Researchers at Michigan State University have created a fully transparent solar concentrator, which could in the future turn any window or sheet of glass into a photovoltaic solar cell. The cells have been developed to be integrated on a wide range of products including - buildings and settings, particularly tall office and apartment buildings that traditionally have a number of windows on the exterior, to mobile devices and tablets.
The solar cells that are integrated into the transparent glass make energy by absorbing photons, or sunlight, and converting them into electrons or electricity. Prior to this development, scientists looking into this kind of technology had only been able to create partially transparent cells, as the light passing through the cells had always cast a colourful shadow.
Researchers working on this program at Michigan State University, use transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC) to absorb non-visible wavelengths of ultraviolet and infared light. The emitted infrared light is then guided to the edge of plastic, where thin strips of conventional photovoltaic solar cells convert the solar into electricity.
To date, one of the largest barriers to large-scale adoption of solar power is the intrusive and ugly nature of solar panels, with the hope that if this technology is integrated into large sheets of glass and plastic that look aesthetically pleasing, then adoption of the solar PV technology would be large scale.