Solar cells that convert windows into energy producers

Jul 23, 2012 -

WASHINGTON: Researchers have fashioned a new transparent solar cell that will not only permit windows at homes to generate power but also enable people to see outside.

The University of California Los Angeles team reported a new kind of polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70 percent transparent.

They made the PSC from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into an electrical current. These polymer solar cells have attracted great attention due to their advantages over competing solar cell technologies, the Journal of the American Chemical Society reported.

"These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications," said study leader Yang Yang, a professor of materials science and engineering at UCLA, according to a university statement.

Yang added that there has been intense world-wide interest in so-called polymer solar cells. "Our new PSCs are made from plastic-like materials and are light weight and flexible," he said. "More importantly, they can be produced in high volume at low cost."