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Are Transparent Solar Panels the Future. Transparent solar energy

Are Transparent Solar Panels the Future. Transparent solar energy

    What is Transparent Solar Panel? – Working Principle and Theory

    There are two types of energy resources – non-renewable and.renewable. Non-renewable means that these sources will become extinct from the world after a certain amount of years; because it is limited and not endless.

    Renewable energy sources means that these sources will not become extinct as they are endless and cannot run out of source.

    There are many renewable energy sources available and in this post, we will look at one such energy – solar power.

    Sun is the largest source of energy in the world. So, solar panels are mounted on building terraces or open areas where sun rays come strongly on them.

    Solar cells are used inside it which gets charged on receiving solar power and the electricity thus generated is used for domestic and industrial purposes.

    Solar power is one of the most widely used power sources in most of the countries and is fast replacing other non-renewable energy sources.

    One path breaking technology which is being worked on nowadays is transparent solar panel. It is a complete new technique in generating electricity from solar energy.

    In this post, we will understand the concept of transparent solar panel.

    What is Transparent Solar Panel?

    Traditional solar energy conversion used normal solar panels (solar photovoltaic panels). But, transparent solar panels uses plain glass as a panel. Basically, as glass is transparent, it is coated and made with special materials to make it undergo photovoltaic effect.

    Due to this, the glass remains transparent and also converts solar energy into electrical energy. So, you can imagine that every glass used, right from a window pane to auto-mobile window can be used as solar panels.

    So, no additional land space or rooftop is required to install solar panels. If you just erect a building with Windows made of these type of glasses, then it will automatically generate electricity. So, you could literally turn any glass sheet or window into a photovoltaic cell.

    All light is made up of electromagnetic radiation spanning a spectrum of wavelengths, each containing energy that potentially can be harvested by a solar cell. But, the human eye can detect only a certain part of wavelength (visible light).

    So, this panel is made up of special salt coating which can detect only invisible (UV or infrared light) and block the normal visible light. In this way, it will convert the invisible solar light into electricity.

    How does Solar Energy Work?

    Let us have a detailed look into it’s basic working first. Refer to the below image showing the basic structure of a solar panel.

    These are the primary components in the whole panel – frame, glass, front adhesive film, solar cells, back adhesive film, back sheet and junction box.

    The main component here is the solar cell. It is also called as photovoltaic cell. It generates electricity when solar energy strikes it; which is called as photovoltaic effect. This single cell is not enough to create a lot of power.

    So, multiple cells are used together to form a single panel; as shown in figure highlighted as solar cells. The additional layers of glass and adhesive act as protection for the solar cells.

    Solar cells are made of silicon. It is basically a semiconductor which is the electricity generating reason. The solar cell is made of two such silicon layers.

    One is a positive charging layer called as p-type layer and the other is a negative charging layer called as n-type layer. The n-type layer can give away electrons and this layer is the one which faces light.

    The p-type layer can receive the electrons and as they are receiving extra electrons, the area created for such electrons are called holes. The p-type layer is placed beneath the n-type layer.

    transparent, solar, panels, future, energy

    Sun light has elements called photons. When the sunlight strikes the n-layer through the glass and adhesive as discussed earlier, the loose electrons are freed from this layer and are transferred to p-layer as holes.

    This creates a flow of electrons between these two layers and indirectly, current is generated. This current flows to the junction box and from there, we ultimately get the final output current.

    How does Transparent Solar Panel Work?

    Now let us move ahead to our main topic of transparent solar panel. Refer to the below figure.

    The first component is the glass or other substrate material being coated. After this, similar to basic solar panels, come the semiconductor layer which captures the light and transforms it into electrical energy.

    The circuit then connected to it after this layer is used to transfer the electricity forward. Since the electrodes are also transparent, another UV layer can be added to reflect sunlight and be used to generate power.

    At the last, anti-reflective coatings are used on both outside surfaces to reduce reflections because any light that reflects—potentially as much as 10% of the total—doesn’t go through the device.

    The reflector sends UV light back into the active layers, while the anti-reflective (AR) coatings on the outside surfaces maximize incoming light by reducing reflections.

    In this way, we saw the concept of transparent solar panel.

