is proven out to work, you can coat the windows on a building so that you block the IR radiation that contributes most to heating (reducing the summer time cooling bills), and turn a percentage of that into energy that can be used by the building. BIPV systems have been proposed for some years -- ranging from flexible PV arrays used as curtains inside of windows to glass treatments of a variety of sources to turn the windows into photovolatic systems. However, none of these systems have proven economic. They cost much much more in energy to produce than to built, and cost much more to install and maintain on a building than the value of the energy they produce. Hopefully new technology like this can offer a solution.

    Meanwhile we have generate and use energy in the most efficient manner.

  5. And just to give an idea of the transparency, car windows straight from the dealer allow approximately 70% light transmittance.

    That's pretty good for something that also captures some energy!


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