A new type of solar panel was created that is clear like glass and can be used in a window. It can also be used as a panel on the outside of a building or a cell phone display panel, which means it could be used to supply energy to a building or power a cell phone. The fact that it is transparent means it could be used in many applications to provide the power of sunlight.
The new material was developed by a research team in the College of Engineering at Michigan State University. They described the new type of solar panel as a transparent, luminescent solar concentrator. Richard Lunt, one of the developers, is reported to have said “transparent” is the key word.
In a transparent, luminescent solar concentrator, the luminescent layer is the active layer and it does not absorb or reflect visible light, thereby making it transparent. Small organic molecules that absorb certain nonvisible wavelengths of sunlight were used in the material. Specifically, ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths are absorbed and then the energy that is emitted is in the infrared region. Infrared energy is also called heat. The human visual system cannot perceive ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths.
The emitted infrared energy is converted to electricity by very thin photovoltic material that is embedded in strips. The solar panel transparent “concoction” containing the small organic molecules is placed on glass.
This new solar panel technology has less than optimal efficiency, however. The transparent, luminescent solar concentrator efficiency is about one percent. Conventional solar panel technology has efficiency ratings of about 7 percent to 15 percent. The inventors of this new technology are hoping to be able to increase the efficiency in the near future.
These new types of solar panels, or solar concentrators, can be made to be very large or very small. A building could be constructed with outer panels made of glass with this solar concentrator material and it would remain transparent, allowing people inside the building to look out without any interference or coloration. The outer panels of the building would then be able to also provide energy for the building.
Other ideas for this new solar technology include using it to power small devices such as cell phones or tablets. Including a transparent, luminescent solar concentrator in a cell phone would mean one would not need to plug in a phone from time to time. The risk for running out of power with a cell phone and being out of luck with regard to any important phone calls would be lowered significantly. Being able to maintain power for a laptop computer with a solar concentrator would also be highly desirable. Medical applications could also be developed in the future. Powering devices for people who are disabled would become possible with this solar concentrator technology.
The source of the energy, of course, is the sun. Sunlight is free, clean and “green.” The development of transparent, luminescent solar contractor technology advances solar panel possibilities because it is clear like glass and therefore creates the potential for new applications. Additionally, it could help to reduce humanity’s dependency on carbon based -energy sources, which most agree is a wonderful plus.
By Margaret Lutze