    Are Transparent Solar Panels the Future?

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    Solar has come a long way throughout the last decade. Widespread investments in new technologies and renewable energy have decreased costs, making solar panels more affordable and accessible than ever before. Yet, just when you thought their mechanisms reached peak efficiency and design, innovators developed something even more groundbreaking: Transparent solar panels.

    One might look at the latest technology and say they resemble modern-looking Windows — if that’s your take, you’re on the right track. The question is when will they hit the market for consumers to buy, and how will they shape the future of solar?

    What are Transparent Solar Panels?

    Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) have developed photovoltaic (PV) glass — solar glass panels that generate electricity. Their invention began in 2014 with the first clear luminescent solar concentrator — a glass panel or sheet that could transform an ordinary window into a PV cell. As of 2020, they’ve attained full transparency of the PV cell and inspired companies to pursue manufacturing.

    Imagine a future where your living room Windows could generate power from sunlight — Transparent solar panels will also shape green construction, enabling businesses to reach their energy efficiency goals, and cities to achieve optimal sustainability. The same could apply to your car Windows, computer screens, and smartphone.

    There’s little doubt that clear glass solar panels will gain popularity. Remember when few thought rooftop solar would take off? Today, 19% of Americans have solar panels or are installing them — another 48% intend to do so soon.

    Thanks to an extension of federal tax credits, state incentives, and rebates, people are more optimistic about the upfront costs of solar, especially considering the price of utilities. As inflation rises and enters the energy sector, more Americans struggle to heat, cool, and power their homes.

    How Solar Power Windows Work

    At this point, you’re likely aware that PV solar panels absorb radiation to generate electricity and power your household. However, cells must be planted on a panel, meaning sunlight can’t pass through them. So, how did the MSU researchers get around this snafu?

    The transparent solar concentrators contain cyanine, effectively capturing radiant energy, which entails infrared and ultraviolet light. Although the human eye will see natural light pass through the glass, the concentrators hold onto some of it and convert it to electricity.

    The MSU researchers point out that the U.S. has nearly 5 to 7 billion square meters of glass building surfaces, from homes to commercial spaces. All in all, transparent solar panels could meet 40% of the U.S. energy demand.

    As early as 2017, the clear panels were already at 5% efficiency — traditional panel systems are usually 15% to 18% efficient. Obviously, the data is positive news for the future of renewable energy. Some homeowners may also dislike how solar panels look on their rooftops. Window-based PV cells tie in seamlessly with their homes and are barely noticeable.

    Additionally, installing traditional solar panels is quite the job, taking up excessive space and often running up a high bill — before the discounts. Therefore, transparent solar panels are a realistic alternative for businesses in heavily-populated areas to integrate transparent solar panel Windows for greater energy efficiency and to meet their net-zero targets.

    Can You Buy Transparent Solar Panels for Your Home or Business?

    There are plenty of reasons to get excited about these new developments in solar panels. Transparent solar panels could be a game changer for more widespread installation and meeting U.S. climate goals. Naturally, consumers and businesses want to know when the latest technology will become available.

    It’s crucial to note that when fully transparent solar panels hit the market, they will be costly. In time, just like conventional solar panels, the price will decrease with widespread adoption. You can already purchase semi-clear solar panels at 30% to 40% — opaque but not entirely see-through.

    The Eco Experts price semi-transparent panels at £250 per square meter — about 313 in the U.S. However, most scientists predict they’ll be 50% cheaper than conventional solar panel installations since most structures will be able to apply the sheet to existing window panes and frames.

    Where are Transparent Solar Panels Currently in Use?

    Several places have begun using the available clear panels with great success thanks to the sustainable technology company Physee in the Netherlands. Physee was a pioneer of transparent solar panels, developing the Power Window.

    In 2021, the company installed 15,000 of its solar energy Windows, intending to cut 30% of its energy consumption and spending. The company’s PowerWindow product currently covers 300 square feet of a Dutch bank. Physee’s PowerWindow also paves the way for a PV glass that the company calls SmartSkin. In the future, SmarSkin will use an automated system to sense, power, and regulate indoor climate.

