Dirty Energy & Fuel

Published on July 22nd, 2012 | by James Ayre

20

Solar-Power-Generating Windows

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Researchers from UCLA have developed a new transparent solar cell that is a significant step towards giving the windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still being transparent.

The research team “describes a new kind of polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70% transparent to the human eye.” They created the device from a photoactive plastic that generates an electrical current from infrared light.

“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,” said study leader Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering, who also is director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI).


Yang also said that there has been a definite world-wide interest in polymer solar cells. “Our new PSCs are made from plastic-like materials and are lightweight and flexible,” he said.

“More importantly, they can be produced in high volume at low cost.”

“Polymer solar cells have attracted great attention due to their advantages over competing solar cell technologies. Scientists have also been intensely investigating PSCs for their potential in making unique advances for broader applications. Several such applications would be enabled by high-performance visibly transparent photovoltaic (PV) devices, including building-integrated photovoltaics and integrated PV chargers for portable electronics.”

“Previously, many attempts have been made toward demonstrating visibly transparent or semitransparent PSCs. However, these demonstrations often result in low visible light transparency and/or low device efficiency because suitable polymeric PV materials and efficient transparent conductors were not well deployed in device design and fabrication.”

“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.”

“We are excited by this new invention on transparent solar cells, which applied our recent advances in transparent conducting windows (also published in ACS Nano) to fabricate these devices,” said Paul S.Weiss, CNSI director and Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences.

The new study appears in the journal ACS Nano.

A number of researchers and companies have been working on solar windows over the years. It will be interesting to see who comes out with the first commercial product.

Source: University Of California – Los Angeles
Image Credits: University of California – Los Angeles





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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • Nate Ghersonq

    Things can’t be taken away unless you allow them to be taken.

    China does not take our jobs away. They provide lower cost labor. Therefore the jobs are sent their way.

    You want to blame others for our job loss, then be my guest.

    However, why don’t you ask the American 1% who RAPE and PILLAGE their own best, why they don’t invest in their own people first?

    Oh yeah, its because they can make an extra buck over there than they can’t make here.

    So that their wonderful new $100,000 “green energy” Spiker car can make them feel better, since it saves them an extra 30% on a tank full of premium gasoline.

    If you can’t see the utter depth of depravity that exists in this country, while at the same time its held to be the shining beacon of goodness for the rest of the world, then we deserve the state that we exist in.

    Fix your own house first before looking to others.

    Hypocrites, all of us.

  • http://google Jerry

    The powers that be will never allow any other energy source other than oil and coal,I personally believe that another source has existed for hundreds of years that would be extremely afforable but has been supressed.

  • Kobold

    Think about how much power this could generate it it were used everywhere. Like CFL’s, this should be mandated by Congress to be used on every new commercial building, residential home, and electronic device.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marcelo.jones.142 Marcelo Jones

    Humans are very stupid that is the reason they live enslaved, buying into every stupid energy hog scam and superfluous product, also reproducing like bringing innocent people to this world was such a great idea!!!! HAHAHAHA.

  • Bob

    The full page popup is a real piece of shit

    • Bob

      That said, this technology will happen, it, or something very much like it. You will soon see grid parity, or better, from new technology solar, or even old thick solar panels where innovation cuts waste and premium production costs and consumer pricing of panels, are naturally degraded to market prices. Or kids lives will be powered by solar and wind.

      • http://zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

        Actually, we already have grid parity in some regions of the US (and other countries). But that will certainly expand a lot in the coming years.

        • Jeremy

          Solar and wind will not solve all the problems… Besides they also done work every where. In the long term it will be many different power sources all working together to power the world. Plus the need will expand for power storage to flatten out electrical load issues that come with solar and wind and many others such as tidal .

  • markavelli

    Yawn, I am still waiting for the flexible solar cells which can be wrapped around buildings or used as a skin for cars. Its been 10 years since I’ve seen the prototype.

    Way too much talk about this technology and very little action since the “green movement” began 15 years ago….

    • Eron

      What are you talking about? Flexible solar arrays have been available for a couple of years, I have one for camping that i roll up around my pack.

      • markavelli

        I am aware of those. They do nothing as an “alternative energy source”. Clearly they are not ready to be used in the manner stated in my post above….

  • http://reefreliefarcive.org Craig Quirolo

    Seems to be a lot of negative charged attitudes out there. One aspect of alternative energy that many people overlook is the many new jobs that will be created manufacturing appliances that run on lower voltage when homes can produce their own energy. 110 volts is unnecessary as anyone living on boat can attest to,12 volts works well on many appliances. Alternative energy is a huge challenge and if the united States is not up to it our international competitors will bury us.

    • markavelli

      “many people overlook is the many new jobs that will be created ”

      The U.S. does not need a green market to start building things. China will always take these jobs from us just as they do with so many things. China is the leading manufacturer of solar cells in the world. They weren’t even making them 12 years ago. Here in San Diego we see examples of this often. Power companies building a giant wind/solar farm…in Mexico…using Chinese made generators and panels…to provide power for the U.S.. Oh ya…lots of jobs for Americans.

      Solar powered appliances are not equal to 110v appliances. Very little solar powered products are equal to their 110v counterparts. And they cost A lot more. Only those who are willing to make the enormous investment will ever see a return…and thats a big “if”.

      • http://zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

        a huge proportion of solar power jobs are in installation. those jobs aren’t going to be outsourced.

        there are also plenty of advantages to having relatively cheap products (which solar panels are becoming very fast) produced closer to installation. don’t be too pessimistic ;)

  • http://www.keithrogers.com Keith

    Very cool. What if when the cost is lower all new homes in america have these solar windows how cool that would be to see $10 or $20 a month come off the power bill.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.willis.75 Brian Willis

    its meant to be so absurdly expensive nobody except a few super wealthy buttholes will ever be able to have this. For the rest of us sodium fluoride drinking slaves we are stuck with the overly expensive electricity from the scam artist power companys. But nice try anyways. Let me guess a full window with this solar film produces 4 watts? haha. gotta love suppressed technology meant to keep you a slave on the electrical grid plantation.

  • MK

    Another Tech break through that BP, Exxon or some other global conglomerate will buy and bury. I have heard about quite a few solar innovations over the last 20 years but haven’t seen any pan out to the point where the average homeowner can afford to install. Hope this is different but I’m not too optimistic.

    • http://icetrout.wordpress.com icetrout

      Chi-Coms will steal(Obama give-a-way) this & mass produce with slave-labor just like the cfl’s…

    • Wally Geez

      I fully concur! There have been similar breakthroughs all over and the last you hear of it is the article. Vehicles running on H2O is a prime example.

      • Jeremy

        YOU CANNOT run a vehicle on H2O unless you break it into hydrogen and oxygen and then run it into a fuel cell (which ends up with water as an exhaust) or burn it… In either case its inefficient to do so. As you lose energy in the process.

        Flexible solar panels have been around since at least the mid 80′s.

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