See-through solar panels may harvest enough energy to power nearly all of the United States’ energy demands, according to a study published late last month in Nature Energy. Currently, less than 1.5 percent of electricity demand in the United States is met by solar power—a percentage that has remained relatively steady over the past decade even as the cost of solar panel installation has gone down.
“Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications,” said Richard Lunt, a professor at Michigan State University and the lead researchers on the paper.
The key benefit of these see-through panels is that they are more flexible than bulky rooftop models. They are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand—and the researchers hope that someday they will, in the form of the screen of your smartphone. The panels could also be affixed over existing windows in buildings, cars or planes without compromising the view and without having to replace windows and screens.
“[B]y harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles and mobile electronics,” said Lunt.
The solar cells use organic molecules developed by the researchers to absorb invisible wavelengths of sunlight and then convert the ultraviolet and near-infrared wavelengths into electricity.
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