What if your windows were more than just letting light in, whilst keeping in the heat? What if they generated electric too?! Well, it may not be a too distant dream as a team of scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston have created just that.
They claim to have created a type of solar panel that allows light to pass through it, just like a pane of glass, whilst generating 10 times more energy than conventional methods of producing energy from sunlight. So, if these clever people have created this brilliant invention, it could change the face of double glazing across the globe. Anglian Home Improvements could enhance their pursuit of green British homes if they could utilise this invention.
This invention would be great as you wouldn’t have to have big black panels across your roof etc; it would simply be a case of replacing your windows, which is something the majority of us will do in our lifetime anyway. You might even be able to specify this in a glass roof on a new conservatory. One issue they have encountered though is how much it would cost to convert a domestic home to a solar-powered generator.
Image sourced from Independent.co.uk
These solar panels are built differently to conventional ones; rather than coating the whole panel with solar cells, the new type of panel concentrates the light that hits it, with the energy transferring to the edges of the pane of glass and collected by the solar cells.
The solar concentrator is a type of film covered in organic molecules that can be coated on to a glass window pane, allowing light to continue passing through glass, even though it is being used to generate power. This technique cuts out some of the expense as the solar cells, which cost a lot, only need to be placed around the edge of the collecting area. One issue with current solar panels is they don’t track the suns movement therefore not receiving maximum exposure to create maximum power. As the solar cells are only around the edge, there is no need to track the movements of the sun to generate maximum power.
The use of organic concentrators means the cost of photovoltaic power can be reduced, which should make this invention more appealing to the glazing industry.
The solar concentrator uses a mix of two or more dyes that are painted onto a pane of glass or plastic. It is this dye that can absorb light across a range of wavelengths. This is then re-emitted with a different wavelength and travels across to the solar cells around the edge of the pane. This process reduces the light transport losses, meaning there is a big increase in the amount of power converted. This improvement in the efficiency of the process should lead to better performance and lower costs.
Although this is a great idea, it is still in its infancy, and does have its defects at the minute. For example, in low-light conditions like here in the UK, it is not as efficient and we would not benefit from them as much as somewhere like Massachusetts. During winter in the UK, the sun rarely comes out to play making this process a lot less feasible. Give it a couple of years and I think this could be a standard product in windows.