A team of researchers wants to turn windows into viable solar panels.
Windows of homes and office buildings could one day generate solar energy via transparent solar cells, according to research conducted by scientists at Michigan State University.
New technologies could revolutionize traditional solar windows.
While glass windows generating solar power isn’t anything new, the trouble is that these windows traditionally have light-absorbing films embedded in their glass, which removes their transparency. Instead, they have a brown or reddish tint. Although this lack of transparency maximizes their efficiency to convert more sunlight into energy, it’s not aesthetically appealing, so it’s not used by many architects.
However, the new solar window technologies discovered by the scientists leave the glass clear. This is made possible because the transparent solar cells technology used in the glass absorb almost exclusively invisible ultraviolet (UV) or infrared light, reported Science.
Although the glass is clear, infrared and UV radiation is blocked. This cuts down heat gain, the leaking of unwanted heat via normal windows, while also generating electricity.
The transparent solar cells reached a 5% efficiency utilizing organic photovoltaics.
The scientists’ research, which was recently published in the energy journal, Joule, reports that the team of researchers developed a new approach to transparent photovoltaic (TPV) technologies based on halide perovskites. Using these technologies, they created a UV-absorbing perovskite solar window that had a 0.5% efficiency. The team was led by Richard Lunt, a chemical engineer from Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Perovskites are a new class of opaque solar cell materials. These materials are different from the standard crystalline silicon cells that are the most widely used in the industry. What makes perovskites a great alternative to silicon is that they are less expensive, and they can also be tuned to absorb precise frequencies of light. All it takes to achieve this is to tweak the materials’ chemical recipe.
Even though 0.5% is far below the efficiency of top perovskite cells (22%), according to Lunt, 0.5% is high enough to power on-demand darkening glass. This window technology stops intense light from pouring in through the window during the heat of the day, which decrease’s a building’s need for air conditioning.
Lunt believes his team could reach 4% efficiencies with their new approach to TVPs in the coming few years. If this becomes possible, these cells could supply energy to a building’s light and air conditioning.
Ultimately, what the researchers revealed through their study is that perovskite materials have exceptional potential and can effectively translate to transparent photovoltaic devices that will see fast gains with the improvement of quantum efficiencies.
Transparent solar cells could lead to smart windows on office buildings, homes, vehicles, greenhouses and mobile electronics, the study author’s noted.