Researchers at Michigan State University have developed see-through solar materials that can be applied to any window and perform as well as traditional solar panels.The team, led by Richard Lunt, the Johansen Crosby Endowed Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU, argues that together with rooftop panels, this latest technology could just about meet demand in the U.S. and greatly reduce fossil fuel dependence.
“Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications. We analyzed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles and mobile electronics," said Lunt.
This film-like material can be applied to buildings, car windows, cell phones or other devices with a clear surface, but Lunt notes that it will never outperform its traditional counterparts.
Lunt said highly transparent solar applications are recording efficiencies above 5 percent, while traditional solar panels typically are about 15 percent to 18 percent efficient. Although transparent solar technologies will never be more efficient at converting solar energy to electricity than their opaque counterparts, they can get close and offer the potential to be applied to a lot more additional surface area, he said.
Lunt believes that this technology, still in early stages of development, holds great potential:
“Traditional solar applications have been actively researched for over five decades, yet we have only been working on these highly transparent solar cells for about five years. Ultimately, this technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible.”