transparent solar power

transparent solar cells

Researchers from different institutions in the world are looking for ways to solve energy problems. Researchers from MIT have come up with a technology that uses transparent solar cells to convert solar energy into electricity. This is through the conversion of ultraviolet light and infrared light. Visible light will pass through unimpeded and using this method, the scientists deposited coatings of solar cells on various materials that are used to run electronic displays. It is estimated that using coated windows on skyscrapers could provide more than a quarter of the building’s energy needs without altering the look of the structure. Studies are underway to determine how to integrate the solar cells into transparent materials. Given the difficulty in deploying different methods, this new technology could offer a new avenue in energy creation.

Transparent solar cells would change solar radiation and the use of conventional silicon panels. With this material, you could install on windows and nobody will know that it is in place. The see-through solar panels present a new dimension in solar energy and most researchers feel that this could help reduce the overall cost of producing silicon-based solar panels. When you begin with opaque materials, you have to decrease the amount of active materials so that you can achieve transparency. Using a prototype from the company, there is a total transparency of the novel cells. During the making of the cells, researchers were looking at creating a solar cell that could absorb all energy from the sun and at the same time allow us to see. All light is made up of electromagnetic radiation with different wavelengths and it could achieve its full potential if it is absorbed by the solar cells. The human eye can detect part of the spectrum which is visible light. With the right materials and technology in place, the light that the eyes detect could pass through the solar cells and the rest would be absorbed and be converted into electricity.

Inspired by previous scientific research, a team from MIT developed transparent solar cells. The schematic representation of the photovoltaic cells has all the components that could aid in the conversion of solar radiation into electricity in the matrix. In this context, a glass or plastic material is coating with multiple layers of photovoltaic materials. At the core are two active layers which have absorptive semiconductor materials which interact with sunlight and givign rise to an electric field and causing current to flow. When these two layers are sandwiched, it results in an electron transfer and this is an effective process as it generates electrical energy. Both electrodes must be transparent and they  a reflective material is used on the back of the cell. In essence, the reflective material will send the light back through to the layers. Anti-coatings can be utilized on both outside surfaces to prevent any light from being refracted. The technology utilizes molecular engineering, device optimization and optical design.

What Is A Transparent Solar Cell?

The key components of non-transparent photovoltaic material allow visible light to pass through and capture near infrared and ultraviolet rays. At the core of the coatings are active layers which absorb near infrared and ultraviolet light. These cause current to flow through the two transparent electrodes and to an external circuit. The reflector sends the near infrared light and ultraviolet light back to the active layers. The anti-reflective coatings on the outside surfaces optimize incoming light by cutting out any kind of reflection. Researchers have measured solar cells by examining their absorptive response and comparing them with conventional solar cell. The results showed that the conventional cell absorbs high visible part of the spectrum while transparent cells absorbed near infrared rays and ultraviolet parts of the spectrum.

Spectral Response of Transparent and Conventional PV Cells

The solar cell  captures important parts of the sunlight which is converted to electricity. Researchers do not let visible photons of light to pass through by allowing them to efficiently light the room. On the other hand, the plate captures near infrared and ultraviolet rays which are then converted to sunlight. Current transparent solar panels transmit more than 80% of visible light and this is within range of a tinted glass used in buildings. The power conversion efficiency of the material is quite low at 2%. Increasing the efficiency of transparent solar materials is a challenging task which scientists are still exploring. Stacking several layers of transparent photons could increase efficiency of the panel up to 16% while still maintaining the ability to transmit light. It has been demonstrated that an array of transparent cells in integrated series could power a liquid crystal clock which can just rely on ambient light.

A key aspect in transparent solar system is longevity. In large-scale applications like window coatings, solar cells continue to perform very well. Making transparent solar materials continue to be an important component in extending the longevity of the products. Engineering problems could be solved in the next few years.

Transparent Solar Cells Costs and Benefits

The cost of implementing a technology varies on application, solar efficiency and other important applications that could help improve solar efficiency. Introduction of new capital ventures and modern techniques of combating stagnation prove to be effective in enhancing the efficiency of transparent solar panels. The photovoltaic cells are environmentally friendly and there is more data to back up the efficiency of the system. It is imperative to note that the transparent photovoltaic system could be laid on all types of surfaces. One major benefit of this is that it could be included in any transparent material and this could lower costs of fabricating the systems.

