I’d love to be able to fit solar panels to my home (not that we’ve been getting much sun this year, grouch grouch), but as I live in a flat I don’t have a roof to put them on. Thanks to a crafty hack from the boffins at MIT, that may not be a problem – they’ve found a way to turn windows into solar panels. [image by uqbar]
Sunlight is concentrated in existing solar power devices using large, mobile mirrors that track the sun as it moves across the sky. But these can be expensive to deploy and maintain. In the MIT device, called an “organic solar concentrator” and described in the latest issue of Science, the researchers painted a mixture of organic dyes onto the surface of a pane of glass. The dyes trap different wavelengths of sunlight and then guide the energy along the glass towards the PV cells at the edges.
“The point of all this is to get away with using far fewer solar cells,” said Marc Baldo, an electrical engineer at MIT. “The concentrator collects light over its whole front surface, but the solar cells need only cover the area of the edges.”
Not only does this make solar an option for people who don’t own an entire building, it also makes it a much cheaper proposition in general; solar cells aren’t cheap to make, and the industry can’t keep up with current demand as it stands.
And just to pre-empt someone piping up and saying that solar will never fully replace [energy source x], yeah, you’re probably right. But as one of a suite of renewable sources, it can make a contribution towards doing so – and right now we need every option we can get.