Transparent Solar Cells

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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