Engineering researchers at Michigan State University have developed a solar harvesting system that uses organic molecules to absorb invisible wavelengths of sunlight. The panels can even be tuned to pick up just the ultraviolet and near-infrared wavelengths that then convert this energy into electricity.
The potential for this device shows that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar energy-generation potential as rooftop solar panels, while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, car windows, and even mobile electronics.
This is significant, particularly for the technology's home nation - the United States - as there is an estimated 5 to 7 billion square metres of glass surface. With that volume of glass, the transparent technology has the potential to supply 40% of energy demand in the country - matching the same potential as rooftop solar units. The combined potential for both technoligies has the potential to make the U.S on track to becoming 100% renewable. However, the political climate makes this unlikely and farfetched as only about 1.5% of electricity demand in the U.S. is solar powered.
Despite this, the technology offers a promising route to inexpensive, and widespread solar adoption on small and large surfces that were previously thought of as inaccessible. Reflecting upon clear surfaces that we see in day to day life, from our mobiles to skyscrapers, paints a clear picture of the sheer capabilities this technology could have on creating a zero-emission world.
See 'Transparent solar cells could cover your windows or smart phone' to learn more about how this technology developed:
See 'Transparent solar panel represents new wave of solar technology' for an update on this signal of change. Imagine solar cells that are fully transparent, and could cover the windows of your building or the screen of your smart phone.