Transparent Solar Cell Film Has Clear Advantages
A new solar film created at UCLA is a game-changing new kid of solar cell. An organic polymer, it is nearly fully transparent and is more durable and malleable than silicon, which forms the substrate of traditional solar power cells.
"(A solar film) harvests light and turns it into electricity. In our case, we harvest only the infrared part," says Professor Yang Yang at UCLA's California Nanosystems Institute, who has headed up the research on the new photovoltaic polymer. Absorbing only the infrared light, he explains, means the material doesn't have to be dark or black or blue, like most silicon photovoltaic panels. It can be clear. "We have developed a material that absorbs infrared and is all transparent to the visible light."
"And then we also invented a new electrode, a metal, that is also transparent. So we created a new solar cell," Yang adds.
Well, the metal is actually not transparent, Yang points out; it's just so small that you can't see it. The new polymer incorporates silver nanowires about 0.1 microns thick, about one-thousandth the width of a human hair, and titanium dioxide nanoparticles as an electrode. When in liquid form, it is as clear as a glass of water, and when applied to a hard, flat surface as a film it is meant to be invisible to the eye.
Professor Yang Yang of UCLA’s Nanosystems Institute shares his innovative plans for the film saying, “Whenever people think about solar, they think about the big silicon panels that they put on their roof, or the big solar farms that SoCal Edison builds out in the desert. But for the future of energy use, we must think about how to harvest energy whenever and wherever it is possible. If we can change the concept that energy has to come from one source, which is the power company, that the supply should not be subject to the limitations of the power grid, a lot of new things can happen.”
(Via PIE Global)
The film may eventually be sprayed onto surfaces, which would bring low-cost solar energy to everyone's homes, cars and electronic devices, according to Dr. Yang.
Science fiction fans fondly remember their disbelief when they first read about the idea of a solar power cell you could just spray on in Larry Niven's 1995 novel The Woman in Del Rey Crater.
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