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Highly transparent solar cells. Glass meets solar energy for creating unique…

Highly transparent solar cells. Glass meets solar energy for creating unique…

    Transparent solar panels

    Building Integrated Photovoltaic is a new type of building material, which provides green energy as well as building preservation. Apart from generating electricity, BIPV modules can be customized in different dimension, thickness, shape and color.

    Transparent solar panels and modules, semi transparent solar modules. BIPV applications demand flexibility in the PV module having both an aesthetic and functional role.

    Frameless glass laminates and double glazed products are designed to be compatible with most conventional glazing systems for facades and skylights.

    double glass and transparent BIPV solar panel, glass glass solar modules

    High U-Values for better energy performance of buildings

    Typical U-values for thermally insulated Windows are:

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    • Double insulated glazing 24 mm with argon filling: 1.1 W/m 2 K
    • Triple insulated glazing 36 mm with argon filling: 0.7 W/m 2 K
    • Triple insulated glazing 44 mm with argon filling: 0.6 W/m 2 K
    • Triple insulated glazing 36 mm with krypton filling: 0.5 W/m 2 K

    Solar Constructions Asi Glass – Voltaglass are based on thin film technology on glass superstrate.

    Façade or roof, today’s construction has to fulfil multiple purposes. To the conventional roles of providing privacy and protection from rain and noise, new factors are becoming increasingly important; thermal insulation and shading.

    All of these tasks have to be performed by the shell of the building. Today, building integrated photovoltaic BIPV are able to provide all of these functions plus produce solar electricity.

    BIPV can be used instead of conventional materials

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    Curve laminated double glazed BIPV module

    curved solar panel; this solar panel has a curve in it to be placed on domes

    BIPV solutions offer many advantages;

    innovative design, sunscreen, power generation, reduce the carbon footprint of a building, thermal insulation, acoustic insulation, comfort increase, increase the value of a building, environmentaly friendly and sustainability.

    Amorphous silicone transparent solar Windows. Thin film double glazing.

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    Solar Constructions Building Integrated Photovoltaic is a new type of building material, which provides green energy as well as building preservation. Apart from generating electricity, BIPV module can be customized in different dimensions, isolation values ( k-value), thickness, shape and color.

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    thin film solar double glass

    Solar PV Panels can be used to replace a number of architectural elements that are commonly manufactured from glass. Using solar pv cells in building facades and rooflight systems can result in an economical use of solar energy and creative architectural design.

    Solar PV Glass is assembled by placing Solar PV Cells on a panel of glass. By adjusting the distance between Solar PV Cells, it is possible to regulate the light transmission and consequently the level of shading provided inside the building. When Solar PV Cells are positioned widely apart, the panels become more transparent. When the cells are positioned closely together, they are semi-transparent and produce a dappled effect, or as one architect described them ‘like sunlight filtered through trees’.

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    solar facade system bipv solution pv window

    Aspects of transparent modules include; Solar electricity, Light management, Effective shading, glare protection, Thermal management, hidden bipv frame, Innovative architecture. Comfort, Cost saving by combining several functions

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    Solar PV Facades Facade Systems- Curtain Walling Systems and Rainscreen Cladding (Ventilated solar Facade) Building Integrated Photovoltaic Glass

    amorphous silicon solar double glass facade solar, Double-Glass Frameless Bifacial Solar Panel

    These solar Windows will offer an enticing new option for skyscrapers and houses looking to break the zero-energy barrier – imagine the net power that a floor-to-ceiling glass-walled skyscraper could produce.

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    Transparent Solar Windows Set to Energize Homes, Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture. Green Building

    See-Through Solar Panels Will Put Untapped Energy to Work

    In brief: Researchers from Michigan State University believe transparent solar panels have the potential to generate just as much solar power as rooftop solar panels. When used effectively, they could at full implementation provide 40 percent of electricity in the U.S.


    Solar panels and solar power-generating Windows are a couple of things people have come up with to take advantage of the Sun, but now a team of engineering researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) have proposed the use of transparent solar panels. Combined with rooftop panels, our reliance on fossil fuels could be greatly reduced and we’d be close to meeting the United States’ high electricity demand.

    Led by Richard Lunt, the Johansen Crosby Endowed Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU, the team created a transparent luminescent solar concentrator that could generate solar energy on any clear surface without affecting the view. In theory, it could be applied to cell phones, Windows, buildings, and cars.


    Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications,” said Lunt. “We analyzed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles and mobile electronics.”

    Currently, according to Lunt and his team, only 1.5 percent of electricity in the U.S. is generated by solar power. Transparent solar panels, however, could account for 40 percent of electricity, provided its used on the 5-7 billion square meters of glass surface in the country — something that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

    Before they can even be considered, they need to be more efficient. Compared to solar panel’s 15 percent efficiency, transparent panels are only 5 percent efficient. Despite this, Lunt states that transparent panels are only about a third of the way into their full potential after five years’ research. Going forward, work will be done to improve the panel’s capabilities, though they’re not expected to outperform or replace the traditional solar panels we’ve become accustomed to.

