Researchers at Michigan State University announced this week they have developed a new type of solar window they say has the potential to supply up to 40% of the total energy demand in the U.S.
In an article published in MSU Today, the team of researchers describes how transparent solar cells can be used to harvest the sun’s energy in greater mass than traditional rooftop solar panels. “Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications,” said Richard Lunt, the Johansen Crosby Endowed Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU. “We analyzed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles and mobile electronics.”
Unlike conventional solar panels, which are opaque and bulky, transparent solar cells are 100% clear and can be placed on glass surfaces without disrupting the view. With an estimated 5 – 7 billion square meters of glass surface in the U.S., the researchers argue that transparent solar technology could become the nation’s chief source of energy in the future.
“That is what we are working towards,” he said. “Traditional solar applications have been actively researched for over five decades, yet we have only been working on these highly transparent solar cells for about five years. Ultimately, this technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, widespread solar adoption on small and large surfaces that were previously inaccessible.”
Despite their progress in developing a working transparent solar application, the researchers note that the technology is only at about a third of its realistic overall potential. Still, the achievement represents a major step forward in the global effort to make clean energy a more practical and economically viable option.