Various companies and institutions have been racing to create the first transparent solar cell. What’s so special about transparent solar cells you ask? Well imagine all of the windows in your house being able to generate electricity without impeding your ability to look outside. Imagine your cell phone surface acting as a solar cell and self-charging your phone during the day without ever needing to plug in. Some call it the Holy Grail in photovoltaic technology. Others say it was only a matter of time. The good news is that day is here. Researchers from UCLA have created a new transparent solar cell from a new kind of polymer. The new polymer 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. The new transparent conductor is 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. Imagine some day where every glass surface in the world can produce solar energy. That day is now not that far off.
Photo Credit: UCLA