The idea that glazing and windows in buildings could be fitted with devices that could generate solar power has been around for a few years. If the technology can be successfully developed, it could help to make buildings self-sustaining.
The collectors would likely be luminescent plastic-type materials that could be attached to the glass. The problem in the past has been that the devices have poor energy efficiency and are highly coloured.
Now a team of researchers led by Richard Lunt at Michigan State University is developing a solar concentrator that is clear and appears transparent to the human eye.
The previous coloured solar condensors made it seem “like working in a disco,” said Lunt in a report in MSU’s news.
His team’s solar harvesting system employs molecules “trained” to pick up just the ultraviolet and near infrared wavelengths of sunlight. The energy is guided to the edge of the plastic concentrator where it is converted to electricity by thin strips of photovoltaic solar cells.
The technology is at an early stage but has the potential to be scaled to commercial or industrial applications in everything from tall buildings to mobile phones.
The conversion efficiency is close to 1% at present, but Lunt’s team is aiming for 5%.
Other members of the research team include Yimu Zhao, an MSU doctoral student in chemical engineering and materials science, Benjamin Levine, assistant professor of chemistry, and Garrett Meek, doctoral student in chemistry.
Click here to read the report in Michigan State University News.