Scientists create highly transparent solar cells for windows that generate electricity

Jul 20, 2012 By Jennifer Marcus
Transparent Solar Cells. Visibly Transparent Polymer Solar Cells Produced by Solution Processing

(Phys.org) -- UCLA researchers have developed a new transparent solar cell that is an advance toward giving windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still allowing people to see outside. Their study appears in the journal ACS Nano.

The UCLA team describes a new kind of polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70% to the . They made the device from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into an electrical current.

"These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of , and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications," said study leader Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of , who also is director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI).

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 lightweight and flexible," he said. "More importantly, they can be produced in high volume at low cost."

Polymer solar cells have attracted great attention due to their advantages over competing solar cell technologies. Scientists have also been intensely investigating PSCs for their potential in making unique advances for broader applications. Several such applications would be enabled by high-performance visibly transparent photovoltaic (PV) devices, including building-integrated photovoltaics and integrated PV chargers for portable electronics.

Previously, many attempts have been made toward demonstrating visibly transparent or semitransparent PSCs. However, these demonstrations often result in low visible light transparency and/or low device efficiency because suitable polymeric PV materials and efficient transparent conductors were not well deployed in device design and fabrication.

A team of UCLA researchers from the California NanoSystems Institute, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and UCLA's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry have demonstrated high-performance, solution-processed, visibly transparent polymer solar cells through the incorporation of near-infrared light-sensitive polymer and using silver nanowire composite films as the top transparent electrode. The near-infrared photoactive polymer absorbs more near- but is less sensitive to visible light, balancing solar cell performance and transparency in the visible wavelength region.

Another breakthrough is the transparent conductor made of a mixture of silver nanowire and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which was able to replace the opaque metal electrode used in the past. This composite electrode also allows the solar cells to be fabricated economically by solution processing. With this combination, 4% power-conversion efficiency for solution-processed and visibly transparent polymer solar cells has been achieved.

"We are excited by this new invention on transparent , which applied our recent advances in transparent conducting windows (also published in ACS Nano) to fabricate these devices," said Paul S.Weiss, CNSI director and Fred Kavli Chair in Sciences.

Explore further: Nanomechanical sensors detect cancer from breath

More information: pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/nn3029327

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elektron
2.5 / 5 (13) Jul 20, 2012
4% power efficiency doesn't seem like a big deal. And what is the point of putting them on windows, surely they should be on a surface that receives the most sunlight.

prefacing 'transparent' with 'visibly', gets irritating well before the 7th time.

xX_GT_Xx
3 / 5 (10) Jul 20, 2012
How is this different from the "Dutch student offers new insights into power-generating windows" article from July 9?

Same problem, too. Ok, so you've got your windows to produce power. Now what? Wire up your windows to your breaker box? This is not practical unless electricians get into the window installation business.
foolspoo
3 / 5 (6) Jul 20, 2012
I think its wonderful. of course you would put the most efficient cells on the roof of so called green buildings. But the idea is to be somewhat self sufficient in power production/consumption. Hopefully this can be improved upon and make it to the market in the next few years.
TAz00
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 20, 2012
4% power efficiency doesn't seem like a big deal. And what is the point of putting them on windows, surely they should be on a surface that receives the most sunlight.


Think Burj Khalifa, Dubai. A building that size, 4% becomes alot.
Shakescene21
4.6 / 5 (5) Jul 20, 2012
This might be what I need for the roof of my greenhouse. Would I also get a cooling effect from the solar collectors?
jrsm
5 / 5 (7) Jul 20, 2012
When you consider that most windows have tinting that don't contribute any energy, if this serves the same purpose and provides energy, there is a bonus
Temple
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 20, 2012
Less energy required to cool the building, more energy available.

Win-win.

And *of course* this technology is primitive, *of course* there are any number of hurdles to actually harnessing this energy. This is how progress works. Tesla's and Edison's first electric devices could hardly be considered practically useful in homes of the day. The same goes for the infrastructure available in the early days of the automobile, and the internet for that matter.