    Ubiquitous Energy is another company making waves in transparent solar panel developments. After installing 100 square feet of its product at its headquarters in Redwood City, California, Ubiquitous Energy installed the solar Windows at MSU, at the Nippon Sheet Glass, Co. Ltd. (NSG) in Ohio, and Boulder Commons in Colorado, and the NSG Chiba Facility in Japan.

    Elsewhere, the Copenhagen International School in Denmark has installed 12,000 semi-transparent panels, delivering 200 megawatts of electricity annually and twice as much energy as the building consumes.

    Although the current transparent solar panels have a slight tint, that could soon change with MSU’s crystal-clear innovation. From there, the real question is how quickly homeowners and commercial landlords will adopt the new energy-efficient and sustainable technology.

    Transparent Solar Panels Coming Soon to Consumers

    of the population have indicated concern about the planet amid increasing climate change. Many have also made calls to implement environmentally-sound alternatives and advancements in renewable energy.

    Seeing that people want to make a difference and get involved in environmental protection, transitioning to transparent solar panels will save them money, deliver modern home upgrades, and lower their environmental impacts. Ultimately, this emerging technology should excite those who’ve harnessed — or want to harness — the power of solar energy.

    Everything About Transparent Solar Panels: Working, Cost, Pros, And Cons

    With many evolutionary technologies hitting the market, solar technology has progressed with the invention of a transparent solar panel.

    These are the new generation of energy panels that use window surfaces to generate electricity. The prime motive is to save farmlands since the installation of large-scale solar panels requires a lot of space.

    This is a new technique for gathering solar energy through Windows or glass surfaces, often termed photovoltaic glass. It can transform any glass or window panel into an electricity-generating PV cell.

    How Does A Transparent Solar Panel Work?

    An invisible solar panel selectively traps sun rays that are not visible to the naked eye. It does so by using a Transparent Luminescent Solar Contractor (TLSC).

    • The TLSC comprises organic salts that can absorb selected invisible UV rays and visible infrared light.
    • The new ray formed is then directed towards the borders of the window lanes.
    • The PV-coated window converts the new rays into usable energy.

    The glasses are coated with a thin layer of photovoltaic ink or film. The TLSC has an efficiency of 10%. However, this can be increased by using them in every household and commercial place.

    The efficiency of a Transparent Solar Panel

    The efficiency of these panels is somewhat low compared to traditional solar panels, which is around 10 percent.

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    Poly solar panels have an efficiency of somewhere between 13 to 15 percent. Mono perc panels have an efficiency of about 16 to 21 percent. Bifacial modules have the highest efficiency rate (about 27 percent).

    In comparison to all its peers, a partially transparent panel has an average efficiency of 7.2 percent. The amount of energy created depends on several factors like the window’s location and the amount of sunlight received. A large window solar panel is more efficient.

    Pros And Cons Of Buying a Transparent Solar Panel

    Before investing in a transparent panel, you should be aware of its advantages and disadvantages to decide whether to invest in one.

    Advantages

    • – A transparent solar panel is less complicated to install than its traditional counterparts.
    • – Transparent solar panels are an excellent alternative source of power. They don’t require a lot of space and can be readily installed in Windows.
    • – These invisible solar panels are very lightweight and; hence, portable.
    • – You can save on electricity bills by switching to invisible solar panels.

    Disadvantages

    • – The percentage of power generated is less. You will have to purchase many such solar panels to provide electricity to a big house.
    • – One significant disadvantage of using transparent solar panels is that they come with special electrical devices like bulbs or plugs. It means that they will be incompatible with traditional electrical gadgets. Therefore, if you plan to install them, you will have to invest in new electrical devices that can be used with the panels.
    • – The invisible solar panel requires consistent sunlight consumption. Since their output is low on cloudy or rainy days, their performance is also affected.
    • – Transparent solar panels are composed of glass which makes them breakable. Therefore, they must be handled with caution. These panels are more susceptible to cracking or breaking if extra caution is not used when handling them.

    Cost Of a Transparent Solar Panel

    A transparent solar panel is expected to cost somewhere around ₹ 5,500 for one square metre. However, a lot about pricing depends on the size of the panel and the type you wish to install.

