Scientists in the East are working on the development of transparent and semi-transparent solar cells. What I mean is “see-through solar power”. So, take the opaque black panels associated with solar power, and picture them as clear glass. Then picture that solar-celled clear glass as a windshield in your car! Are we there yet? Almost.
Question: Why do pro athletes wear eye-black?
Answer: Because the black surface absorbs incoming light and reduces glare.
How does this relate to solar power? Well, solar power panels are historically black for the same reason. The color black absorbs light much more efficiently than other colors do. While, solar panels aren’t interested in glare, they’re highly tuned into absorption.
So the issue for professional scientists is determining a proven method for sunlight absorption by a transparent panel. One way to do this, according to the Korean research team leading the charge, is the use of “dye-sensitized” materials built into the glass. The problem is relatively “low power-conversion efficiency” of transparent material.
So how do you attract sunlight to something see-through?
Professional scientists from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology or “KAIST” (ranked the 6th most innovative university on the planet), are developing a “semi-transparent solar cell that is highly efficient and functions very effectively as a thermal mirror”. And yes, KAIST is located in South Korea.
The manipulation of this technology could have rippling effects on a multitude of industries, from automobiles, to residential homes, to large commercial construction. The concept of solar-powered glass being used in cars is most intriguing though. With the push for more green technology and lower emissions in today’s low-carbon society, the notion of installed “transparent solar cells” powering the car is very exciting.
As the sun beats down on your windshield, it is absorbing energy and converting it into power to run the car. So why aren’t today’s traditional black-colored solar panels being installed all over cars now? Auto makers are working on it, but so far have been unable to find an aesthetically-pleasing technique for installing large functional solar panels on the roof or hood of the car. Here’s where they’re at so far: