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Highly Transparent Solar Cells Developed for Window Glass

Transparent solar cells (UCLA)

Transparent solar cells (UCLA)

Researchers at University of California in Los Angeles have developed solar cells with greater transparency that can be made to fit over windows and generate electric power. The findings from a team of UCLA engineers, materials scientists, and chemists appeared earlier this month in the journal ACS Nano (paid subscription required).

The team developed a solar cell with a near-infrared light-sensitive polymer. The cell produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light. As a result, the cell is 70 percent transparent, and has achieved a power-generating efficiency of four percent.

Another advance in the new solar cell is a transparent conductor made of a composite of silver nanowire and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which was able to replace opaque metal electrodes used before. This electrode also allows the solar cells to be made economically by coating the polymer with a conducting film using mild solutions, which can be easily applied like spray paint.

Polymer solar cells have a number of advantages over competing solar cell technologies, namely their low cost to produce, ability to generate power without separate structures, and potential for use in existing homes or buildings. The solar cells could make possible transparent photovoltaic devices such integrated photovoltaics in buildings and chargers for portable electronics.

“These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows, and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications,” says Yang Yang, senior author of the paper, materials scientist, and director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center in the California NanoSystems Institute.

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