The team of scientist from Michigan State University is confident that the transparent solar panels can be efficiently deployed in a wide range of settings including tall buildings with lots of windows, houses or any kind of modile device that demands power.
Transparent solar panel is something of an oxymoron. Solar cells, specifically the photovoltaic kind, make energy by absorbing photons (sunlight) and converting them into electrons (electricity).
If a material is transparent, it means that all of the light passes through the medium to strike the back of your eye.
This is the main reason why previous transparent solar cells have actually only been partially transparent.
To get around this limitation, the Michigan State researchers use a slightly different technique for gathering sunlight.
Instead of trying to create a transparent photovoltaic cell, they used a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC).
The TLSC consists of organic salts that absorb specific invisible wavelengths of ultraviolet and infrared light, which they then luminesce as another wavelength of infrared light.
This emitted infrared light is guided to the edge of plastic, where thin strips of conventional photovoltaic solar cell convert it into electricity.
Versions of previous semi-transparent solar cells that cast light in colored shadows can usually achieve efficiency of around seven percent,
TLSC is expected to reach a top efficiency of five percent with further testing currently, the prototype’s efficiency reaches a mere one percent.
While numbers like seven and five percent efficiency seem low, houses featuring fully solar windows or buildings created from the organic material could add up that electricity and bring it to a more useful level.
Their main priorities in continuing to develop the technology appear to be power efficiency and maintaining a scalable level of affordability so that solar power can continue to grow as a major player in the field of renewable energy.