Solar windows could soon tap into sun’s power

Posted by Laura Grant on July 22, 2008
Posted in Renewable energy

Windows that not only let sunlight into buildings but also use it to generate electricity may be a commercial reality in as little as three years’ time, MIT reports.

A research team at the US university has found a way to concentrate solar energy onto solar cells situated around the edge of a pane of glass or plastic.

A mixture of dyes is painted onto the glass or plastic. “The dyes work together to absorb light across a range of wavelengths, which is then re-emitted at a different wavelength and transported across the pane to waiting solar cells at the edges,” the MIT report says.

Similar technology was developed in the the 1970s, but it was abandoned. But the research team has brought it back to life using techniques developed for lasers and organic light-emitting diodes.

The research team’s solar concentrator technology can increase the power obtained from solar cells by a factor of over 40, the university reports.

“Solar cells transform sunlight into electricity by using a semiconductor device, typically made of silicon. Solar cells are packaged into solar panels, which can be installed on rooftops or large fields,” explains the MIT research team in a Q&A. “Solar concentrators collect light over large areas and focus it onto smaller areas of solar cells. This increases the electrical power obtained from each solar cell. Solar concentrators can reduce the cost of solar power since more electricity is obtained per solar cell, and fewer solar cells are needed.”

And the concentrators can be “added onto existing solar-panel systems to increase their efficiency by 50 percent for minimal additional cost”, which would substantially lower the cost of solar electricity, the report says.

Read more at MIT News

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