Conventional solar panel system require installation. However, transparent solar panels do not require any installation. During window replacement or placement of new windows in a building, the coating is added at a very low cost and this is beneficial in that it will significantly lower the cost of production and installation. The photovoltaic encapsulation layer between the panels is well protected from weather and other external factors that could affect its integrity and functionality. It is important to note that the costs of glass framing and installation are all included on the initial cost of the project without the photovoltaic coating. When using a conventional solar panel system, installation and other costs usually account for nearly two-third of the cost. Distributing the energy through photovoltaic-equipped windows is simple as placing a wire connection and each windows carries energy in a series, adding up all energy to induce a positive effect.

The benefits accruing from adding the solar cells should be significant as the windows capture sunlight directly. In one analysis, research showed that if the windows had transparent a solar system, it could power the skyscraper’s energy needs by a quarter. In addition, the solar cells would block infrared radiation which is known to increase room temperature. This feature is beneficial in that it could cut the costs of air conditioning and could further reduce energy and operating costs of the building. This would be possible without moving a single block or evacuating occupants from their offices. The technology could be commercialized and developmental work is underway to improve the efficiency of the solar panels. Since the PVs are environmentally friendly, it could help enhance the overall functionality of different devices.

There is a possibility of incorporating transparent solar cells into consumer products to reduce the total energy used. Within a short period, there is a high chance that it could help enhance the overall functionality of various devices while reducing overall costs. Mobile electronic devices and other small gadgets could be used to gather energy and provide efficiency, convenience, freedom and better user experience since the device will be powered throughout the process. The most important part of the process is to develope modern devices that could help capture and harness energy in the right manner.  There is a more efficient and better way of harnessing solar energy that could help reduce overall costs of operation. Scaling up operations to make transparent solar system is of great importance.


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pros and cons of solar energy
  • What is solar energy?

What is solar energy?

What is solar energy?

Solar energy is the energy of the sun. It is obtained through solar panels which use sunlight to produce electricity. Solar panels are usually mounted on rooftops of office buildings and private homes and angled towards the sun. More and more countries around the world are using solar energy to reduce the usage of fossil fuels. Private home owners and households also use the sun’s power to reduce their monthly electricity bills by decreasing the need of electricity from energy companies.

Solar energy is becoming an increasingly important part of the world we live in. Therefore, we need to take into consideration whether we are going to include solar energy as part of our own green way of living. To help you take an informed decision whether solar energy is the right choice of energy resource for you, we’re going to explain the main advantages and disadvantages of this type of energy.

  • Advantages of solar energy:

  • It is renewable

 it is renewable and it won’t be depleted

it is renewable and it won’t be depleted

The main advantage of solar energy as an energy source is that it is renewable and it won’t be depleted. Other energy sources like fossil fuels, coal and nuclear power are non-renewable. Fossil fuels will be depleted in several decades time.

Solar energy will be available as long as the sun is alive which means for for another 6.5 billion years, according to NASA. Actually, the Earth itself will cease existence 5 billion years from now after being swallowed by the sun.

  •  It is abundant

The potential of solar energy is enormous because the surface of the earth receives sunlight that is equivalent to 120,000 terawatts of solar radiation. That is 20,000 times more than the power needed to supply our entire planet.

  • It is sustainable

Another advantage of solar power is its sustainability. Sustainable energy sources can be used by the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations. In other words, solar energy is sustainable because it is impossible to be over-consumed.

  •  It is environmentally friendly

environmentally friendly

environmentally friendly

Generally, the use of solar energy does not cause pollution. However, there are emissions caused by the manufacturing, transportation and installation of the systems needed for harvesting solar energy. Even so, these emissions are much less harmless compared to most conventional energy sources. Also, solar energy reduces our dependence on non-renewable energy sources. This is an important step in fighting the climate crisis.

  • It is readily available

Unlike other energy resources, solar energy is available everywhere. All countries can benefit from it. Germany, for example, has the highest capacity of solar power in the world by far.

  • It reduces the cost of electricity

Since the introduction of net metering and feed-in tariff (FIT) schemes, individual homeowners can now “sell” the electricity they don’t need. They can also receive bill credits when they produce more electricity than they actually need.

The financial benefit for these homeowners is that they can reduce their overall electricity expenses by going solar. A recent research by solar company One Block Off the Grid revealed that adding solar panels to your home can bring about monthly savings of more than $100 in various states of the USA.

