Dirty Energy & Fuel

Published on July 11th, 2008 | by Max Lindberg

New, Cost Effective Solar Energy Devices from MIT

No more solar cells covering a roof, but around the edges of a flat glass panel, as shown in the artist’s representation by NSF.

MIT engineers say they’ve created a new approach to harnessing the sun’s energy that provide windows with a clear view and illuminate rooms at the same time without the need for tracking devices.

According to a news release from MIT , the solar concentrator collects light at the edges, and dye molecules coated on the glass absorb sunlight and re-emits it at different wavelengths.  The light is trapped within the glass and transported to solar cells along the edge, creating electricity and allowing light into the room as well.

The mixture of dyes is applied to the surface of the glass and allows light to travel a much longer distance.  Mapel said, that as a result, light transportation losses were significantly reduced, resulting  in a “tenfold increase in the amount of power converted by the solar cells.”

Marc A Baldo, leader of the work, is quoted as saying; “the focused light increases the electrical power obtained from each solar cell by a factor of over 40”.  The article went on to say that because of its simplicity and ease of manufacture, the system could be implemented within three years.  It could even be added to existing solar-panel systems, increasing their efficiency by 50 percent for minimal additional cost.

Other researchers involved in the project are Michael Currie, Jon Mapel and Timothy Heidel, all students of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Shalom Goffri, a postdoctoral associate in MIT’s Research Labortary of Electronics.

The new technology will be developed and commercialized by a new company, Covalent Solar, formed by Mapel, Currie and Goffri.

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About the Author

My home state is Illinois, and my hometown a little railroad/farming community named Galesburg.We lived on a small farm during my high school years and I became very aware of nature and it’s wonders. I loved the out of doors, working with animals, plowing fields and harvesting crops. Those were very good years.After a stint in the Army during the Korean war my broadcasting career took off at the local radio station, a 250 watt “teapot” as it was called in those days. My first job was as an engineer, then the ham came out and I became an announcer/newsman, graduating after several years to a larger market and a stint as a TV journalist/photographer. Cold, wet weather led me to the southwest where I’ve lived for most of the last 40 years, with a couple of years out to have fun working as a private investigator in San Francisco, and a few years working in Las Vegas hotels and casinos. In all, its been a real ride.After retiring a few years back I became fascinated with the efforts being made to find alternative energy sources. I’ve watched our environment deteriorate during my lifetime, and now it’s my chance to join the chorus of intelligent and caring individuals making a difference one day at a time.

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  • pls. tell me how do to calculate various angle effectiveness of collector of solar energy

  • Imagine windows that not only provide a clear view and illuminate rooms, but also use sunlight to efficiently help power the building they are part of. MIT engineers report a new approach to harnessing the sun's energy that could allow just that.

  • I heard that the International Monetary Fund bought the rights for a breakthrough Photovoltaic system from MIT. They will keep it off the market just like Chevron did with the electric car batteries, GM and Ford with 100+ MPH carburators and GE did with Astrosolar's 4000W solar panels. I have seen solar panels that put out 5000W on a cloudy California day. Unfortunately, the PV industry is controlled by BP, Shell Oil, Rockefellers and the New World Disorder.

    Let's pay particular attention on the case of Pacific Electric. Though it's difficult to believe today, Los Angeles once boasted the largest system of "interurbans" (heavy-duty inter-city trolleys) in the U.S., carrying some 80 million passengers a year in the late 1930s. According to Snell, all this went out the window starting in 1939, when GM got together with Standard Oil of California (now Chevron), Firestone, and other auto-related firms to set up a holding company that bought up trolley lines, dismantled them, and replaced them with buses. "The noisy, foul-smelling buses turned earlier patrons of the high-speed rail system away from public transit and, in effect, sold millions of private automobiles," Snell said. "Largely as a result, Los Angeles today is an ecological wasteland."

  • cyshuqian

    Your blog is very great, I like to discuss.

  • Thank you for this very informative post. Heating solutions are evolving very fast and my company SOLARHOT offers some innovative solutions and products for Solar Water Heating.

    It is very nice to read and be part of this discussion and to lend to the fact that Solar Heating Solutions are being accepted globally.

    Go MIT !

  • Pat

    Replacing window panes with “solar cell panes” sounds like an effective method for homeowners without having to rebuild houses in order to use solar technology. Prototypes typically operate upon the principle of building or rebuilding rather than “additions and enhancements,” but at MIT, a number of those projects seem to be in the works.

