Transparent solar cells – a solution for the future to reduce pollution
Thailand is now facing air pollution problems in many large cities throughout the country. Wouldn’t it be great if PM2.5 particulates never caused us problems again because we use clean energy! One of a number of intriguing clean energy sources is “solar energy” which can be converted to electricity via the use of solar cells.
Nowadays more families are installing solar cells on their houses so they can harvest the natural energy from the sun. Apart from being a low-pollution energy source, it also helps them to save household expenses in the long term. However, the general solar cells currently found in the market are not aesthetically pleasing and are not suitable for home decoration. Some people have tried asking for a clear solar cell that looks like glass, so it can fit easily in the house and complement home decor. Now, this idea is no longer a dream, as researchers from Michigan State University have successfully invented a transparent solar cell which they call a transparent luminescent solar concentrator, or TLSC in short.
It appears to be clear without any circuits, but actually this cool technology uses organic molecules that can absorb light waves, so the components inside look invisible to the naked eye. These transparent solar cells absorb only UV and infrared rays and then use the infrared energy to activate the cells to create electricity. The rays that these cells absorb are invisible in nature which is different from the usual solar cells which absorb a larger range of light waves, so they have to be opaque. The transparent cells are designed to absorb invisible rays of certain wavelengths without the need to catch the other types of ray using an opaque color. However, the absorption of only invisible rays decreases the efficiency of energy conversion and while opaque solar cells can harvest 15-18% of the solar energy, the transparent cells can only harvest 5% of it. The researchers will therefore have to work more on development to get more efficient solar cells.
Because of its transparency, TLSC can be applied in several ways. In the future, the glass windows of skyscrapers might be replaced by this type of solar cells. Additionally, cars or electronic devices might be installed with this type of solar cell to generate spare electricity within a battery. It could also help to reduce costs, for example, installing TLSC instead of clear glass windows would be more cost efficient than the original type of solar cells. In one installation, you would get both TLSC as a solar power generator and a seemingly ordinary glass window. However, TLSC is still in an early experimental phase. It is not yet commercially available even though many companies that are interested in clean energy will surely be interested as this could help create a more beautiful world without pollution in the future.