Solar Technology Research Says That Windows Can ‘Transform’ Electricity Generation

6 months ago by Luke James

Australian researchers have reportedly made a breakthrough with semi-transparent solar cells that can be incorporated into glass windows and generate electricity.

Semi-transparent perovskite solar cells have received attention due to their characteristics, excellent performance, and potential for applications in areas like building integrated photovoltaics. Across the applications where perovskite solar cells are used is achieving high efficiency and stable performance and realizing these simultaneously has been tricky. 

In their work, the Australian research team sets out to boost conversion efficiency in photovoltaic cells while maintaining long-term efficiency. 

 

A ‘Game Changing’ Solar Cell Formulation

In this paper, the researchers describe how they produced “next-gen” perovskite solar cells that can generate electricity while allowing light to pass through with a conversion efficiency “of between 15 and 20 percent.” The team also found that solar windows tinted to the same degree as current glazed windows could theoretically generate 140 watts of electricity per metre squared.

 

Semi-transparent perovskite solar cell.

A semi-transparent perovskite solar cell with contrasting levels of light transparency. Image credited to Dr Jae Choul Yu

 

Electricity-Generating Windows

Previous designs have failed because of their high cost, instability, and inefficiency. In their work, the research team used an organic semiconductor that can be made into a polymer and then used this to replace Spiro-OMeTAD, a solar cell component that develops a watery coating, making it unstable. 

“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,” Professor Jacek Jasieniak said. “It’s long been a dream to have windows that generate electricity, and now that looks possible.” Allegedly, the technology will transform windows into active power generators and revolutionize building design. 

 

A ‘Boon’ for Building Owners and Residents

It is thought by the research team that the first application of their technology will be in multi-storey buildings. Here, the large windows that are used are expensive to make and install, so the additional cost of incorporating the semi-transparent solar cells will be marginal and beneficial to the building’s owners because of the potential for electricity generation. 

Professor Jasieniak said there will still be a “trade-off” with their breakthrough. “The solar cells can be made more, or less, transparent,” he said. “The more transparent they are, the less electricity they generate,”

“We’ll be looking to develop a large-scale glass manufacturing process that can be easily transferred to the industry so manufacturers can readily uptake the technology,” Dr Anthony Chesman said.

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