    Solar electricity is capital intensive; therefore, the main cost incurred is on the equipment. The process followed in making the transparent panel is environmentally-friendly.

    A transparent solar panel is cost-efficient because you can put a layer of PV-coated window glass on top of the Windows with a little extra cost.

    Maintenance Of A Transparent Solar Panel

    Dust accumulation in the window panels decreases its productivity. The duration of cleaning a solar panel is determined by the density of pollution in your location.

    If your home is adjacent to the roadside, the panels might need regular cleaning.

    Cleaning a transparent solar panel is similar to cleaning traditional solar panels. You can use a wet sponge; however, it is always advisable not to use harsh chemicals or brushes. This might damage the solar panels.

    It is essential to keep a monthly check on your solar panels to make sure they are working efficiently. Monitoring them helps make the most out of your solar panel investment.

    Conclusion

    Solar energy has emerged as the most cost-efficient energy. The transparent solar panel technology is attractive and has a promising future.

    The transparent solar panels can block most of the infrared rays that heat the room. This automatically leads to cutting down on the usage of air conditioners and reducing the electricity bill.

    Another considerable benefit of using these panels is that they do not require larger space for installation.

    FAQs

    Q1. What are the two types of transparent solar panels available in the market?

    The two types are Partial transparent solar panels and full transparent solar panels.

    The full transparent panel comes with an efficiency of 10 percent. The partial transparent solar panel has an efficiency of 7.2 percent.

    Q2. Can transparent solar panels be the future?

    Yes, transparent solar panels come with many advantages like reducing electricity costs. They can be used in any device – even car Windows – to generate electricity.

    Q3. Can we stack a transparent solar panel?

    Yes, you can stack these solar panels as stacking can increase the efficiency by 10 percent without affecting the performance.

    Transparent Solar Panels

    Solar irradiation is one of the most abundant and readily available sources of renewable energy we have available to us. T he development of silicon-based solar panels allowing for the capture and conversion of this energy into usable electricity was a huge scientific breakthrough. However, there are several obstacles to solar technology becoming more integrated into our societies’ energy infrastructure. One of these obstacles is the fact that traditional solar panels are o paque, and installations require large amounts of space, and the installment of s uch panels in public places can be aesthetically undesirable.

    The creation of a transparent solar cell (TSC) would be a monumental step in solving this issue and would allow solar technology to be incorporated almost seamlessly into our daily lives. Imagine if every transparent glass surface contained a working solar cell – Windows on residential and commercial buildings, automobile Windows. and screens on personal electronics – the applications for transparent solar technology are diverse, abundant, and applicable worldwide.

    Thin Film Transparent Solar Cells

    The advent of this technology is quite recent, with the concept of a TSC being invented by a group of scientists at MIT and Michigan State University in 2010 [1]. Since then, the world of TSCs has expanded to include several differing technologies and methods, each competing in the race to make TSC technology a viable competitor in the photovoltaic market. The development of TSC technology is inherently difficult, as transparency (the ability for photons to pass through an object) is intrinsically conflicting with the photovoltaic effect (the ability to absorb incident photons and convert them into electricity).

    Capturing Energy From Invisible Wavelengths

    The development of TSCs is generally approached in two ways. The first is to create a solar cell using extremely thin films on the order of nanometers, meaning as you reduce the thickness of some materials. the transparency of the material increases [2]. In this method, multiple material layers are combined to create a solar cell, similar to the manufacturing process of a traditional silicon based cell. However, by using extremely thin films for each layer the overall transparency of the solar cell can be increased. Many different processes exist both for the fabrication of the conductive film and the deposition of these films on a substrate, each having varying impacts on the overall performance and cost of the solar cell.

    The other approach is to utilize transparent materials that naturally allow visible light to pass through, while absorbing light in the ultraviolet (UV) and near infrared (NIR) spectrums, which is then used to generate electricity [2]. This takes advantage of the fact that buildings with glass facades typically already have a coating that filters some of the incident light in the ultraviolet and infrared frequencies to protect people in the building from ultraviolet radiation, and to prevent infrared radiation from excessively heating the building. Instead of throwing this energy away, this type of transparent solar cell allows energy in the invisible wavelengths to not only be captured but converted into usable electricity [3]. Figure 1 shows an example of this technique, where incident light coming in from the left is filtered by multiple material layers which absorb invisible NIR and UV wavelengths and allow wavelengths in the visible spectrum to pass through to the right.

