The solar energy sector is growing and improving at an impeccable speed. Governments and environmentalists are also encouraging the use of renewable energy.
With regular upgradation in technology, scientists and researchers are now able to build more efficient and economically functional solar panels.
These modern-day solar panels have the potential to revolutionize the industry of solar energy. Innovative solar panels are expected to be more aesthetically pleasing and easier to handle too. This technology is still in its latter half of development.
However, it is expected that transparent solar panels will take over the traditional ones in a few years.
What are transparent solar panels?
Try to visualize a world where the surface of your mobile, the window of your bedroom, and the glass walls of your office building can generate electricity. It sounds unthinkable, right?
But luckily this thought is not limited to the imagination anymore.
With the help of modern science, solar technology has made tremendous advancements in a very short period of time. This has made transparent solar panels a reality.
A transparent solar panel is a very thin tile-like glass structure, which has a see-through integrated photovoltaic cell placed on the edges.
These thin film-like panels can turn any surface into a power generator device.
Also, read our article on “Thin-film photovoltaic cells (TFPV)”
How do transparent solar panels work?
The way a transparent solar panel functions is quite different from a conventional panel.
The funny thing about the transparent solar panel is that the glass body appears to be a solar cell, but actually, it ain’t one.
The glass is actually a luminescent solar concentrator. Apart from silicon, the glass uses some organic salts and cationic cyanine dyes. The dye is prepared of either hexafluorophosphate or perchlorate counter-ions. This synthetic dye may vary in its color shade and efficiency respectively.
When sun rays fall on the glass surface, it only absorbs ultraviolet and infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye.
The visible light passes through the glass structure unimpeded. Hence the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum is unaltered during the process.
The energy absorbed by the cyanine derivatives is then transported to the edges of the glass panel where the micro-sized PV cells are implanted. The property of Total Internal Reflection (TIR) is used for this channeling.
Furthermore, the PV cells harvest the absorbed energy and convert it into electricity for usage.
Types of transparent solar panels
Transparent solar panels can be classified into two types:-
- Partially transparent solar panels
- Fully transparent solar panels
Their key differences and characteristics are discussed below.
Partially transparent solar panels
As the name suggests, partially transparent solar panels are nothing but see-through panels with reduced transparency.
A German organization, Heliatek Gmb developed this panel.
It has an efficiency of around 7.2 % which is quite low compared to traditional solar panels. However, these partial solar panels are capable of absorbing 60% of the sunlight incident on them.
The company is currently working on the product’s efficiency and cost optimization. If the efficiency can be hiked by some percentage, partial solar panels could be the next big thing in solar energy. These may be high-demand commercial products in the years to come.
Fully transparent solar panels
Normally the presence of various layers of semiconductors makes the solar panels opaque. Interestingly, scientists have brought in a different perspective.
The concept of using glass as a concentrator for PV cells has made transparent solar panels an actuality. With the help of this technology, scientists have figured out a way to let the visible spectrum of light enter through the glass.
This allows the panelled area to be filled with sunlight and also utilizes the sun rays to be transformed into electricity. The efficiency of these aesthetically pleasing solar panels is on the lower side.
Pros and cons of transparent solar panels
Let’s start with the advantages. The true potential of transparent solar panels is unlimited. They can use their total surface area to produce electricity. At the same time, transparent solar panels are more aesthetic in contrast to traditional panels.
All said, there are a few disadvantages too. The cost of transparent panels is quite high compared to conventional solar panels. Even the efficacy of transparent panels is too low to be feasibly used at the moment.
However, research in its technology is rapidly happening and efficient, yet transparent solar panels may be a part of our near future.
Solar panel blinds and solar windows- what are they?
A solar panel blind is a one-stop solution for those who don’t have enough space on their roofs to install a conventional setup.
Smart solar blinds track sunlight throughout the day by adjusting their angle so that maximum radiation could be absorbed. Solar panel blinds have a sensory motor in them which allows the panels to detect the intensity gradient of sunlight.
Solar windows are nothing but a window with transparent panels fitted in them. They are ultra-lightweight and very easy to install. Solar windows convert the incident light into electricity and also allow visible light to pass through like a normal window.
Key players in transparent solar panel research and manufacturing
Various global organizations are trying to develop and improve on this technology.
Although transparent solar panels have very little efficiency for now, with continuous development in technology, they can provide a plethora of benefits to their users.
Below are a few names that have contributed to their development and manufacturing in the last few years:
With the ongoing research and development in the sector, the future of transparent panels as a commercial product is definitely bright.
Also, read our article on “ Types of solar panels.”