The idea of using semi-transparent solar cells in windows has been around for some time, but Australian researchers may have brought it close to reality.
Led by Professor Jacek Jasieniak from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science (Exciton Science) and Monash University, the researchers have produced a variation of perovskite solar cells that generate electricity while allowing light to pass through.
The team is now investigating commercialisation possibilities with glass manufacturer Viridian Glass. The goal is to get a product to market within 10 years.
Viridian Glass operations manager Jatin Khanna said “The development of such solar windows presents an opportunity that could translate into the new glass innovations and technologies going forward.”
Two square metres of solar window will generate about as much electricity as a standard rooftop solar panel, according to the researchers, and this could revolutionise building design.
The new approach uses a polymerised organic semiconductor.
“Rooftop solar has a conversion efficiency of between 15 and 20%,” Jasieniak said.
“The semi-transparent cells have a conversion efficiency of 17%, while still transmitting more than 10% 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.”
Solar windows tinted to the same degree as current glazed commercial windows would generate about 140 watts of electricity per square metre.
“There is a trade-off,” he explained. “The solar cells can be made more, or less, transparent. The more transparent they are, the less electricity they generate, so that becomes something for architects to consider.”
The first application is likely to be in multi-storey buildings. Their windows are expensive to make, and the additional cost of incorporating the semi-transparent solar cells will be marginal.
Co-author and CSIRO research scientist Anthony Chesman said “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.”
Lead author Jae Choul Yu of Exciton Science and Monash, added that more efficiency gains would flow from further research.
“Our next project is a tandem device,” he said. “We will use perovskite solar cells as the bottom layer and organic solar cells as the top one.”
A paper describing the team’s work is scheduled to appear in the May edition of Nano Energy, and is available in early-release form.
The research was also supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
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