Professor Christophe Ballif of the Ecole Polytechnique F�d�rale de Lausanne holding the world's first white solar panel

World's first white solar panels promise 'nicer' roofs

Swiss researchers hoping to increase the appeal of photovoltaics to architects and consumers who have been rejecting the technology for aesthetic reasons have developed technology to make white and coloured solar panels.

Until today, it has been deemed largely impossible to manufacture solar panels in anything other than very dark colours while maintaining the required efficiency. Most commercially available photovoltaic panels have thus been black or dark blue.

However, Swiss company CSEM (Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology) has allegedly cracked the problem by covering a conventional photovoltaic solar panel with a coloured nanofilm reflecting all visible light but transmitting the infrared part of the spectrum inside the photovoltaic panel.

Despite the reflective properties of white surfaces, the nanofilter ensures enough infrared light reaches the core of the solar panel to maintain the efficiency.

The technology was developed by a team of researchers led by Professor Christophe Ballif of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne's Photovoltaics and Thin Film Electronics Laboratory as part of an ongoing research into thin film photovoltaics.

CSEM believes the low-cost solution would make photovoltaics more attractive for design-conscious users that have so far been put off by the uniform and utilitarian look of the solar installations.

The company said the nanofilm could be applied on top of existing silicon-based solar panels, smartly covering visible cells and connections, or integrated into a panel during assembly.

Offering a variety of colours, the nanofilm could be used on flat as well as curved surfaces, enabling the renewable energy generators to perfectly blend into its surroundings, SCEM said.

The company expects its invention, which it says is the first to offer a versatile solution, will stir considerable interest from the building industry but hopes to inspire further applications in the consumer sector as well.

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