UCLA Native American 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% transparent to the human eye. 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 portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications," said study leaders.

Researchers  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," they 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 Native American 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-infrared light 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 solar cells, 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 NanoSystems Sciences.
Provided by University of California, Los Angeles

Responses to "Native Scientists create highly transparent solar cells for windows that generate electricity"

  1. Ace says:

    Well this is an awesome step forward. Pity it's only 4% power conversion efficiency though out of...what is it now 18%-19% that we've gotten up to? Well... They'll get there I guess.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Interesting but what about the recycling of these products?
    And, There is more to come... ;)

  3. Anonymous says:

    got a ways to go yet but they are on the right track, Keep it up

  4. Alex says:

    SUPER cool, brilliant research!! I love this!! Well done UCLA, go get 'em.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I wanna thorium batteries. I wanna it now! :P

  6. Anonymous says:

    Time to stack these on "conventional" solar panels as well!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thorium is not very useful for battery... Maybe for spaceflight one day.
    Please read Third industrial revolution of J Rifkin instead...

  8. Only 4%? This is a fantastic break through though, I was scrolling waiting to see what one would look like and much to my surprise, wow, they were right. Its practically INVISIBLE. THATS craftsmanship. Solar Installations will be booming if this goes main.

    -Sharone Tal

  9. Unknown says:

    I would like to use the film on my windows I live in the SUNSHINE St. of Fl. and it would help with the power bills I'm looking to go to solar pannels and batteries to help to Joseph Mayer

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the information, I have also passed it along to those I know in business who may be building homes, we desparately need it in Louisiana.

  11. Unknown says:

    Who may I speak to about exporting to South Africa. We could really use these. I would like more details about the product please.

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