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Clear Gain

Window-Like Solar Cells Could Power 40 Percent of U.S. Needs

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Solar energy is now the cheapest form of new energy in dozens of countries, with record-setting solar farms being built worldwide. Researchers have been investigating ways to make transparent solar panels that resemble glass that could be used as window panels at the same time as converting the light that shines on them into electricity.

“Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications,” explains materials scientist Richard Lunt, Ph.D., from Michigan State University. “We analyzed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices have the potential of generating a similar amount of electricity as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles and mobile electronics.”

As reported in Nature Energy, his team has developed a transparent, luminescent, solar concentrator that looks like clear glass, covered in small, organic molecules adept at capturing only ultraviolet and near-infrared wavelengths of light. The visible light that enables human vision isn’t obstructed, so we can see through the cell. If scaled up to cover the billions of square feet of glass surfaces throughout the U.S., it could potentially supply about 40 percent of our country’s energy needs.


This article appears in the April 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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