    Many of the more promising technologies employ a combination of these two overlying techniques, as the layers used to construct the solar cells are extremely thin which increases their transparency, and select layers are also capable of absorbing NIR and/or UV radiation. There are a range of different materials capable of this phenomenon, including polymers, perovskites, quantum dots, and transparent luminescent solar concentrators (TLSC) [2]. Additionally, O rganic dyes can b e used as doping elements, which serve to increase the range of wavelengths and number of photons that are absorbed, and in turn increasing the number of electrons and holes that are produced [2]. This improves the operating efficiency of the solar cell.

    An example of the thin-film approach is semi-transparent perovskite, which is composed of multiple extremely thin material layers, giving the cell partial transparency while also having some of the higher efficiencies of existing TSCs [2]. Solar cells that are intentionally only partially transparent are fitting for use in south-facing building Windows where it is desirable to filter some of the incident irradiation light – many office spaces use tinted Windows in such locations anyways [4].

    Figure 1 : Diagram of an organic transparent solar cell [2].

    In polymer-based TSCs, the idea is to combine a transparent polymer solar cell which absorbs UV and NIR light but is transparent to visible light, with a transparent conducting material such as silver nanowires ( AgNWs ). The general structure is comprised of two transparent conducting electrodes with active materials in between them which are capable of absorbing NIR and UV radiation [2]. Such a structure is outlined in Figure 2.

    Figure 2 : Structure of a polymer-based transparent solar cell [2].

    Quantum dots are inorganic semiconductor nanocrystals, having electronic and optical properties that differ from larger particles due to quantum mechanics. When UV radiation is incident on a quantum dot, an electron in the quantum dot is excited to a higher energy level, and when this electron drops back into its valence Band it releases energy in the form of a wavelength of light [5]. This emitted wavelength is directed towards the edge of the panel frame and collected by solar cells placed there, converting that energy into electricity. Transparent luminescent solar concentrators (TLSCs) operate on a similar principle. transparent fluorescent dyes absorb incident NIR and UV light and emit visible light, which is again guided to the edge of the panel where solar collectors convert it to electricity [2]. One main difference is that the fluorescent components in TLSCs are composed of organic salts, in contrast to the inorganic nanocrystals used as quantum dots.

    Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPVs)

    Confronted with the difficult challenge of scaling these complex technologies, other individuals have opted to avoid the development of truly transparent solar cells, and have opted for a more readily practical approach : developing solar technologies that can be more immediately integrated into existing architecture (commonly known as Building Integrated Photovoltaics, or BIPV). Some examples of this include solar shingles (one of Tesla’s popular side projects) and solar blinds, both of which apply traditional opaque solar cells in a more aesthetically pleasing manner [4]. These technologies are readily available to residential customers today, and are a great scalable alternative for producing clean electricity if traditional silicon solar panels aren’t desirable or feasible in your particular situation.

    What to Expect

    The fabrication of the technologies discussed above is quite difficult and involves several challenges that must be balanced to create a feasible design. These include [2] :

    • Finding appropriate materials that allow for the transmission of photons in the visible spectrum, while absorbing photons in the invisible spectrum, specifically infrared and ultraviolet.
    • Fabricating these materials in such a way that high transparency is achieved, without sacrificing efficiency. Most working TSC technologies still have very low efficiencies compared to traditional silicon based solar cells.
    • Designing manufacturing methods to be economical in mass production, as well as in laboratory settings.
    • Designing the architecture of the TSC, in other words how to apply and arrange the above materials effectively to create the physical cell and protective substrate.
    • For organic-based solar cells, their stability over long periods of time is also a potential problem. Through exposure to high temperatures, oxygen and water vapor through their environment, most OPVs cannot offer a lifetime warranty like silicon PVs can, which is a distinct disadvantage. However, further studies are needed to determine the long-term degradation of organic solar cells.

