Windows could generate solar energy
Oct. 11, 2012
Courtesy of the American Chemical Society
and World Science staff
A new type of transparent solar cell is a step toward making windows able to generate electricity while still letting people to see outside, researchers say.
The researchers, with the California NanoSystems Institute and the University of California, Los Angeles, say there has been intense world-wide interest in so-called polymer solar cells, which are made from plastic-like materials. A solar cell is a device that converts the sun’s energy into electric current.
Polymer solar cells are lightweight, flexible and can be produced in high volume cheaply, according to the scientists. Researchers also have been interested in making them transparent, but previous transparent designs have had many disadvantages, which the team set out to correct.
The scientists describe a new kind of flat, polymer solar cell that they’ve developed that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells 66 percent transparent to the eye. They made the device from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into an electrical current.
Another breakthrough is the transparent conductor, which replaces the opaque metal electrode used in the past, the researchers say, suggesting the panels could be used in windows or portable electronics.