One does not need to look far to see that a clean energy movement is in full swing these days, and for good reason. With record high temperatures being recorded throughout the world, and ocean levels rising, the debate over whether global warming is real has pretty much been decided, and the race for less destructive energy resources is on.
Many have long considered solar power to be one of the most viable, and clean alternatives to rampant fossil fuel consumption. Converting the suns’ energy into electricity, however, has been stifled by the high cost of materials combined with extremely low conversion rates. So far, most solar solutions could be considered mere baby steps in reducing oil dependencies. But there is hope. Scientists and engineers working in the area of solar powered windows have taken a giant leap in the way we use the sun to help save our planet.
One of the primary hurdles to overcome for engineers in developing a solar powered window has been the issue of transparency. That problem was solved last year by Michigan State University researchers who say they have developed a completely transparent photovoltaic solar cell. Photovoltaic cells create energy by absorbing sunlight (photons) and converting them into electrons (electricity). Until now the biggest down side to this type of cell is that it is not as “transparent” as consumers would like it to be.
In the past, other so-called transparent photovoltaic cells have been only partially transparent, creating dark, colored shadows when viewed from the inside out. This would not be a problem if most of us worked, or lived at a daytime disco club, but considering the majority of us prefer a clear, unobstructed view of the world outside, these low conversion alternatives to regular glass have failed to thrill the average consumer.
Researchers have now created a fully transparent TLSC (Transparent Luminescent Solar Concentrator), the first major breakthrough in creating a commercially acceptable solar- powered window. TLSC technology uses organic salts to absorb certain non-visible infrared, and ultra-violet light. This causes the salt to luminesce, or glow in infrared light. This new, non-visible, infrared light is then directed towards the edge of the glass where conventional voltaic cells collect and convert the light waves into electricity.
The developers believe that the TLSC technology can be utilized anywhere glass is used meaning that you may be getting a few more minutes, or even hours out of your smart phone once it is fitted with the new technology. The larger commercial, and industrial applications are obvious when you consider the amount of windows in the typical New York City skyscraper. With two companies currently preparing the product for commercial release sometime soon, the future of solar powered windows is looking clear and bright!