Australian researchers have developed semi-transparent solar cells that can be incorporated into window glass.
The results are a ‘game-changer’ that could transform architecture, urban planning and electricity generation, they say.
The researchers – led by Professor Jacek Jasieniak from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science (Exciton Science) and Monash University – have succeeded in producing next-gen perovskite solar cells that generate electricity while allowing light to pass through.
The research was also supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
They are now investigating how the new technology could be built into commercial products with Viridian Glass, Australia’s largest glass manufacturer.
Two square metres of solar window, the researchers say, will generate about as much electricity as a standard rooftop solar panel.
The idea of semi-transparent solar cells is not new, but previous designs have failed because they were very expensive, unstable or inefficient.
Professor Jasieniak and colleagues from Monash’s Materials Science and Engineering Department and Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, used a different approach.
They used an organic semiconductor that can be made into a polymer and used it to replace a commonly used solar cell component (known as Spiro-OMeTAD), which shows very low stability because it develops an unhelpful watery coating. The substitute produced astonishing results.
“Rooftop solar has a conversion efficiency of between 15 and 20 per cent,” Professor Jasieniak said
“The semi-transparent cells have a conversion efficiency of 17 per cent, while still transmitting more than 10 per cent of the incoming light, so they are right in the zone. It’s long been a dream to have windows that generate electricity, and now that looks possible.”
Co-author and CSIRO research scientist, Dr Anthony Chesman, said the team was now working on scaling up the manufacturing process.
“We’ll be looking to develop a large-scale glass manufacturing process that can be easily transferred to industry so manufacturers can readily uptake the technology,” he said.
The research paper, to run in the May edition of Nano Energy, is available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2211285520301920