Skyscraper Sunset

The concept of transparent solar cells that would transform glass-clad skyscrapers into solar farms and turn smartphone screens into solar panels is exciting, but not new.

In 2014, a Michigan State University research team created a fully transparent solar panel. Until now, these kinds of solar cells have typically been tinted, and only semi-transparent if transparent at all. The University's new cells are indistinguishable from a typical pane of glass.


Person Holding Glass

It allows visible light to pass straight through, and uses organic molecules to guide ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths to the edges of the glass, where tiny photovoltaic cells turned the non-visible light into electricity. Conversion efficiency of these transparent solar panels, at 10%, is a little less than traditional solar panels which reach 20 to 25%.

Previous attempts at these solar cells with colour shadows have been able to reach an efficiency of 7%. Conversion efficiency of Ubiquitous Energy Transparent Solar Cells are at 10%, is a little less than traditional solar panels which reach 20 to 25%.

While numbers like seven and ten percent efficiency seem low, consider how these type of cells could operate in a completely solar window or glass wall. 

TLSC technology could be employed on an industrial level or even on a consumer level, according to Michigan State. Their latest goals are to keep driving the technology to reconcile it's efficiency with it's potential affordability so that this eco-friendly tech is accessible for all. 

“It opens a lot of area to deploy solar energy in a non-intrusive way. It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader. Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”

-Lunt in an interview with Michigan State’s Today blog

It's incredibly exciting to think that this tech breakthrough could mean that all windows and panes of glass could one day generate solar energy! And we think it’s just the beginning. There have been whispers of solar windows that can generate 50 times more power than today’s traditional solar panels. So keep an ear out for news of more cool advances in solar tech in the coming years!

carbonTRACK supports homes and businesses to take control of their energy. Here's how carbonTRACK helps users consume energy more sustainably. 

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