Photovoltaic windows, the revolution in energy production

Posted on May 15, 2020

For decades, roofs of buildings have been considered an ideal place to collect sunlight and convert it into electricity. Now, researchers from Australia have managed to "tame" sunlight by turning it into collectors and windows.

In particular, engineers from the University of Monash in Melbourne have developed translucent solar cells that can be integrated into the window glass. The cells produce electricity while allowing light to pass through. This technology will turn windows into power generators and could potentially revolutionize building design, as two square meters of solar window will produce about as much electricity as a typical solar panel.

The idea of ​​translucent solar cells is not new, but previous designs have failed because they were too expensive, unstable or ineffective. Monasch scientists have taken a different approach. Instead of the usual coating materials, they used an organic semiconductor. The result was a window with an energy conversion efficiency of 17%, while a typical solar panel gives a conversion efficiency between 15 and 20%, according to the researchers.

The performance of the solar window can be adjusted according to the amount of light it allows to pass. The darker the window, the more energy it produces. And vice versa. So it is at the discretion of the owner of a building to choose whether he wants more energy or more sunshine inside.

In collaboration with Australia's largest glassmaker, Viridian Glass, Monasch engineers are working to develop a large-scale photovoltaic glass production process so that the technology can be commercially available.

The idea of ​​converting building materials into solar panels is not new. In 2016, Elon Musk founded Solar City, a subsidiary of Tesla, launching solar tiles. However, their high price was a deterrent to their adoption by the consumer public.

According to a 2019 report by BloombergNEF, in the next three decades, there is a 62% increase in demand for electricity, with investments of $ 13.3 billion in new technologies and programs. The same report notes that by 2050, solar and wind power will cover a combined 50% of global energy needs, while the share of carbon in the global energy mix is ​​projected to fall to 12% from 37% today.


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