UCLA Researchers Invent See-Through Solar Powered Cells, Could Be Installed As Windows

Researchers at UCLA have created highly transparent solar cells that can generate electricity while acting just like a standard window.

The group of scientists hope the windows will one day be installed in homes and other buildings to generate electricity while allowing for outside viewing.

The full study appears in the journal ACS Nano and describes the teams polymer solar cell (PSC) which produces energy by absorbing infrared light and not visible light which makes the cells 70% transparent to the human eye. The see-through solar panel is made from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into an electrical current.

Study leader Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering said in a press release regarding the new technology:

“These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications.”

The group says the new PSCs are constructed from lightweight and flexible “plastic-like” materials which can be produced in high volume at a low-cost.

Other options for the creation of PSCs include the building of integrated photovoltaics and integrated PV chargers for portable electronics.

According to the groups official press release:

“A team of UCLA researchers from the California NanoSystems Institute, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and UCLA’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry have demonstrated high-performance, solution-processed, visibly transparent polymer solar cells through the incorporation of near-infrared light-sensitive polymer and using silver nanowire composite films as the top transparent electrode. The near-infrared photoactive polymer absorbs more near-infrared light but is less sensitive to visible light, balancing solar cell performance and transparency in the visible wavelength region.

Another breakthrough is the transparent conductor made of a mixture of silver nanowire and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which was able to replace the opaque metal electrode used in the past. This composite electrode also allows the solar cells to be fabricated economically by solution processing. With this combination, 4% power-conversion efficiency for solution-processed and visibly transparent polymer solar cells has been achieved.”

Would you be willing to pay for solar-powered windows to be installed in your home?