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Solar cells for windows that generate electricity

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A team of researchers have developed a type of solar panel that goes on windows without sacrificing a person's view. The thin transparent solar c...

A team of researchers have developed a type of solar panel that goes on windows without sacrificing a person's view.

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.

Slate reports:

"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."

Transparent solar cells let windows generate electricity [Los Angeles Times]

New Transparent Polymer Solar Cells Could Cover Skyscrapers and Tablets  [Slate]

Photo via UCLA

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Amy Kraft

Weekend Editor

Contributing Editor Amy Kraft is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for New Scientist and DNAinfo and has produced podcasts for Scientific American's 60-Second-Science. She holds degrees from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure