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Solar Cell Windows Could Help Buildings Harvest Energy

Researchers from the University of Michigan, North Carolina State University, Tianjin University and Zhejiang University in China have been developing a solar cell design for windows. The unique design would allow people to still be able to look outside, even though the windows would be covered.

Image of scientist holding a solar cell.

What lead to their discovery?

Despite silicone remaining on-top for solar panel efficiency, it isn’t transparent, and therefore wouldn’t be suitable for use on windows. This lead the researchers to seek out other materials to provide a viable solution for the problem. They turned their attention to carbon based materials. However, their first challenge was to prevent these very efficient materials from degrading quickly during use.

After careful analysis during their experiments, the researchers found that without protection from sunlight, the sunlight-converting material dropped substantially to less than 40% of its initial value within 12 weeks. They quickly solved this problem by adding a thin zinc-oxide layer next to the light absorbing region, underneath a layer of carbon-based material called IC-SAM. This helped to prevent the destruction of the light absorber. Initial buffers and layers of protection were added on top of this, to ensure the solar cell would work as efficiently as possible.

The team went on to test their newly developed solar-cell under different intensities of sunlight, ranging from one sun up to twenty-seven. They also tested the device against scorching temperatures - up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

The results were promising. After a careful analysis the team found that despite the varying conditions, the solar cells would still be running at 80% efficiency after 30 years. There is also hope that the transparency of the cells can be improved even more, increasing visibility levels up to 60% transparency. That’s a 20% increase from the current 40%. This means the solar cells could cover entire windows - and you’d still have the ability to be able to see outside.

Another beneficial factor of the newly developed solar cells would be that they are expected to have a relatively low manufacturing cost. This certainly sounds like a win-win for both consumers and green energy, with the new cells offering a beam of hope towards a greener future.

Article Credit -
University of Michigan