    TSC technology will continue to improve and become more attractive as these challenges are addressed, and we can expect to see the adoption and application of these technologies increase in the upcoming years. The transparency of TSCs existing today is hovering around 80%, with efficiencies typically falling under 10%, which combined with the cost of manufacturing is still too low to be competitive with traditional silicon based solar cells [2]. While transparent solar cells have much lower efficiencies than traditional solar cells, the abundance of potential applications makes this technology attractive, as it eliminates the issue of land use commonly tied with traditional solar panel installations – their lower efficiencies will be overcompensated for by their large potential scale of deployment [4].

    The technologies discussed above are promising, and several companies exist today that are putting these techniques into practice and working towards increasing their scale of production to commercial levels.

    SolarWindow has produced a transparent solar cells utilizing a polymer-based coating which is NIR and UV sensitive, and is making big strides in developing economical roll-to-roll manufacturing techniques for polymer based thin-film TSC that could soon bring this technology to the commercial market [ 6 ].

    Ubiquitous Energy is another company in the transparent solar cell space, utilizing the TLSC technique described above. Their solar cells are in production and available for purchase and installation in limited sizes, and hopefully will be more readily available for commercial applications in the upcoming years [ 7 ].

    The German company Heliatek. one of the world’s leading manufacturers of organic solar films, has successfully created perovskite solar cells having 40% transparency and 7% efficiency [2].

    Other effective BIPVs such as solar shingles will likely remain competitive as more practical and economical alternatives to truly transparent solar cells until TSC manufacturing methods become competitive on mass scales.

    transparent, solar, panels, future, energy

    With the promising trajectory of these technologies and the growing number of companies that are investing serious time and capital into their development, we can optimistically expect that in the not-too-distant future skyscrapers will produce enough electricity to meet their entire electricity demand, personal electronics will have self-charging capabilities, and large industrial cities will not only consume power, but produce it. These technologies will not only serve to make our electrical grid cleaner and better for the environment, but also more independent and resilient.

    How Can New Energy Equity Help You Reach Your Solar Goals?

    REFERENCES:

    Why transparent solar cells could replace Windows in the near future

    Researchers have developed transparent solar panels that can be used as glass Windows in our homes or even in our phone screens.

    by Rupendra Brahambhatt

    No matter how sustainable, eco-friendly, and clean sources of energy they are, conventional solar panels require a large setup area and heavy initial investment. Due to these limitations, it’s hard to introduce them in urban areas (especially neighborhoods with lots of apartment blocks or shops). But thanks to the work of ingenious engineers at the University of Michigan, that may soon no longer be the case.

    The researchers have created transparent solar panels which they claim could be used as power-generating Windows in our homes, buildings, and even rented apartments.

    If these transparent panels are indeed capable of generating electricity cost-efficiently, the days of regular Windows may be passing as we speak. Soon, we could have access to cheap solar energy regardless of where we live.- and to make it even better, we could be rid of those horrific power cuts that happen every once in a while because, with transparent glass-like solar panels, every house and every tall skyscraper will be able to generate its own power independently.

    An overview of the transparent solar panels

    In order to generate power from sunlight, solar cells embedded on a solar panel are required to absorb radiation from the sun. Therefore, they cannot allow sunlight to completely pass through them (in the way that a glass window can). So at first, the idea of transparent solar panels might seem preposterous and completely illogical because a transparent panel should be unable to absorb radiation.

    But that’s not necessarily the case, researchers have found. In fact, that’s not the case at all.

    The solar panels created by engineers at the University of Michigan consist of transparent luminescent solar concentrators (TLSC). Composed of cyanine, the TLSC is capable of selectively absorbing invisible solar radiation including infrared and UV lights, and letting the rest of the visible rays pass through them. So in other words, these devices are transparent to the human eye (very much like a window) but still absorb a fraction of the solar light which they can then convert into electricity. It’s a relatively new technology, only first developed in 2013, but it’s already seeing some impressive developments.

    Panels equipped with TLSC can be molded in the form of thin transparent sheets that can be used further to create Windows, smartphone screens, car roofs, etc. Unlike, traditional panels, transparent solar panels do not use silicone; instead they consist of a zinc oxide layer covered with a carbon-based IC-SAM layer and a fullerene layer. The IC-SAM and fullerene layers not only increase the efficiency of the panel but also prevent the radiation-absorbing regions of the solar cells from breaking down.

