New Energy Technologies, which introduced us to harvesting energy from roadways, has developed transparent solar cells which can be sprayed onto any glass surface.
How? They successfully removed all metals from the solar cell. A huge challenge as the metal component in the cells act as a negative ‘polar contact.’ And they replaced those metals with an eco-friendly compound: one you can see through!
“The ability to spray solar coatings directly onto glass follows on the heels of our recent breakthrough which replaced visibility-blocking metal with environmentally-friendly see-thru compounds, and marks an important advance in the development of our see-thru glass windows capable of generating electricity,” announced Meetesh V. Patel, president and CEO of New Energy Technologies.
Current solar cells are largely made of silicon wafers, an expensive and brittle material. And newer, low cost thin film solar requires both a high-vacuum and high-temperature production. Techniques that are much slower than a spray-on solution.
These ultra-small solar cells are, in fact, the world’s smallest in use. They are less than 1/4 the size of a grain of rice. And New Energy’s ultra-small solar cells generate electricity not only from the visible light spectrum found in sunlight but also by using the visible light found in artificial light, such as fluorescent lighting.
The performance properties of these cells has enabled development of an ultra-thin film that’s 1/1000th the thickness of a human hair. In contrast, conventional thin films are exponentially thicker, measuring several micrometers thick and inhibiting transparency.
Patel said, “In commercial terms, this new spray technology could translate into important manufacturing advantages for our SolarWindow, including significant cost-savings, high-speed production and room-temperature deposition – common barriers to commercial success for innovative solar technologies.”
“I’m particularly impressed by the potential application of this technology in areas where direct exposure to sunlight is limited or unavailable, since these ultra-small solar cells have demonstrated a special ability to generate electricity in both natural and artificial light conditions,” he added.
This, of course, is not the first time we have seen spray-on solar. Nanoparticle ‘inks’ are being researched for coating rooftops and other surfaces. Obviously they aren’t ideal for windows.
There are nearly 5 million commercial buildings in America, according to the Energy Information Administration, and more than 80 million single detached homes. The ease of installation with spray-on solar could definitely be a game changer.
This transparent process is currently pending a technology patent.
Jerry is a web developer, part-time blogger and a full-time environmentalist. His crusade for all things eco started twenty years ago when he ditched his meat-and-potatoes upbringing for something more vegetarian-shaped. He currently works at Care2 and also blogs over at Treehugger. His passions include green tech, eco politics and smart green design. And while he doesn't own a car anymore, he loves to write about those too. Jerry studied at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. During his time there he was a DJ at the campus station KCPR and he also wrote for the campus paper. Jerry currently resides in San Francisco, CA with his cat Lola. You can stalk him on Twitter @jerryjamesstone.