    “Ultimately, this technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible,” added Lunt.


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    A transparent solar panel breakthrough at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne

    Transparent solar panels are part of the second generation of solar cell technology. While electricity is still generated through the movement of electrons, it’s done using different materials. It’s also done through solar cells that capture only part of the solar spectrum, allowing visible light to pass through.

    Officially known as dye sensitized solar cells (DSCs), these transparent cells were invented back in 1991 at Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Professor Michael Gratzel and Dr. Brian o’Regan get credit for the invention, which is why DSCs are also known as the Gratzel cell (GCell).

    Early versions of DSCs needed direct sunlight to work properly, and they also produced far less electricity than traditional solar cells. Traditional solar cells have an average efficiency of 20%, which means it converts 20% of the solar energy it absorbs into usable energy. DSCs hit a record high of 12% by 2011.

    The latest breakthrough from the team at EPFL changes all that. Updated DSCs have an efficiency rate of 30% in ambient light conditions and 15% in direct sunlight. They can also work with any type of visible light, be it natural, artificial, indoors or outdoors.

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    In addition to their transparency, DSCs are beneficial for their flexibility, relatively low-cost, and wide range of color options.

    How these solar panels can work as Windows

    The magic ingredient in dye-synthesized solar cells is the dye, which creates electricity once it’s exposed to light.

    • Dye is applied to the solar panels.
    • When light hits the dye, the dye captures photons from the light.
    • Energy from the photons is then used to excite electrons, which is what chlorophyll does in photosynthesis. When an electron is excited, that means it carries a higher energy level than its usual base state.
    • The excited electron is injected into a white pigment called titanium dioxide, a common pigment found in white paint.
    • The electron is then pulled away from the titanium dioxide by a crystallized form of titanium dioxide called nanocrystalline titanium dioxide.
    • An electrolyte in the cells closes the circuit, causing the electrons to go back to the dye.

    Movement of the electrons is what produces the energy, which we can then harvest into rechargeable batteries or other electronic devices of our choice.

    As the first public building to use DSCs, the SwissTech Convention Center has had transparent yellow and orange solar panels in place since 2012.

    The Copenhagen International School hopped on the DSC bandwagon in 2017, introducing a new building covered in blue-colored transparent solar panels. The building is outfitted with 12,000 panels, which are able to provide about 300 megawatt hours of electricity every year – which is more than half the amount of energy the school uses.

    Lightweight versions of DSCs are also already being sold on a large scale for commercial use to power portable devices. They work for smaller items, such as headphones, and can also use ambient light to power components in the Internet of Things (IoT).

    When will these solar panels be available for public use?

    With the latest advances making DSCs more efficient, it may not be all that long before these solar panels are available for public use. But no one can say exactly when.

    A number of companies are making strides in that direction:

    EnergyGlass produces a glass system that generates energy from any light source. They appear to work on largescale building projects, integrating the system into building window designs to generate electricity.

    SolarWindow creates ultra-lightweight liquid coatings that can be applied to glass and plastics to generate electricity. They offer partnership opportunities, but no products yet available to the general public.

    Ubiquitous Energy produces an energy-generating film coating designed to absorb infrared and ultraviolet light while allowing visible light to get through. They are not yet available to the public, with the company noting it will be selling through window manufacturers.

    How this solar panel innovation can help the transition to net-zero emissions

    Transparent solar panels have phenomenal potential. While they could be great for personal use in your home or car, they could be absolutely mind-blowing if used in skyscrapers across the world.

    Every tall building with Windows could be turned into a veritable solar farm. A solar energy team at Michigan State University predicted transparent solar technology may be able to generate about 40% of the energy needed throughout the entire United States.

    If transparent solar panels were then combined with rooftop panels, it’s possible solar technologies could generate enough energy to meet 100% of the demand.

    Why our future depends on innovations like these for long-term, sustainable energy use

    The demand for energy continues to increase, but non-renewable resources do not. Oil, coal and other traditional fuel sources are eventually going to become depleted. Traditional fuel sources are also known for generating emissions that cause pollution, further eroding the overall health of the earth.

    Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy is renewable as well as sustainable. It’s going to last as long as the sun does. It’s also a clean way to produce energy, lacking the emissions and pollution associated with traditional resources.

    Like the latest breakthrough in DSCs, solar technologies continue to advance and improve. The global solar output in 2004 was 2.6 gigawatts (GW), enough to meet a scant 0.01% of the energy demand across the world. By 2015, global solar output was at 302 (GW), able to meet 1.8% of the worldwide demand.