Things change as technology progresses. This is another in a long line of important steps towards wasting less energy and reducing our reliance on energy that carries such high cost (by all definitions of the term cost).
Bewia
4 / 5 (4) Jul 20, 2012
And *of course* this technology is primitive, *of course* there are any number of hurdles to actually harnessing this energy.
Unfortunately isn't, as it consumes lotta silver and it degrades fast at sunlight, being organic polymer based. The transparent solar cells will be always more expensive and difficult to produce, than the classical ones, but the 4% efficiency isn't bad start. I can still remember, my first thin layer silicon solar panel (which I did buy for "reload" of starter accumulator in my car before ten years) was of roughly the same efficiency.
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 20, 2012
4% power efficiency doesn't seem like a big deal. And what is the point of putting them on windows


Imagine a skyscraper with all-glass exterior.

Removing 4% of the energy from the sunlight getting through the windows removes a chunk of the heat that the AC has to deal with, too.
javjav
5 / 5 (2) Jul 20, 2012
When you consider that most windows have tinting that don't contribute any energy, if this serves the same purpose and provides energy, there is a bonus


Yes, that is the key point. They could come "for free". Today the biggest cost of solar panels is the installation cost. But this cells could piggy back in other processes like substituting isolation layers on windows and roof surfaces. Look at those office buildings that are fully covered by glass. The low efficiency would be compensated by the big surface area. Add a second layer to get another 4% from the visible spectrum and it may worth it.
Bewia
2.5 / 5 (4) Jul 20, 2012
The low efficiency would be compensated by the big surface area...Add a second layer to get another 4% from the visible spectrum and it may worth it...
It's like the estimations of proton mass done at layman forums at the moment, when the physicists have an exact model for it already. Such a well minded guesses are rather redundant at the moment, when we could make an exact calculation already. So - if this technology can pay itself, the investors can introduce it at the market and we can buy it. If it will not pay itself - then sorry, it has no meaning to think about it.
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (5) Jul 20, 2012
Or the Aperion in Dubai.

http://www.7starh...otel.jpg

Or the Anaratower Dubai.

http://www.inhabi...r234.jpg

Or DubioTech1 Dubai.

http://assets.inh...ech1.jpg

"Think Burj Khalifa, Dubai." - Tazoo
djr
5 / 5 (8) Jul 21, 2012
"Ok, so you've got your windows to produce power. Now what?" God - you guys are just programmed to be negative - no wonder we are finding it so hard to change. Just look at this one project - http://www.makeyo...uilding/ A $13 million building retrofit - saves $4 million a year - pay back less than 4 years. But you guys would say - "what a stupid idea - retrofitting a building with energy efficiency - why would any one do that?" Are you guys paid to get on the comments section and spread doom and gloom?
c-dric
2 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2012
question is: how much would that cost to produce? and when I talk about cost I am not only asking about financial cost...some artifacts cost more to ecology than their product...some pollute more than what we could earn in cleanliness...
Code_Warrior
4.5 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2012
I think this is pretty great. I would like to see how durable it is, but if it can be made cheaply enough, and if it has the right mechanical properties, I can see using it as the plastic layer in car windows where the energy it generates can be used to run fans that circulate some of the hot air out of vehicle interiors in the hot summer sun and lower the interior temp a little. Who knows? Maybe there will be enough excess energy that we can connect parked cars to the grid and collect it. I know, far fetched, but I'd be willing to plug my car in to a harvest receptacle while it is parked. Maybe we can cover entire parking lots with this stuff, reducing the temps of the parked cars, creating a rain shield over the lot, and producing energy at the same time while still allowing us to enjoy the sunshine. A few well placed vent fans should keep the greenhouse effect at bay.
djr
5 / 5 (3) Jul 21, 2012
"question is: how much would that cost to produce?" Why is it that as soon as we start talking about new technologies - it is important to do some grand environmental accounting? Where is the call for a grand accounting of oil? Look at this one article talking about oil pipeline spills in one region of Canada - http://www.seankh.../?p=1050 Sure there may be an environmental cost to producing solar panels. In the future perhaps we can do what many advocate - and learn to recycle 100 percent of what we build (see cradle to cradle - http://www.ted.co...gn.html)
My guess would be that these panels are far less environmentally damaging than running our world on oil and gas - if you take a life time calculus - but are we willing to do such a calculus? I smell a problem when we are only willing to suddenly be outraged and demand an accounting of alternative energies.
sherriffwoody
3 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2012
As I amskmeone who is has started looking at technology to incorporate into a new house design I think this type of technology is awesome..putting these windows on the north and to a lesser extent east and west windows will be a great way to generate electricity while at the same time provide solar energy into the passive heating systems of the home. Summer will probably see these generate less energy has windows , interiors are usually shielded from the hotter and higher sun to keep the interior cool. None the less great idea and way to supplement other energy systems and increase square meter age of solar panels when the sun is shining less to start with. Look forward to future development.
NotParker
2.1 / 5 (7) Jul 21, 2012
Aren't the polymer's oil based?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (8) Jul 21, 2012
4% power efficiency doesn't seem like a big deal. And what is the point of putting them on windows, surely they should be on a surface that receives the most sunlight.
Many buildings and skyscrapers are predominantly curtainwall construction.
http://en.wikiped...-ext.jpg

