Engineering researchers at the University of Michigan, USA, have created transparent solar panels which could be used as power generating windows in apartments, factories, homes, skyscrapers and other buildings.
The transparent solar panels would enable every building to generate its own electricity independent of municipal supply. In August 2021, Michigan State University announced a re-modelling of its Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building with fully transparent solar windows.
The company behind the MSU project is Ubiquitous Energy, co-founded by MSU Professor Richard Lunt, who holds the Johansen Crosby Endowed Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at the school’s College of Engineering.
How do solar windows work?
The panels consist of transparent luminescent solar concentrators (TLSC) able to selectively absorb invisible solar radiation including infra-red / UV, permitting the remaining visible rays pass through.
TLSC is composed of organic salts designed to absorb specific invisible UV and infrared light wavelengths, which then glow or luminesce as another invisible wavelength. This new wavelength is then guided to the edge of the window plastic, which thin Photovoltaic solar cell then convert it into electricity.
Thus, the panels are transparent to our eyes (like a window) but still absorb a percentage of the sun’s light which are then converted into electricity.
Panels equipped with TLSC can be used to form thin transparent sheets that can be used further to create smartphone screens, windows, car roofs, etc. The researchers also claim their transparent solar panels can 30 years, making them more durable than most existing solar panels.
The efficiency of the transparent solar panels is currently approximately 1%, but has the potential to reach around 10% efficiency, compared with 15% – 22% for conventional solar panels.