Could transparent solar panels be the source of electricity in the future? While the science fiction authors have probably toyed with the idea, it seems scientists have invented a way to turn the Sun into a source of power we can literally see through.
Solar energy is usually created when the natural daylight hits a large flat generator, which in turn converts the heat and light into an alternate source of power. Until now, it’s usually been done through obvious dark colored panels mounted in arrays on the rooftops of the wealthy. New technology has been able to make transparent panels which look almost identical to regular windows.
If made in mass production, this could revolutionize the power industry, especially anywhere that sees a lot of sunlight.
Imagine the very sheet of glass you’re looking through being what powers your iPhone, your HDTV or even your car, and electric companies may have a reason to be very worried. While cloudy days or stormy weather could be a hindrance to this kind of energy, this technology could use solar panels you don’t even know are there as alternative power and cut your electric bill considerably.
These panels could not only convert solar power into something useful, but if it’s not being used, said energy could be stored in a capacitor as a kind of emergency generator, probably cutting your electric expenses by a decent fraction.
We could see the use of nuclear, coal, oil, and other potentially harmful power sources diminishing as we lose dependence on them. The likely reduction of greenhouse gases and radiation could improve lives around the world. Even fracking could become eliminated as we draw our energy from the limitless power of the Sun.
Richard Lunt, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Michigan State University, explained the business advantages of these transparent solar panels.
“When you look at tall buildings, there is a tremendous amount of surface area. They can act as efficient collectors throughout the day. In many buildings, we are already installing films to reject infrared light to reduce [heating and cooling] costs. We aim to do something similar while also generating power. Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”
Solar energy through the use of what looks like ordinary glass could offer so many positives that the only people who might see it as bad news are the ones behind more harmful sources of power.
Totally transparent solar cells could turn our windows into solar panels http://t.co/bjmFKUuaKa
— Fast Company (@FastCompany) September 13, 2014
The bad news is there is still a lot of work to do before this technology can produce enough energy to be efficient and offset the cost. For now, the darker solar panels have a 15 percent conversion rate, while Lunt’s prototype only converts one percent.
Potentially reversing damage to the environment and cutting your electric bill, it’s hard to see a downside to the eventual mass production of transparent solar panels as windows.
[image via Wikipedia]