Engineers have been tinkering for years with the idea of transparent solar panels that could double as windows, making electricity without dimming or distorting the view.
Scientists at Michigan State University think they’ve finally got the knack of it.
The team has crafted a clear, plastic-like panel that draws off ultraviolet and near-infrared light and converts them to electricity. Those areas of the light spectrum are invisible to humans, so the loss of light doesn’t affect what can be seen through the sheet.
Because the panels don’t turn the full spectrum of light into power, their efficiency is rated at around 10 percent—not state-of-the-art but good enough to pay their way over the lifetime of a building.
The technology is being commercialized by startup Ubiquitous Energy, which recently drew $30 million in funding from backers including Andersen Windows and ENEOS, Japan’s largest oil and gas company.
TRENDPOST: Last month, we reported on exterior building panels that make electricity to run heat pumps that warm and cool the interior (“Buildings That Heat and Cool Themselves With Sun Power,” 18 Jan 2022), a complement to windows that generate electricity.
Instead of sucking in energy and spewing out carbon waste, buildings in the future will be able to generate much, and perhaps all, of their own power through innovative technologies now beginning to emerge.
Investors and entrepreneurs will create new industries applying these technologies to building design and materials.

Ubiquitous Energy’s transparent window solar panel.

Credit: Michigan State University

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