New Crystal Clear Solar Cells Could Power Your Smartphone One Day

New Crystal Clear Solar Cells Could Power Your Smartphone One Day

The idea of a completely transparent solar panel has always been a bit of a dream. Such revolutionary technology would mean that we could turn windows into power generators and build phones with self-charging screens. Well, guess what? That dream is becoming a reality.

A team of researchers from Michigan State University has developed a completely transparent, luminescent solar concentrator. Whereas most traditional solar panels collect light energy from the sun using dark silicon cells and converted into electricity using the photovoltaic effect, solar concentrators actually focus sunlight onto a heat engine that produces electricity. In the case of this new technology, the plastic-like material channels specific wavelengths of sunlight towards the photovoltaic solar cells on the edge of the panel. "Because the materials do not absorb or emit light in the visible spectrum, they look exceptionally transparent to the human eye," Richard Lunt, who led the research, explains in a release.

New Crystal Clear Solar Cells Could Power Your Smartphone One Day

Scientists have created partially transparent solar cells in the past, but the existence of crystal clear cells opens up some very exciting new possibilities. "It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader," says Lunt. "Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there."

This is clearly exciting. (Pun intended.) Again, a solar-powered smartphone sounds like a dream for anyone who hates charging cords. It also sounds like a once impossible future that's closer than we thought. [MSU]

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    I don't see this in any way practical for phones ATM, how ever for an apartment complex or similar high rise buildings this opens up a lot of possibilities...

      Meanwhile in Australia:

    pity it only has a 1% efficiency

      Yeah but if in a new multi-story high rise building you used these everywhere instead of windows, that 1% would add up very, very quickly.

      Still would be nice if that number was higher, heck I'd love normal solar panels that could break the 25% barrier...

        What about the cost though? If it needs a material much more transparent than glass filled with with exotic organic molecules, it sounds like it would be more expensive than glass as well. As you say, 1% would add up quickly, but so would even a small price premium.

        Yeah I guess economies of scale comes into it but I still feel like people are making a big deal over nothing

      it has (0.4 +/- 0.03)% as reported in the original Advanced Optical Materials article. Inorganic concentrators of the same size have now exceeded 3.8% efficiency when placed vertically as in window applications. Demonstration is available: - looks a bit like two elephants pulled by an ant.

      For now. Don't forget that only a fraction of the EM spectrum is visible to humans. There is no reason they couldn't find ways to widen the spectrum intercepted by these to increase the efficiency. Also what if they made the glass over the top of existing solar panels out of this stuff?

    I just told a friend about this and mentioned the 1% efficiency..he said "So we only need 100 of them then..."

    On a different point, is it really a solar cell? If I understand it, it refracts a portion of the light spectrum towards a photovoltaic cell (not sure if the photovoltaic cell is integral to the clear square..). If is "only" refracting the light then in some ways it is only a form of lens..admittedly refracting a specific spectrum 90 degrees is still a pretty good trick..

    Last edited 22/08/14 9:40 am

    No mention of Wysips?

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