    A 2014 prediction from the International Energy Association says 27% of the world’s energy could be generated by solar power by 2050.

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    If the second generation of solar cell technology has already brought us transparent panels that can be used as Windows, it’s exciting to think what advancements may come next. (Like the Stanford scientists who recently made progress on solar panels that work at night).

    The third generation of solar is what’s in store for the future and, if the innovations continue with the same level of creativity and success, it promises to be more brilliant than ever.

    See-Through Windows That Generate Electricity

    The company behind the project is Ubiquitous Energy, which was 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.

    Got all that? Good! Lunt’s contribution to the field of transparent solar cells is a window that looks exactly like conventional glass, but it sorts out visible light from the invisible light at both ends of the spectrum, meaning ultraviolet and infrared light. The visible light passes through and the rest is put to work generating electricity.

    That’s an interesting twist, because normally one would think that visible sunlight does all the heavy lifting in a solar cell. Maybe it does, but researchers like Lunt have also discovered that invisible light can generate a significant share of electricity, too.

    Back in 2017 MSU profiled Lunt’s work and explained that he and his team “pioneered the development of a transparent luminescent solar concentrator that when placed on a window creates solar energy without disrupting the view. The thin, plastic-like material can be used on buildings, car Windows, cell phones or other devices with a clear surface.”

    “The solar-harvesting system uses organic molecules developed by Lunt and his team to absorb invisible wavelengths of sunlight. The researchers can ‘tune’ these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near-infrared wavelengths that then convert this energy into electricity,” MSU adds.

    Of course, transparent solar cells do not rank as high on the solar conversion efficiency chart as their conventional counterparts, since they don’t take full advantage of all the sunlight that hits them. Still, Ubiquitous Energy’s technology offers a respectable 10% conversion efficiency at a relatively low cost, due to the use of abundant, inexpensive materials.

    The location of the MSU installation also suggests that solar installers can help trim costs by placing arrays of transparent solar cells at or near their end use, which would help reduce expenses related to wiring and other electrical systems.

    Onward Upward For Windows That Work

    As for next steps, that’s an interesting question. Our friends over at EnergySage recently took a look at the market, and so far it looks like Ubiquitous Energy is the first to come up with a truly transparent form of photovoltaic technology that looks like a regular window.

    EnergySage does take note of another approach, which is to treat only the edges of a window pane as solar cells, leaving most of the surface as standard glass. That approach has been adopted by the solar cell company Physee, marketed under the name POWER.

    “POWER is our power generating glass coating. It directs sunlight onto integrated solar cells in PowerWindows. Without impacting the transparency of its glass, Windows will produce the same energy as 1/5 of a solar panel placed on a building’s roof,” Physee explains.

    The High Tech Window Of The Future

    Physee is also applying it solar know-how to greenhouses, though not to generate electricity. The company’s PAR coating is designed to boost greenhouse yields by transforming ultraviolet light, which plants can’t use, into visible light, which they can.

    Meanwhile, researchers continue to attack the challenge of transparent solar cells.

    Some interesting developments this year include a new silicon nanowire design aimed at improving solar conversion efficiency, and applying fullerenes (think carbon and Buckminster Fuller) to improve transparency.

    Transparent Solar Windows The Built Environment

    Ubiquitous Energy certainly has put MSU on the solar cell map. Another emerging area of interest in the solar field is floating solar panels, and MSU is all over that, too.

    Last year a team of MSU researchers came up with a study indicating that the push for constructing new hydropower dams could be alleviated by using the surface of existing dams to install floating arrays of solar panels.

    The common denominator with Lunt’s research is the use of the built environment to generate clean power, rather than destroying natural habitats for new construction.

    The emphasis on using pre-developed sites for solar power also extends to farmland. Experts at MSU see a lot of potential in the newly emerged area of agrivoltaics, in which ground-mounted solar panels on farmland are raised several feet higher than the usual practice.

    The raised solar panels allow room for grazing livestock or maintaining pollinator habitats. Raised solar panels can also yield regenerative agriculture benefits, by reducing evaporation and conserving water.

    Evidence is mounting that yields for certain food crops can also improve due to the partial shade and regenerative benefits of solar panels.

    If all goes according to plan, the sparkling green farmhouse of the future will sport rooftop solar panels and transparent solar Windows that gaze out upon acres of lush fields and solar panels, too.

    By the way, if you’ve been hearing a lot about agrivoltaics recently, remember you heard it here first. CleanTechnica began covering the solar-plus-farming trend back in 2019, including an interesting twist in which solar panels could help rescue, not destroy, an entire industry.

    Follow me on @TinaMCasey.

    Photo (screenshot): Transparent solar Windows developed by a team of solar researchers at Michigan State University (video credit: MSU).

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