Swiss firm says it can make near invisible solar modules

October 28, 2014
solar cell

A Swiss research and development company said Tuesday it had discovered a way to make white solar modules, which can blend with a building's "skin" to become virtually invisible.

The Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (SCEM), a non-profit company for applied research, said it had developed a new technology paving the way to making the world's first white with no visible cells and connections.

"For decades architects have been asking for a way to customise the colour of solar elements to make them blend into a building's skin," it said in a statement.

The problem with the common blue-black solar modules, built to maximise sunlight absorption, is their "visually unaesthetic" appearance, which tends to hamper their acceptance, SCEM said.

"Currently, the market lacks photovoltaic products specifically designed to be integrated into buildings," it said.

White, the most sought-after colour for its elegance and versatility, is especially tricky because it generally reflects light rather than absorbing it.

To solve the problem, SCEM said it had taken for converting infrared solar light into electricity and combined it with a special filter that "scatters the whole visible spectrum while transmitting infrared light".

This method, it said, made it possible for crystalline silicon-based solar technologies to be molded into modules that blend seamlessly with building surfaces in any colour, including pure white.

"The technology can be applied on top of an existing module or integrated into a new module during assembly, on flat or curved surfaces," SCEM said.

In addition to use for buildings, it said it expected to see "significant interest" in the technology from the , for use in things like laptops, and from the car industry.

In addition to the aestethic appeal, white have other advantages, SCEM said.

Since the visible, reflected light will not contribute to heat, the solar cells are expected to work at temperatures 20 to 30 degrees Celsius below standard models, it said.

"White PV modules can also contribute to increase energy savings in buildings by keeping inner spaces cooler and reducing air conditioning costs," it said, noting that several US cities had begun painting roofs white for the same reason.

Explore further: Fully integrating solar power into building design

More information: www.csem.ch/site/card.asp?bBut … d=28474#.VE_jFx3F_SY

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8 comments

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antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2014
Werl, the aesthetic advantages are undeniable. But doesn't this mean that the solar cell is of rather low efficiency if all the visible light is reflected first? If so I'm not sure this can be cost effective (yet).
phprof
not rated yet Oct 28, 2014
Solar cell technology is untenability in large scale until we solve the storage problem. Maintaining one electrical system is hard enough but having to equip with a backup when solar power doesn't provide enough energy is just too expensive.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2014
Well... you have to find a balance point where benefits mixed with other colours outweigh the costs... Seems simple enough....
teslaberry
1 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2014
lame
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Oct 29, 2014
Solar cell technology is untenability in large scale until we solve the storage problem.

The applications that are opened up by aesthetic hiding of solar panels extend to systems that aren't necessarily connected to the grid (or where the use case coincides directly with sunshine).
E.g. if one could envision this being used for housing fronts then it could be linked to the airconditioning (always given that the entire panel system isn't much more expensive than a coat of paint.)
CuriousMan
5 / 5 (2) Oct 29, 2014
Would the cooler operating temperature extend the lifespan?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Oct 29, 2014
Since all the infrared goes through I'm not sure these are much cooler.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Oct 29, 2014
Since all the infrared goes through I'm not sure these are much cooler.


Much of the energy in sunlight is in the visible spectrum. The total energy absorption is what makes it hot, not just the infrared absorption.

Would the cooler operating temperature extend the lifespan?


Not significantly, because the lifespan is mainly dictated by other factors such as corrosion, but it helps improve efficiency.

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