Transparent Photovoltaic Cells Turn Windows Into Solar Panels

Apr 23rd, 2011 | By John Waller | Category: Solar PV

Richard Lunt, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, demonstrates the transparency of the new solar cell. Photo by: Geoffrey Supran / M.I.T.

By JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF, NY Times – Green

A new class of transparent photovoltaic cells has been developed that can turn an ordinary windowpane into a solar panel without impeding the passage of visible light, scientists said Tuesday.

The cells could one day transform skyscrapers into giant solar collectors, said Richard Lunt, one of the researchers on the project.

“We think there’s a lot of potential to be able to integrate these into tall buildings,” Dr. Lunt, a postdoctoral researcher at the M.I.T. Research Laboratory of Electronics, said in an interview.

Previous attempts at transparent solar cells have either failed to achieve high efficiency or blocked too much light to be used in windows. But the new cells, based on organic molecules similar to dyes and pigments, are tailored to absorb only the near-infrared spectrum and have the potential to transform that light into electricity at relatively high efficiency.

The current efficiency of the prototype cells is only about 2 percent, but some basic modifications, like stacking the cells, could increase efficiency to around 10 percent, Dr. Lunt said.

The largest challenge in developing commercial applications for the new solar cells will be longevity. The cells could be packaged in the middle of double-paned windows, which would provide protection from the elements. But the longevity of the cells would still need to approach the life span of the windows themselves, which would not be replaced for decades.

Read the article here: Transparent Photovoltaic Cells Turn Windows Into Solar Panels – NYTimes.com

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