When we think of solar panels, we think of the large black squares that spread across entire fields. However soon it may be possible to install solar panels on buildings that double as windows. A research team from Michigan State University has created a completely transparent solar panel that could allow entire skyscrapers to generate their own energy. The team created what it calls a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC), which uses organic salts to absorb the invisible ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths of the solar spectrum. The TLSC then guides the luminescent glow of the infrared light to the edge of the glass where very thin strips photovoltaic solar cells are mounted to convert the solar energy to electricity. This is in contrast to the traditional solar panels where the solar cells frame the panel of the main material.
The TLSC is expected to reach a top efficiency of five percent with further testing. Currently, the prototype’s efficiency reaches only one percent. While these numbers seem low, buildings featuring fully solar windows could compound that electricity to create a very significant amount of power. This technology can not only be integrated in the window manufacturing process, but it can also be retrofitted to current buildings. Other applications include mobile devices, automobiles, and greenhouses. Right now the team’s priorities are increasing the power efficiency and maintaining a scalable level of affordability