Transparent solar panels can make any surface, like smartphone screens and windows, into power generators.

Photo Credit: Michigan State University

Photo Credit: Michigan State University

Researchers from Michigan State University have created a transparent solar panel that captures light and converts it into electricity, according to Factor Tech. The team have developed organic molecules that are able to capture waves of sunlight that are not visible to the human eye.

“It opens a lot of area to deploy solar energy in a non-intrusive way,” said Richard Lunt, who worked on the research. “It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader. Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”

The panels rely on infrared light, which moves to the edge of the material to convert it into electricity.

“No one wants to sit behind colored glass. It makes for a very colorful environment, like working in a disco. We take an approach where we actually make the luminescent active layer itself transparent," Lunt said. “We can tune these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near infrared wavelengths that then ‘glow’ at another wavelength in the infrared.”

The team still needs to work on the efficiency of the transparent solar panels. Currently, the conversion rate is about one perfect, but researchers believe they can increase this to almost 5 percent. 

 

Photo Credit: Michigan State University

Photo Credit: Michigan State University