    Surprisingly, the researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) also claim that their transparent solar panels can last for 30 years, making them more durable than most regular solar panels. Basically, you could fit your Windows with these transparent solar cells and get free electricity without much hassle for decades. Unsurprisingly, this prospect has a lot of people excited.

    According to Professor Richard Lunt (who headed the transparent solar cell experiment at MSU), highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications”. He further adds that these devices in the future can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar systems plus, they can also equip our buildings, automobiles, and gadgets with self-charging abilities.

    That is what we are working towards, he said. Traditional solar applications have been actively researched for over five decades, yet we have only been working on these highly transparent solar cells for about five years. Ultimately, this technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible.

    Recent developments in the field of transparent solar cell technology

    Apart from the research work conducted by Professor Richard Lunt and his team at MSU, there are some other research groups and companies working on developing advanced solar-powered glass Windows. Earlier this year, a team from ITMO University in Russia developed a cheaper method of producing transparent solar cells. The researchers found a way to produce transparent solar panels much cheaper than ever before.

    Regular thin-film solar cells have a non-transparent metal back contact that allows them to trap more light. Transparent solar cells use a light-permeating back electrode. In that case, some of the photons are inevitably lost when passing through, thus reducing the devices’ performance. Besides, producing a back electrode with the right properties can be quite expensive, says Pavel Voroshilov, a researcher at ITMO University’s Faculty of Physics and Engineering.

    For our experiments, we took a solar cell based on small molecules and attached nanotubes to it. Next, we doped nanotubes using an ion gate. We also processed the transport layer, which is responsible for allowing a charge from the active layer to successfully reach the electrode. We were able to do this without vacuum chambers and working in ambient conditions. All we had to do was dribble some ionic liquid and apply a slight voltage in order to create the necessary properties, adds co-author Pavel Voroshilov.

    PHYSEE, a technology company from the Netherlands has successfully installed their solar energy-based “PowerWindow” in a 300 square feet area of a bank building in The Netherlands. Though at present, the transparent PowerWindows are not efficient enough to meet the energy demands of the whole building, PHYSEE claims that with some more effort, soon they will be able to increase the feasibility and power generation capacity of their solar Windows.

    California-based Ubiquitous Energy is also working on a “ClearView Power” system that aims to create a solar coating that can turn the glass used in Windows into transparent solar panels. This solar coating will allow transparent glass Windows to absorb high-energy infrared radiations, the company claims to have achieved an efficiency of 9.8% with ClearView solar cells during their initial tests.

    In September 2021, the Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG) Corporation facility located in Chiba City became Japan’s first solar window-equipped building. The transparent solar panels installed by NSG in their facility are developed by Ubiquitous Energy. Recently, as a part of their association with Morgan Creek Ventures, Ubiquitous Energy has also installed transparent solar Windows on Boulder Commons II, an under-construction commercial building in Colorado.

    All these exciting developments indicate that sooner or later, we also might be able to install transparent power-generating solar Windows in our homes. Such a small change in the way we produce energy, on a global scale could turn out to be a great step towards living in a more energy-efficient world.

    Not there just yet

    If this almost sounds too good to be true, well sort of is. The efficiency of these fully transparent solar panels is around 1%, though the technology has the potential to reach around 10% efficiency.- this is compared to the 15% we already have for conventional solar panels (some efficient ones can reach 22% or even a bit higher).

    So the efficiency isn’t quite there yet to make transparent solar cells efficient yet, but it may get there in the not-too-distant future. Furthermore, the appeal of this system is that it can be deployed on a small scale, in areas where regular solar panels are not possible. They don’t have to replace regular solar panels, they just have to complement them.

    When you think about it, solar energy wasn’t regarded as competitive up to about a decade ago.- and a recent report found that now, it’s the cheapest form of electricity available so far in human history. Although transparent solar cells haven’t been truly used yet, we’ve seen how fast this type of technology can develop, and the prospects are there for great results.

    The mere idea that we may soon be able to power our buildings through our Windows shows how far we’ve come. An energy revolution is in sight, and we’d be wise to take it seriously.

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