Look at any of the glimmering, glass-only skyscrapers in a metropolis near you. Next, imagine that all those windows were coated with invisible solar cells, generating electricity. Even the ones facing north. That's a lot of electricity.
One company is close to releasing a prototype of such a solar window that improves on existing versions with its ability to draw power from artificial sources of light. New Energy Technologies, based in Maryland, has managed to create arrays of solar cells that are only one-tenth of a micrometer thick; each individual cell is smaller across than a grain rice, and they're gathered in groups of 20 that are coated onto the glass to create a see-through solar window.
They are far from the first to create a transparent solar surface. In recent tests, though, the company reports that their cells - an "organic" cell made from what they call "hydrogen-carbon based materials" - outperformed other solar materials in artificial lighting conditions, including a 10-fold greater output power density than thin-film amorphous-silicon, another possibility for ultra-thin solar generation.
"One of the biggest issues with today’s solar products is their dependency on direct sunlight, which our cells have demonstrated the potential capacity to overcome," said Meetesh V. Patel, the president and CEO of New Energy Technologies, in a press release.
Of course, the cost of such windows may prove to be prohibitive, at least in the near term. A call to the company to ask about those costs has yet to be returned.
Image via Alvesgaspar/Wikimedia Commons