This discovery in solar technology could help to make solar energy more mainstream. Researchers at Michigan State
University developed a transparent solar cell that could be used as windows and various other building materials. This is an incredible innovation in solar technology, since the materials that have been used previously absorb light and turn it into energy, but a transparent surface is not typically able to absorb light.
To make a transparent solar cell, researchers opted for a different system called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC), which contains organic salts that absorb specific non-visible wavelengths of ultraviolet and infrared light. This light is then guided towards traditional photovoltaic solar cells which are able to trap the energy and convert it into electricity.
Not only can this material be used for windows, but it can also be used for displays on electronic devices, giving them another source of power and potentially extending their energy life significantly.
Richard Lunt, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science at MSU’s College of Engineering, explains:
“We can tune these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near infrared wavelengths that then ‘glow’ at another wavelength in the infrared. The captured light is transported to the contour of the panel, where it is converted to electricity with the help of thin strips of photovoltaic solar cells…
If the transparent cells ultimately prove commercially viable, the power they generate could significantly offset the energy use of large buildings. We’re not saying we could power the whole building, but we are talking about a significant amount of energy, enough for things like lighting and powering everyday electronics,” he added.
2016 data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) suggests that solar has actually already become the cheapest way to generate energy.
According to a recent estimate released by the International Energy Agency, solar will be the world’s primary source of energy by 2050. Recent breakthroughs in solar technology are making it more efficient and cheaper to extract energy from the sun, which in turn, is making this technology more available to the average person.
Solar power is unlike most other energy resources because there is a limitless supply. This limitless supply of power could actually cause energy prices to drop so low that anyone could afford it. Like all technology, the technology to harness electricity from the sun will continue to become cheaper as it is developed and perfected.
Credits: Michigan State University