Could the New Transparent Solar Cell be Our New “Window” to Green Energy?
Solar cell design concepts almost always consider function and efficiency as a significant priority. This isn’t really surprising though, because we know that maximizing the usage of these panels is the key to economizing their energy output.
But did you know that solar cell designs also consider aesthetics as a relatively significant priority? Though it is necessary to always put the issue of efficiency first, it is also quite important to design and place the solar cells in a way that would not interrupt the overall design of the surrounding area. That is exactly one of the principles held by the design of a new kind of clear, transparent solar cell.
The people who were responsible for the development of this innovative kind of solar cell were the researchers at the UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. It is basically classified as a type of polymer solar cell (PSC), a solar cell that is designed to be a lot more flexible (for many different types of installations) than the rigid silicon solar cell. The solar cell uses a silver nanowire/titanium dioxide composite film as the electrode, and this is what gives the solar cell a 70% transparency rate. It is primarily designed to absorb only infrared light, leaving all the rest of the light spectrum untouched. When you look at it at a glance, it would seem to look like slightly blurred glass.
The whole concept of this type of solar cell seems to be the culmination of the idea that solar cell installation need not be restricted to a few options, and should be directly incorporated in the look and design of one’s home. By being nearly as transparent as glass, they could easily incorporate the material to window installations, allowing your windows to not only let sunlight in, but to also harvest electric energy from it.
While the solar cells could generate electricity normally, their efficiency is still very inferior. At 4% efficiency, it is nowhere near the efficiency of regular polymer solar cells (10%), and is even less comparable to the efficiency of the standard silicon solar cell (20%). However this relatively new invention still holds much promise. So while it is not considered for practical use for the moment, we can safely assume that its research is still heading towards newer and better improvements.
On an added note, since it is made to be transparent, one of the very interesting points of this technology is its potential to be applied to display technology. Replacing the standard indium tin oxide electrode of LCD displays with the transparent solar cell’s composite film could perhaps turn our monitors and televisions sets into passive chargers of energy. Instead of drawing power from the outlet on standby mode, it would just use energy that the screen itself collects.
One probable concern that I have for the technology would be the actual practicality of this application. Sure, in theory they can be used like glass and can meld naturally to the interior and exterior design of a home. But what about the “physical” risks involved? Would the windows be easily replaceable in case some stray ball hits and breaks it? Another possible concern is the use of silver, which is quite toxic for aquatic organisms, although there a research paper that suggests that we shouldn’t really be worrying about that.
Reasons to JOIN US include:
- It's absolutely FREE!
- Get Green Tips You MUST know about.
- How to's on going green, saving money, and having fun.
- Keep up-to-date on our posts in cased you missed them.