For centuries windows have helped light our indoor worlds. But this week, scientists from a Norwegian company and a British university have come together to try to make windows bring electric light to us as well.
EnSol AS and University of Leicester are developing a thin-film-solar coating that might allow windows (and other building facades) to generate solar power. Their metal nano-particles will sit in a clear composite matrix, which is then applied to window glass.
The developers are aiming for the films to have an active sun ray capturing area of more than 16 square centimeters. The hope is the photovoltaic cells could reach 20 percent efficiency.
Chris Binns, professor of nanoscale physics at University of Leicester, says in a statement:
Obviously some light has to be absorbed in order to generate power but the windows would just have a slight tinting (though a transmission of only 8-10% is common place for windows in the “sun belt” areas of the world). Conversely the structural material of the building can also be coated with a higher degree of absorption. This could be side panels of the building itself, or even in the form of “clip-together” solar roof tiles.
According to researchers, the metal nanocrystals, shown to the right under an electron microscope, behave differently than silicon-based solar cells.
After demonstrating their new solar cell concept, EnSol AS is looking to the Condensed Matter Physics group at University of Leicester to design, produce and test prototypes. Construction of a thin film deposition facility in Norway is also in the works.
Should the partnership's results prove successful, industrial scale production of the solar cells might be achievable through spray-on applications.
Images: Prof. Chris Binns, University of Leicester and EnSol AS