Home windows that act as photo voltaic panels could possibly be on the horizon
The acceptance of solar energy in Australia is higher than ever before. There are already two million households that have solar panels installed, and more are joining the party every day. This rate of activity makes Australia a world leader in space and it looks like a good path for the near future.
But there is always a “but”.
The problem is that not everyone has access to solar energy and for some people the idea of installing it is not that attractive. There are people who live in units, townhouses, and apartments who don’t have access to this type of solution, as well as properties that just aren’t suitable for an array. In some cases, roofs are covered in shade trees, which means they can’t absorb enough sunlight to produce a usable amount of electricity.
A solution, however, could exist if scientists in South Korea successfully develop fully transparent panels that can be used as windows. This would allow those who cannot currently install systems on their rooftops to swap out their windows for panels instead. From there, the idea is that they get access to clean, green electricity.
Solar windows change the game, but there’s a catch
Okay, there’s another “but”.
While researchers at Incheon University in South Korea have succeeded in developing the world’s first completely transparent solar panel, the efficiency is currently only two percent, which is not sustainable enough for mainstream publication.
Of course, more research is needed, but the fact remains that these clear panels work. This gives us a real chance to use our windows to generate clean electricity in the future.
The reason normal panels have a tinted color is because of the semiconductor layers, which are responsible for capturing sunlight and converting it into electricity. In this study, these layers were replaced by titanium dioxide and nickel oxide, which are largely transparent.
Research will continue to find ways to increase the efficiency of these transparent designs and harness the potential to transform the way solar energy is converted into electricity. This would mean that potentially entire skyscrapers could be turned into power plants, ultimately accelerating renewable energy generation around the world.
Australia’s role in development
The combined research of the ARC Center of Excellence for Exciton Science and Monash University, together with one of the largest glass manufacturers in Australia, Viridian, is investigating the window technologies of solar modules.
Although these panels are not completely transparent like the ones in South Korea, they let light through and have an efficiency of 17 percent, which is comparable to standard panels. At the moment they only let about 10 percent of the light through, but research could lead to windows that would be a viable option for buildings across Australia and around the world.
Project leader Professor Jacek Jasieniak said the signs are encouraging that transparent windows that harvest and convert solar energy appear achievable.
“The semi-transparent cells have a conversion efficiency of 17 percent and yet let more than 10 percent of the incident light through, so they are right in the zone. It has long been a dream to have windows that generate electricity and now it looks possible, ”he said.