The thin transparent solar cells invented by UCLA's materials science and engineering professor Yang Yang and colleagues, can turn the sun's energy into electricity while still allowing visible light to shine right through it. Well, 70 percent of visible light, which is far better than the 10 percent transparency of past cells.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
"The transparent solar cell is made out of a plastic that absorbs invisible infrared light while letting most visible light pass through.
"Additionally, even the metal that carries the charge out of the cell is transparent. In collaboration with Paul S. Weiss, director of CNSI, Yang was able to install a silver nano wire that served as the conductive metal that is essentially invisible."
Of course, making the cells more transparent means sacrificing some of the energy that the cell can absorb. The LA Times notes that "30% of a cell's energy-absorbing capability had to be sacrificed." But the researchers say that a good amount of materials can be made at a low cost so it makes economic sense.
"Sooner rather than later, the development of this type of PSCs could allow us to cover a giant glass skyscraper with transparent cells and pull some serious wattage from the sun. Or maybe even better: make components that could, for instance, double as a protective coating on your iPad screen, so you didn’t have to plug it in as often."
Photo via UCLA