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Solar Windows: New Ultra-Thin Cells Generate Power From Artificial Light

Advances could expand potential of transparent solar surfaces.

1 min read
Solar Windows: New Ultra-Thin Cells Generate Power From Artificial Light

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 farfrom 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

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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