Researchers at Michigan State University have pioneered a new development in solar energy technology called transparent solar luminescent concentrators. These panels have a great deal of potential because they would allow the windows of cars and buildings to generate power without blocking the view or requiring a set of separate panels on a rooftop or adjacent location. The glass can apparently also be utilized for use in cell phones and tablets to eliminate much of the need to plug your device into the wall every day.
The key to the transparency of the panel is that it utilizes infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths of light that are not visible to the human eye to generate the energy. Organic molecules absorb these wavelengths, which are then sent to the perimeter edges of the tile where photovoltaic cells convert the rays into energy.
One of the lead researchers, Richard Lunt, describes the primary goal of this project as, “Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”
Currently the key challenges for this technology are cost and efficiency. Right now these tiles only have a conversion efficiency of around 1%, but the team believes that they can soon raise that number up to 5%. In regards to the cost, most new solar technology is expensive to begin with but with more research and development the price of this technology could become much more affordable in the near future.
MDV-SEIA Solar Fellow