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Last updated: 28 July 2017

Harvesting Sunshine in the Most Revolutionary Way

Transparent Solar Panels

What are the Latest Trends in Solar Power? 

After the wake-up call concerning the climate change that was unanimously communicated in the last UN Climate Conference in Paris, the renewable energy resources have returned once again in the epicenter of the worldwide attention. Therefore, there is no better time than the present to display the potentially game-changer in the field of solar power harvesting system.

When we think about traditional solar panels we automatically think those large black squares that are mounted on the rooftops of the houses, but what if we were able to design our solar panels to look like any other skyscraper, glass tower or window in a building? What if we could save solar energy in any transparent surface that we use in our daily lives, from our automobiles to even our tablet and smartphones?

Indeed, it sounds amazing but this futuristic vision of the world will not take too long until the day that it will become an accessible reality for all of us. At least, this is what Richard Lunt, an assistant professor of Chemical Engineering and Material Science at the Michigan State University, claims.

Read more: 100% Solar-Powered House

About Transparent Solar Panels

Lunt and a research team that he was leading in 2014, created a transparent surface that can capture the ultraviolet and infrared light of the solar spectrum that is not possible to be seen by a human eye, while it is letting the visible light to pass through. They labeled it Transparent Luminescent Solar Concentrator (TLSC), and essentially, what they have achieved is to change the way the cell absorbs the sunlight by employing organic salts to harvest the invisible wavelengths. Today, Richard Lunt through his cofounded MIT start-up company Ubiquitous Energy brings this invention few steps before market.

Scientifically speaking, a transparent solar panel is a paradox on itself. Solar cells generate usable energy by converting absorbed photons into electrons; in simple words, from sunlight to electricity. Nevertheless, a transparent surface by its definition should allow all the light to pass through the material.

Hence, it is obvious that in order to create a truly TLSC it is necessary to change the traditional technique of gathering the solar power. The basic change that the researchers made true is that with TLSC the absorbed infrared light gets guided to the edge of the glass where some very thin tiny strips of solar cells give the opportunity to turn this energy to electricity. 

Read more: Flexible Solar Panels

So, the real question here is when this spectacular laboratory experiment can become an industrial and commercial tool in real life. Well, here we have to wait for a while but hopefully not too long. The prototype TLSC can reach efficiency of merely 1% when the average non-transparent concentrators do not exceed 7%.

However, according to Professor Richard Lunt the TLSC will have the capacity to achieve efficiency around 10%, once industrial production begins. If these numbers do not make you less skeptical, just imagine any surface of consumer device or window of a residential house collecting energy without dropping at the same time the established aesthetic quality of the products. Then you can speak about revolution. A technological revolution in the environmental field that gives the direction towards the policies that we should follow in order to make this planet sustainable.