Nowadays, homeowners usually choose to finance their solar panels by leasing or using power purchase agreements. This drastically reduces or even eliminates upfront costs of buying and installing a solar panel system and allows more homeowners to afford them.

  • It has many applications

 transparent solar power windows

transparent solar power windows

Solar energy can be used for a vast range of purposes. For example, it can be used to generate electricity in places lacking a grid connection, for distilling water in polluted areas or even power satellites in outer space.

Solar power is also known as “The People`s Power”. This refers to the easy way in which both photovoltaic and solar thermal panels are deployed at the consumer level.

Since the introduction of flexible thin-film solar cells, solar power can be integrated into the building material of houses. Recently, transparent solar power windows were introduced in the market.

  • It can be shared

There are different reasons, such as shading, insufficient space and ownership issues that prevent around 1/5 of American households from using solar panels. The introduction of “shared solar” aims to build community solar gardens. Homeowners can subscribe to them and thus generate solar electricity without actually having solar panels on their own rooftops.

  • It is silent

There are no moving parts involved in the standard applications of solar power. Therefore, there is no noise associated with solar panels unlike other green technology such as wind turbines.

The use of fossil fuels and other renewable energy may be very noisy. The production of solar energy is silent and doesn’t increase the sound pollution of the neighborhood.

  • It is financially supported by the government or the state

Governments usually supports the use of solar energy and therefore offers tax rebates or subsidize the installation of solar panels. This significantly reduces the cost of solar panels. It is not uncommon for the price of a residential photovoltaic system in the US to be reduced by more than 50%.

Homeowners can find out more by searching through the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).

  • It needs almost no maintenance

It needs almost no maintenance

It needs almost no maintenance

Most solar power systems require limited maintenance. Residential solar panels only need to be cleaned a couple of times each year. Some solar manufacturers offer up to 25-year warranties for the solar panels they produce.

  • Solar energy technology is constantly improving

The solar power industry is constantly improving. Technological advancements are constantly being made. Innovation in the fields of nanotechnology and quantum physics could even triple the electrical effectiveness of solar panels.

  • Disadvantages of solar energy:

  • It is expensive

The initial cost is the most significant disadvantage of solar energy. The installation of solar panels on your rooftop is expensive. The best quality solar cells may cost well above $1000, and a limited number of households could actually afford them because they usually require more than one panel. Therefore, the upfront costs can be quite high.

Nowadays, using solar panels can be cheaper than buying electricity from the power grid. This is possible because of government’s incentives.

  • It is intermittent

It is intermittent

It is intermittent

Solar energy is an intermittent energy resource because access to sunlight is limited at certain times of the day and during bad weather. Predicting overcast days is not easy either. This means that for around half of the day, solar panels could be not producing energy. The climate and weather patterns differ from area to area and that can also influence the efficiency of the solar panels.

Another obstacle to the efficiency of solar panels is air pollution. This is important for homeowners and industries residing in polluted zones like bigger cities. This is why solar power is not the usual choice for meeting basic energy demand. However, solar power has less intermittence problems than say, wind power.

  • Energy storage is expensive

Energy storage systems such as batteries are being used to overcome demand and load problems. They make solar power more stable but these technologies are quite expensive. Solar power is used to charge batteries for household and commercial needs so that during the night, there will still be access to power. The batteries themselves are heavy and large. They need storage space and occasional replacement which is also expensive.

  • It is associated with pollution

Solar power creates less pollution than fossil fuels, but there are some problems. Some manufacturing processes produce greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrogen trifluoride and sulfur hexafluoride have been associated with the production of solar panels. These are some of the most potent greenhouse gasses impacting global warming thousand times more than carbon dioxide. Transportation and installation of solar power systems also have an indirect impact on pollution. Nevertheless, compared to other energy sources, solar energy causes less pollution.

  • It requires some exotic materials

It requires too much space

It requires too much space

Certain solar cells require rare materials and therefore are expensive. This is especially true for thin-film solar cells because they are made of either cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).

  • It requires too much space

Power density or watt per square meter (W/m²), is essential to produce more energy from a single energy installation. The low power density indicated that a lot of space is required to provide for needed power at lower prices. This means that a single rooftop or yard may not be enough to fulfill the household’s energy needs. Solar energy requires more production space than any other renewable energy sources. However, compared to oil, gas and nucler power, solar power still requires less production space.

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