See-through solar panel could make “window power plants”

Researchers have made a see-through panel which converts a window – or any other clear surface – into a solar energy generator. Called a “transparent luminescent solar concentrator”, it was […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Researchers have made a see-through panel which converts a window – or any other clear surface – into a solar energy generator.

Called a “transparent luminescent solar concentrator”, it was made by team of researchers at Michigan State University.

The system uses small organic molecules to absorb specific nonvisible wavelengths of sunlight.

Richard Lunt, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU’s College of Engineering said: “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, according to MSU.

Lunt added: “It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader. Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”

The panels only convert a fraction of the sun’s energy into useable power, around 1% but researchers aim to boost this to above 5%.