Promising findings for solar windows
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 08/20/2012 -- University of California (Los Angeles) researchers have developed a clear solar film that can be applied to glass windows and other surfaces. This film captures sunlight and generates electricity.
Yang Yang, a professor at UCLA California Nanosystems Institute, was interviewed in late July 2012 about the new product and he stated that proposed current uses for the solar film include windows in high-rise buildings, vehicle sunroofs, and consumer electronics such as the back of Apple’s iconic’ iPad.
Yang also said that eventually the product will probably be developed into a spray, which would bring inexpensive solar energy to a broad range of new products. Spray solar coatings would be much less expensive than the current photovoltaic panels used in solar energy. Solar installations would also be much easier with a spray process as compared to the rigid panels currently used.
Yang said that his dream is that all windows could be used as an inexpensive way of generating solar power.
UCLA’s solar cell is made of polymer and it converts infrared light into an electrical current. Infrared light is invisible to the human eye. The technology utilizes silver nanowires that are about one-thousandth the width of a human hair. It also uses titanium dioxide nanoparticles as electrodes. The titanium dioxide nanoparticles are combined with a near-infrared light-sensitive polymer.
Currently UCLA’s solar cell is less effective than commercial solar products that are on the market today. Their cell is able to convert only 4% of the sun’s energy into electricity, while many commercial solar providers have solar efficiency of 12%. Yang stated that the UCLA team has tested films that delivered as much as 11% solar efficiency, and that they plan to continue improving the solar efficiency of their cell.
Yang envisions the plastic film eventually being sprayed onto surfaces by robots, much like the current painting process in auto manufacturing.
The film is currently applied to smooth surfaces such as glass. It will also work on any other smooth flat surfaces that could be recharged by the sun, such as consumer electronic devices. It’s not yet compatible with the iPad screen because the film itself may interfere with the touch-sensitive screen.
One of the improvements that Yang would like to see in the product is to create a transparent product much like Scotch tape.
He also stated that an average cost for a sprayed home installation would probably be $10.00 to $15.00 per window. A commercial application of the technology is still several years away, but the idea is attracting interest from several commercial interests. Yang says that he’s been contacted by several companies that are interested in the product;, however, he is choosing not to reveal the companies’ names at this time.
Conventional solar panels that use the silicon-based technology have seen prices drop by as much as 40% in some markets due to an oversupplied market. This price drop caused the failure of several solar startup companies, including Konarka Technologies Inc. Before its failure Konarka had developed a product similar to the one developed by UCLA.
Yang is confident that someone will bring this product to market eventually, and when they do, we will all benefit from less expensive and renewable energy.
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