12 November 2012

Transparent solar film

As reported at PhysOrg:
One of the holy grails of solar cell technology may have been found, with researchers at UCLA announcing they have created a new organic polymer that produces electricity, is nearly transparent and is more durable and malleable than silicon. The applications are mind-boggling. Windows that produce electricity. Buildings wrapped in transparent solar cells... "

(A solar film) harvests light and turns it into electricity. In our case, we harvest only the infrared part," says Professor Yang Yang at UCLA's California Nanosystems Institute, who has headed up the research on the new photovoltaic polymer. Absorbing only the infrared light, he explains, means the material doesn't have to be dark or black or blue, like most silicon photovoltaic panels. It can be clear. "We have developed a material that absorbs infrared and is all transparent to the visible light."

"And then we also invented a new electrode, a metal, that is also transparent. So we created a new solar cell," Yang adds. Well, the metal is actually not transparent, Yang points out; it's just so small that you can't see it. The new polymer incorporates silver nanowires about 0.1 microns thick... 
Someday the geopolitics of oil will be irrelevant.  Perhaps not in our lifetime, but someday.


  1. I'm hoping it'll be within my lifetime. I've got my eye on ITER (prototype fusion reactor) personally, but this looks pretty exciting too.

  2. The oil problem MUST be resolved in our lifetime. Even the most optimistic estimates of when we will run out of oil are within 50 years.

  3. Hmm.. a little math might be in order here. These cells are at best 6% efficient. In the future, they might get as high as 18% -- compared to existing solar cells which are up to 24% efficient (silicon) or 40+% (III-IV multi layer, but expensive). To capture solar energy, you need to point the cells at the sun -- which is why most solar panels are angled at your lattitude angle. The farther you point the solar cells (say a window on a building) away from where the sun is, the less power it collects by the cosine relationship. You can get around 1000 watts at best if you are 100% efficient, and pointing at the sun continuously. Now you have to factor in things like weather, night time, clouds, dust on the cells, etc. You end up collecting very little power from inefficient cells, not pointed at the sun.

    As much as I love solar energy, to really use it for powering cities and factories and homes, you need large scale solar power plants. Putting it on windows sort of helps, but its at the margins.... Makes you feel good, might power your iPod or charge your laptop every couple of days -- but won't produce enough power overall.

  4. Mel V. has it right: Fusion for the big stuff, solar cells for remote loations and small addons.

    Oil and other fussil fuels will be there for a long time. But as production costs rise they will be faded out slowly.

    Problem is the big western states who constantly screw with price signals and try to steer innovation, possibly costing us years or even decades by steering in the wrong direction.

  5. Perhaps a quicker solution lies in multiple sources rather than one big Holy Grail to replace our oil. I'd love to see fusion but in the meantime a little solar, a little wind, a little manpower even, may be the short term answer. If we can give the individuals back some control - feeding power back to the grid from intelligent meters, we may see a seachange in attitudes that brings down our consumption. If we can get the brakes on consumption, then the percentage offered by renewables becomes more significant and that in itself will foster innovation.

  6. Nothing on how much of an exposure these cells can handle before degradation occurs. This is a problem that has been plaguing alternative cell designs such as gratzel cells and other similar polymer cells. It is hard to compete on that front with traditional silicon cells which whose performance is usually guarantied 25 years or more.

  7. Transparent Aluminum?


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