Researchers at UCLA have developed a new solar cell that has the distinction of being almost transparent, a significant advance that should allow architects to new perspectives, such as electricity-generating windows.
The new type of polymer solar cell (PSC) generates energy by absorbing rather than visible light, but mostly infrared light, making it translucent to 70%. They developed their device from a photoactive plastic capable of converting infrared light into electrical current.
“These results open the possibility of integrating solar cells transparent as add-ons for portable electronics, building integration and the many other applications,” said the study leader, Yang Yang, a professor Science and Engineering.
“The interest for polymer solar cells is huge worldwide,” added Professor Yang. “Our new CSP modules are made from lightweight and flexible plastic materials, … and more importantly, they can be mass produced for a lower cost.”
Polymer solar cells have attracted great attention because of their advantages over conventional technologies. Many attempts have been undertaken to try to develop PSC transparent or semitransparent. But they have often resulted in unsatisfactory results both on the notion of transparency as the performance or the choice of polymer photovoltaic materials.
The driver ‘transparent’ consists of a mixture of silver and nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, able to replace the metal electrode ‘opaque’ used in the past. The composite electrode also allows solar cells to be manufactured more cost effectively by using the process solution. With this combination, the power-conversion efficiency reaches 4%.