Generate Power From Your Windows with Transparent Solar Cells

With the negative impact of traditional energy sources, such as oil and coal, on the environment becoming more apparent by the minute, there is an ever-increasing demand for alternative, green energy. One of the most promising sources that could completely replace traditional energy sources in the near future is solar power.

For the time being, however, photovoltaic panels cannot meet the demand for green energy of home owners and bigger companies. One of the reasons is because, more often than not, there’s just not enough space for the number of photovoltaic panels needed to be installed on a property. Also, seeing a bunch of panels on top of a building in a major city, like Melbourne or Sydney, is not always something people enjoy looking at. With transparent solar cells, that could change. These new solar cells can turn windows into an energy harvesting systems increasing your home energy efficiency without detracting from it's curb appeal. Plus, cleaning your windows is much, much easier than cleaning photovoltaic panels on your roof which would definitely save you some money on hiring domestic cleaning.

For these reasons, the innovative transparent solar cell might just make the difference in the entire solar energy sector and truly revolutionize the  green energy technology industry.

Less than a year ago, in August 2014, a research team at Michigan State University led by Richard Lunt, created a transparent solar concentrator. Thanks to that technological innovation, it’s likely we’ll witness a revolution in the entire green industry.

It’s important to note that this is not the first attempt at making a transparent solar cell. In the past we've seen some prototypes, but all these earlier cells emitted light in the visible spectrum, which made them unusable. The colorful shadow they cast kept these luminescent solar cells from being truly transparent. The solar cell created by Lunt's team, however, is completely transparent. It’s likely that in the future we’ll see houses and even entire skyscrapers that are able to generate electricity with their windows.

How it Works

The transparent solar cell absorbs light in the visible spectrum of light then transforms and re-emits it in the infra-red spectrum. There are photovoltaic cells on the edge of the surface which transform the channeled light into electricity. Right now with a conversion efficiency of about 1%, the technology is not developed enough for it to be mass produced and implemented. But the whole thing looks and sounds really promising.

In 1965, Gordon Moore, one of Intel’s founders, made an interesting observation. Every two years, the existing technology gets two times cheaper or twice faster than what we have today. Half a century later, “Moore’s law”, as it is more commonly known, is still relevant today. Following that observation, it would be correct to assume that the transparent solar cell technology will evolve quickly and soon be able to satisfy our needs for electricity.

It’s also important to note that the widely-used today photovoltaic panels are more efficient than the transparent solar concentrators. But that new technology has one key advantage: it allows for surfaces that wouldn't otherwise be utilized to generate power.


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Margaret Swanton

Margaret Swanton

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