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Published on July 22nd, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan

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Solar Cells for Windows Take Another Step Forward

July 22nd, 2012 by  


 
We’ve been covering research on windows that create solar power for years. We’re still not quite there, but advances seem to be speeding up. The latest step forward comes from UCLA. The day when we have windows producing solar power may soon be approaching. Here’s the full news below, posted first on sister site Planetsave:

Researchers from UCLA have developed a new transparent solar cell that is a significant step towards giving the windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still being transparent.

The research team “describes a new kind of polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70% transparent to the human eye.” They created the device from a photoactive plastic that generates an electrical current from infrared light.

“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,” said study leader Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering, who also is director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI).

 

 

Yang also said that there has been a definite world-wide interest in polymer solar cells. “Our new PSCs are made from plastic-like materials and are lightweight and flexible,” he said.

“More importantly, they can be produced in high volume at low cost.”

“Polymer solar cells have attracted great attention due to their advantages over competing solar cell technologies. Scientists have also been intensely investigating PSCs for their potential in making unique advances for broader applications. Several such applications would be enabled by high-performance visibly transparent photovoltaic (PV) devices, including building-integrated photovoltaics and integrated PV chargers for portable electronics.”

“Previously, many attempts have been made toward demonstrating visibly transparent or semitransparent PSCs. However, these demonstrations often result in low visible light transparency and/or low device efficiency because suitable polymeric PV materials and efficient transparent conductors were not well deployed in device design and fabrication.”

“A team of UCLA researchers from the California NanoSystems Institute, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and UCLA’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry have demonstrated high-performance, solution-processed, visibly transparent polymer solar cells through the incorporation of near-infrared light-sensitive polymer and using silver nanowire composite films as the top transparent electrode. The near-infrared photoactive polymer absorbs more near-infrared light but is less sensitive to visible light, balancing solar cell performance and transparency in the visible wavelength region.”

“Another breakthrough is the transparent conductor made of a mixture of silver nanowire and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which was able to replace the opaque metal electrode used in the past. This composite electrode also allows the solar cells to be fabricated economically by solution processing. With this combination, 4% power-conversion efficiency for solution-processed and visibly transparent polymer solar cells has been achieved.”

“We are excited by this new invention on transparent solar cells, which applied our recent advances in transparent conducting windows (also published in ACS Nano) to fabricate these devices,” said Paul S.Weiss, CNSI director and Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences.

The new study appears in the journal ACS Nano.

A number of researchers and companies have been working on solar windows over the years. It will be interesting to see who comes out with the first commercial product.

Source: University Of California – Los Angeles
Image Credits: University of California – Los Angeles


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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.



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