-This could also be useful when designing multi-layer membranes to serve as inflatable habitats in orbit, on the moon or mars, or even in remote locations on this planet. It would save weight and cargo space.

Like I say the AGW hype is producing a lot of tech which is directly applicable to space colonization, and which might not otherwise get developed.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.2 / 5 (9) Jul 21, 2012
You mean like vegetable oil is oil based?

"Aren't the polymer's oil based?" - ParkerTard

Poor, mentally ill ParkerTard.
wwqq
1.3 / 5 (4) Jul 21, 2012
Think Burj Khalifa, Dubai. A building that size, 4% becomes a lot.


This is a fallacy that is oft repeated for every form of green flim-flam. If everyone saved 1% of their electricity demand by unplugging everything when not in use, or if everyone's windows generated 1% of their electricity needs etc. it adds up to a large number, but it's still a pitiful 1%.

Burj Khalifa is huge, but it also houses a huge number of people. What's more, it's surrounded by seemingly endless desert on all sides, which is a far better place to put the PV panels.
elektron
1 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2012
4% power efficiency doesn't seem like a big deal. And what is the point of putting them on windows, surely they should be on a surface that receives the most sunlight.


Think Burj Khalifa, Dubai. A building that size, 4% becomes alot.


This is true only because the building is situated in a country that is ideal for proper sun harvesting farms that would be a lot more efficient anyway.
antialias_physorg
2.8 / 5 (9) Jul 21, 2012
I think 4% is pretty good, considering it requires no extra space, minimal installation and is also (as they claim) cheap. 4% power for no hassle? Count me in.
sennekuyl
not rated yet Jul 21, 2012
How is this different from the "Dutch student offers new insights into power-generating windows" article from July 9?

Same problem, too. Ok, so you've got your windows to produce power. Now what? Wire up your windows to your breaker box? This is not practical unless electricians get into the window installation business.


While electricians will still need to be involved --- a good thing IMO --- there doesn't seem to be a reason why it can't be a type of appliance, using modular terminators. Windows installers complete the windows, electricians connect it up to existing wiring.

I'd like to know if if it can be layered on to existing surface. That would be a huge bonus.
emilyhasbooks
3 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2012
THIS could change the world! But we all know someone will buy up the patent & sell the tech at unaffordable prices...and we'll continue to rely on un-renewable resources.
jms9
1 / 5 (1) Jul 21, 2012
This doesn't solve the firefighting problem. If you have a house fire, the first thing the firefighters do is find where the power lines enter your house and tear them down with a grappling hook. This is so they don't kill themselves when they start hosing water into your house. Once you start putting solar panels on a building, this doesn't work anymore. The solar panels continue to electrify the house wiring system even when the power lines are torn down. Even if you route all the solar panels to a cutoff wire located outside the house, and the firefighters cut down the cutoff wire, the solar panels are still generating electricity.

At least now firefighters can see the big, blue solar panels on the roof and know that their life is going to be in danger because of your solar power. Conceal the panels in windows and you're going to see a lot of electrocuted firefighters.

There are reasons not to install solar panels in residences.
SteveL
5 / 5 (1) Jul 22, 2012
This might be what I need for the roof of my greenhouse. Would I also get a cooling effect from the solar collectors?
Exactly what I was thinking. It would help by absorbing some of the IR wavelength which really isn't used in photosynthesis anyhow. Depending on the design of your greenhouse and where it is located there would likely be enough energy to run the fans and possibly some low power LED lighting and even a pump with timer.

