In August of last year research scientists at Michigan State University developed a fully transparent solar concentrator in an effort to make window and surface solar possible. This year they have begun making moves towards bringing it to market.
Typically, “transparent” solar concentrators are not fully transparent. Instead they are only semi-transparent and are known to cast colored shadows depending on the wavelengths of sunlight that they absorb. This new cell does not suffer from either of these flaws.
In a standard solar cell, sunlight is absorbed and is then converted to electricity; this makes it impossible to have a transparent cell in that the light passes through a transparent surface and is not absorbed. To circumvent this, the researchers had to develop a new way of creating energy from sunlight.
To do this they use a transparent luminescent solar concentrator that absorbs ultraviolet and infrared light, two forms of light that we cannot see. The components then produce a third type of non visible light that is guided to the edges of the panel where a small strip of standard photovoltaic solar cell can convert it into electricity.
Currently the cells only have around a 1% efficiency which means that your smart phone won’t have an indefinite life if this was your screen. What it does mean is that we are one step closer to having solar panels not only on our homes, but in windows, on devices and anywhere that you use glass.
A solar and renewable powered future isn’t far!