Another incredible technology has been invented by researchers at Michigan State University: a fully transparent solar concentrator which has the capability of turning any window or sheet of glass into a photovoltaic solar cell. Just think about the possibilities! You could keep your phone charged whenever you are outdoors or in the sun, power gadgets inside your home, and power functions on your car such as air conditioning.
According to lead researcher Richard Lunt, the team is confident that these transparent solar connectors can be efficiently used in numerous settings from “tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader.”
Doesn’t This Already Exist?
Some of the other solar cell technologies that have come out claiming to be transparent, simply put, aren’t. Many have been trying to create such a thing, but it is a tough technology to develop because when you think about turning light into energy, and when you think about how light simply passes through the glass, how is it even really possible? Other transparent wannabes are also known to cast a colorful shadow when the light does shine through.
Lunt stated an obvious observation about this: “No one wants to sit behind colored glass, it makes for a very colorful environment, like working in a disco. We take an approach where we actually make the luminescent active layer itself transparent.”
What Makes This Device Different?
The beauty of this device is that the solar concentrator that is harvesting the light for power can be layered on top of a clear piece of glass without completely weakening the sunlight’s ability to pass through it. The perimeter of the cell contains small photovoltaic strips, which means it is basically a miniaturized version of a solar panel. These react with infrared light, which is invisible to the naked eye and produces solar electricity.
Unfortunately, at this time theses panels are only offering an efficiency of 1%, but researchers are confident that they can reach at least 5% in the near future. Sure, these aren’t huge figures overall, but multiply that by every window in a house, or car, and you can begin to see that this could be very beneficial, particularly for skyscrapers and office buildings where virtually every wall is just windows.
The Possibilities Are Endless
Just imagine being able to have these solar concentrators wherever you like without having to have those big, intrusive solar panels sticking out like a sore thumb. This makes energy from sunlight a lot more appealing to business and homeowners alike. Not too mention the fact that energy from the sun itself is virtually free! All you need is the solar connector and you are good to go.
The future of technology is exciting.