Transparent solar panels could replace windows
A transparent solar panel that can take the place of glass in windows could be used to power electric cars and homes, according to its developers.
Researchers at the University of the Free State (UFS) in South Africa have already created a working model which they say needs further refinement to increase efficiency before it can be brought the market. They hope it will be commercialised within the decade.
“An innovation like this which can help to replace traditional means of carbon-based fuel for power generation in our daily lives would be hugely welcome,” said Hendrik Swart, senior professor at the UFS department of physics. “The idea is to develop glass that is transparent to visible light, just like the glass you find in the windows of buildings, motor vehicles and mobile electronic devices.”
“However, by incorporating the right phosphor materials inside the glass, the light from the sun that is invisible to the human eye (ultraviolet and infrared light) can be collected, converted and concentrated to the sides of the glass panel where solar panels can be mounted.”
The researchers say the product will have the capacity to revolutionise affordable solar power for homes, factories, and cities. Another possible application is electric cars, where solar panel windows could be used to power the vehicle.
Lucas Erasmus, who is working with Professor Swart, added: “We are also looking at implementing this idea into hard, durable plastics that can act as a replacement for zinc roofs. This will allow visible light to enter housing and the invisible light can then be used to generate electricity.”
The study is ongoing, and UFS is experimenting and testing different materials in order to optimise the device in the laboratory. Finally, it must be upscaled to test it in the field.
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