Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a a new class of transparent photovoltaic cells that can turn an ordinary windowpane into a solar panel. Windows could therefor be turned into mini-power plants capable of producing enough electricity to run appliances in the building.
The researchers were able to develop a specific chemical formula for their cells that is based on organic molecules. When these cells are combined with partially infrared-reflective coating of indium-tin oxide it gives both high visible-light transparency and better efficiency than previous attempts on a transparent solar cell. The transparent PV system could be coated on the inner surfaces where it would be protected from window washing or the weather.
Richard Lunt, a postdoctoral researcher at MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics, says the new photovoltaic cells have the potential to turn skyscrapers into enormous solar collectors that could supply much of the electricity needed in modern office buildings.
The largest challenge in developing commercial applications for the new solar cells will be longevity. The photovoltaic cells that would have to last as long as the windows themselves, since the best way to use the cells would be to package them in the middle of double-pane windows.
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