I'm not certain this would be very useful for residential windows due to the low power conversion, poor solar angle and line losses to a centralized conversion point.
SteveL
5 / 5 (1) Jul 22, 2012
Aren't the polymer's oil based?
Polymers are usually just long covalent bonded molecules made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and other atoms that can be produced from many sources including petroleums, natural gas, vegetable oils, algae oils, etc.
antialias_physorg
2 / 5 (4) Jul 23, 2012
This doesn't solve the firefighting problem.

There are plenty of houses out there with sizeable PV installations. Some of which have surely burned down by now. I have never heard of a fire fighter getting electrocuted. Could you link to a source?
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (2) Jul 24, 2012
Depending on the design of your greenhouse and where it is located there would likely be enough energy to run the fans and possibly some low power LED lighting and even a pump with timer.

Good idea. Run the LED lighting to offset the opacity of the PV layer.

Just kidding.

But I don't think this would be very useful for greenhouses. The whole point of a greenhouse is to get infrared in - so you really don't want to keep it out by converting it to electricity.
SteveL
5 / 5 (1) Jul 24, 2012
Depending on the design of your greenhouse and where it is located there would likely be enough energy to run the fans and possibly some low power LED lighting and even a pump with timer.

Good idea. Run the LED lighting to offset the opacity of the PV layer.

Just kidding.

But I don't think this would be very useful for greenhouses. The whole point of a greenhouse is to get infrared in - so you really don't want to keep it out by converting it to electricity.
Many if not most greenhouses in hotter climates that I know of use mesh to keep IR out to save energy from having to use fans for cooling. The problem with mesh is that it also blocks the visible light actually used in photosynthesis. If you could block some of the IR and not the visible light while generating electricity, well, it could be quite useful.

The low power LED lighting I was mentioning was for night-time safety or security or even extend the growing day.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (2) Jul 25, 2012
Are you guys paid to get on the comments section and spread doom and gloom?

No, We just voice our Worker's Union concerns.
sherky
1 / 5 (3) Jul 26, 2012
like Arthur replied I am shocked that a student able to earn $9035 in four weeks on the internet. have you seen this web link NuttyRich.com
Eric_B
not rated yet Jul 29, 2012
"Ok, so you've got your windows to produce power. Now what?" God - you guys are just programmed to be negative - no wonder we are finding it so hard to change. Just look at this one project - http://www.makeyo...uilding/ A $13 million building retrofit - saves $4 million a year - pay back less than 4 years. But you guys would say - "what a stupid idea - retrofitting a building with energy efficiency - why would any one do that?" Are you guys paid to get on the comments section and spread doom and gloom?"

Yes, there are whores who are paid to spread doom and gloom or AGW "skepticism" on anything that doesn't flatter big oil.

This forum is a good place to look if you want (for some strange reason that most people of the opposite sex wouldn't understand) to find them.
sennekuyl
not rated yet Aug 04, 2012
The other thing to think about is if it is transparent, it doesn't just have to be on windows. Imagine roofs all covered in these cells. After all, a common complaint is that current solar tech is too ugly to stick on roofs.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Aug 04, 2012
Are you guys paid to get on the comments section and spread doom and gloom?

Yes they are.
SteveL
3 / 5 (1) Aug 05, 2012
Are you guys paid to get on the comments section and spread doom and gloom?

Yes they are.
There doesn't have to be a conspiracy, some people are simply ignorant or dogmatic in their beliefs. While they will not accomplish anything useful, nor protect anything valuable, they really don't have any more influence than you allow.

The value of freedom of speech is in protecting the rights of the fringe minority, not the mainstream. The majority tends to forget this.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Aug 05, 2012
The value of freedom of speech is in protecting the rights of the fringe minority, not the mainstream.

True, however, hanging around for years and years on a website where they don't accomplish anything? No one does that. They HAVE to be paid.

As for freedom of speech: Freedom of speech does not apply here.
1) This is a private website
2) The first amendemnt says only that GOVERNMENT shall make no law to limit freedom of speech. In full:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Note the word 'Congress'.

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