  • blahblah

    I get so tired of all these new “breakthroughs” that quickly disappear. In 2011, let’s all check the marketplace and see if this “affordable solution” is available and at a reasonable cost. I’ll bet you that it isn’t. You see, as the article says, 3 students are sudddenly going to become entrepeneurs and make a fortune off their discoveries, but that’s part of the problem. Three people with three different ideas of how to market this fantasy product. They probably have no business or marketing skills, so the business fails and so does this “revolutionary breakthrough”.

  • Punit shukla

    Solar energy is the best option of electricity in india it should be pramote in india as electricity is a major problem of india so you peoples should think about this.

  • Punit shukla

    What will be the cost of solar pannel for producing 5-10 kilowatt electricity & how much area it will aquire . I m from india so tell me also business opportunity of solar pannels and shiping cost & cost of pannel in INR. Waiting for your responce.

  • Chloe M

    Wow sounds really cool! Anyone know any good science fair projects? :S

    -Chloe M


  • Prem Prakash

    Hi, iam from India and feel that solar thermal method to produce steam and then electric current to be the most cost effective way to beat the rising oil prices .the only thing is the commercial production of the MIT RAW solar concentraters when will they be ready ? and when can i buy them?? please someone help!! Feb. 7th 2009

  • terry koehl

    how do i get more info on the use of solar for my home—where are your outlets for this product ???

  • Sounds Great! I’m still waiting on the solar conductive nano-paint and Tree charging Batteries to hit the market; but untill then, photovoltaics, thermal, wind, gravity, etc. using 2 reversable H2 fuel cells as a storage and production; or Edison’s idea of delivering steal plates and acid to ones home may be the direction we aught to go for now. At least we can all agree something needs to be done about our nation and the worlds energy situation. Thanks again MIT for the wonderful work!

  • shylesh

    i want to setup a solar power project in INDIA. so looking for project reports. can some 1 help . mail me at jainshailesh@hotmail.com

  • Pingback: Solar energy panels - Millionaire Entrepreneur Forum()

  • It looks like low-cost, highly efficient solar may be coming to your home soon.

  • Linda Bleeke

    Where do I get one? This is just what we all need. The warm summer sun, all season sun should be saved and used later. We wait all year to feel it’s warmth. This new system sounds like it would really work.

  • Harri Brown

    Sounds great. I will offer my home as a test subject for this MIT find.

  • Ryan

    To add to what Sascha Deri said, MIT was behind the advancements using chlorophyl harvested from spinach to make better solar cells. What happened to that idea? I haven’t heard anything about it in years.

    And yes, we would all be better served to incorporate passive solar into every new house and renovation project. Passive solar can be used for radiant floor heating, supplemental water heating, and in the sunnier parts of the west/midwest it’s even used for electricity production!

  • Richard Garnett

    Another great academic exercise! As a race, we are well practiced in invention and scientific intent but how do we increase the rate at which these discoveries result in affect?
    How would our world change if one percent of the invention was lost for an increase in one percent of our ability to implement and action the invention?

  • Like Chris mentioned above, there are many other places where the same application can be used.

    It will be interesting to see how they use the technology.

  • This is great, great news indeed! No time to loose. Let’s start a big project for this one!

  • Chris Ackerman

    I wonder if this could be used with a clear coating over a vehicle’s body to turn the entire car into a collector, while still allowing it to be stylishly colored.

  • Looks fantastic. Now all we need to do is wait 10 years to see if a product using this technology ever makes it to the residential market. There’s so much hype around new solar technologies that are just around the corner that will make solar electric systems even more cost effective, but oddly they rarely seem to come to market. Meanwhile the cost per watt of PV panels is pretty much the same as it’s been for the last 4 years.

    The public would be better served by learning more about cheap solar technologies that are indeed available today and really reduce the amount of petroleum most households have to consume (for heating) – such as solar air heating and solar water heating systems. These are systems are about 1/4 to 1/3 the cost per unit of energy produced. They generally pay for themselves in 3-6 years and can be expected to last decades – that’s decades of free heating.

  • Ross Buffington

    Wow, that’s really cool. Hopefully this will make solar panels much more practical.

  • James Jones

    Leave it to MIT to come up with the good stuff! Go MIT!

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