A new type of transparent solar film developed by the U.S. Department of Energy could turn windows into clean electricity generators.
Harnessing the power of the sun means placing solar collection devices where they are most likely to be in direct contact with its rays. For many years, that ideal place has been the roofs of homes and businesses, but new technologies are aimed at expanding this range to windows as well.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory, have created a new type of self-assembling transparent thin film material that could boost the cost-effectiveness and scalability of solar window production (Chemistry of Materials).
The material consists of a semiconducting polymer doped with carbon-rich fullerenes – honeycomb-like molecules that are composed of 60 carbon atoms. When the polymer is applied to a surface under controlled conditions, the pattern repeats over a large area.
The densely packed edges of the honeycomb shape strongly absorb light and could facilitate electrical conductivity, while the centers don’t absorb much light and are relatively transparent, according to the researchers.
The project's lead scientist Mircea Cotlet told Gizmag this material could have a big impact on the solar industry.
"...This is the first report of such a material that blends semiconductors and fullerenes to absorb light and efficiently generate charge and charge separation. Imagine a house with windows made of this kind of material, which, combined with a solar roof, would cut its electricity costs significantly."