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Making Solar Power at the Office?

It’s easy to power a single-story buildings-worth of electrical needs with a solar roof, but what about the power needs of skyscrapers? They have so little roof space available on top compared to their 40 or 50 floors-worth of electrical needs underneath them.

Here’s one idea. Why stop at sunlight to power solar cells. Let’s harness our fluorescent lighting as well.

New Energy Technologies is trying to develop a solar cell that makes electricity just from that nasty fluorescent tube lighting buzzing over your head.

New Energy’s solar cells in their transparent SolarWindow™ generate electricity by using the visible light in artificial fluorescent lighting typically installed in offices and commercial buildings. In tests published in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy they outperformed regular solar cells by orders of magnitude; producing two to ten-fold more power.

Researchers tested the ultra-small solar cells on a 1”x1” substrate against today’s popular solar materials for their capacity to produce electricity under varying artificial light conditions, mimicking the levels of light exposure in homes and commercial offices.

Under normal office lighting conditions, without any natural light from windows, New Energy’s ultra-small solar cells produced not just twice the power of monocrystalline silicon, but achieved:

  1. 8-fold greater output power density than copper-indium-selenide, known for its high optical absorption coefficients and versatile optical and electrical characteristics.
  2. 10-fold greater output power density than flexible thin-film amorphous-silicon.

(Of course regular solar cells are not designed to make electricity from office lighting. So that may not actually mean much.)

For their first use, the technology application would probably be just in little gizmos like solar calculators and iPods.

But a great application of this would be to embed this transparent material right into the fluorescent fixtures themselves in a layer right below the light. And helping to power it.

Image from Flikr user Ubiquity zh

Via New Energy Technologies

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Written By

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.


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