Could windows soon be turned into solar panels?


Solar panels are the future – but are also difficult to fit into the home. But what if your windows could be used to generate power? New research from Michigan State University suggests solar cells could be completely transparent – replacing boring old glass.


According to Science Daily the way it works is rather than absorbing visible, light, the cells instead only absorb non-visible light: think ultraviolet and infrared. This means that the glass can remain perfectly transparent (without appearing tinted) whilst still generating electricity. Brilliant.

This could conceivably mean that in the future Windows double up as solar cells – and the scientists even talk of phone charging up using a solar cell on the screen.

Here’s how Science Daily reported scientist Richard Lunt’s explanation:

“The solar harvesting system uses small organic molecules developed by Lunt and his team to absorb specific nonvisible wavelengths of sunlight.

“We can tune these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near infrared wavelengths that then ‘glow’ at another wavelength in the infrared,” he said.

The “glowing” infrared light is guided to the edge of the plastic where it is converted to electricity by thin strips of photovoltaic solar cells.”

The only stumbling block at the moment is in terms of efficiency. Apparently these transparent cells are only 1% efficient – compared to around 7% for the most optimised solar cells. Back to work then, scientists.

James O’Malley
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