menu

Colorful Solar Cells May Lead To Energy-Harvesting Home Decor

Colorful Solar Cells May Lead To Energy-Harvesting Home Decor
culture

A group of researchers rethinks the stained glass window for an energy-conscious future.

Rachel Pincus
  • 6 march 2014

There’s been a lot of talk about how much light enters buildings: depending on the time of the day or year, it can make a huge difference in their energy efficiency. For most people, this has simply led to a lot of tedious curtain-opening and closing and stuffing rugs and towels under doors to keep climate-controlled air from flowing in or out. What if that sunshine could be harnessed by ordinary household items like windows? Such a novel solution was recently discovered by researchers at the University of Michigan, who have found an alternative to the big, shiny, black solar panels that live on rooftops and give architecture critics headaches.

light

The colorful panels devised by professor of electrical engineering Jay Guo and his team could find their place in a variety of corners of the home. They resemble stained glass, but don’t be fooled – dyes and microstructures can blur the image behind them, leading to less light absorption. Instead, the glass is actually engineered to transmit certain wavelengths of light. This is done by varying the thickness of the semiconductor layer of amorphous silicon in the cells. In a sample piece that was made to resemble the American flag, for example, the blue parts were 6 nanometers thick and the red parts were 31 nanometers, reflecting the wavelengths of the light they’re meant to absorb.

The resulting material isn’t as efficient as the glass found on solar panels, achieving only 2 or 3 percent efficiency – a meter-square piece would power fluorescent lightbulbs or small electronic gadgets. A state-of-the-art organic cell has 10 percent efficiency. Though some of this discrepancy is inherent in the cells’ design – black solar panels are black in order to absorb all wavelengths of light, and these panels instead use those frequencies to dazzle our eyes – the idea revolutionizes how we might think of solar energy, and could one day have a wide enough distribution in the home to make up for the inefficiencies of individual pieces. The unchanging colors of the material no matter what angle it’s seen from also means that the panels wouldn’t have to pivot the way traditional solar panels do.

solarcells2

This is especially encouraging news considering the rising popularity of urban living. “Today, solar panels are black and the only place you can put them on a building is the rooftop. And the rooftop [of] a typical high-rise is so tiny!” said Guo. The paper about the material is titled “Decorative power generating panels creating angle insensitive transmissive colors” and was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Jay Guo

Sources, Images: University of Michigan Engineering

Trending

Machine Printer Uses Coffee Drips To Create Intricate Portraits

Arts & Culture
Technology Yesterday

Why Nest Doesn't Get The Holidays

PSFK founder reacts to the damaging effects of poor email marketing

Children Yesterday

Robots Could Be Joining Dubai’s Police Force In 2017

The real-life RoboCops can salute, shake hands and collect traffic fines

Trending

Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Travel Yesterday

Parka Hides And Charges Portable Devices

Bolt is a jacket that lets people carry and charge their various electronics without the need for an outlet

Related Expert

Nicolas Franchet

Retail, Mobile, Social

Food Yesterday

Yelp's New 'Yelfie' Feature Lets Diners Take Selfies

The update is designed to encourage people to attach a selfie when they share their experiences

Design & Architecture Yesterday

Build Your Own Savory Cheese Advent Calendar

A British food blogger has created a guide to building a different kind of holiday surprise

Fitness & Sport Yesterday

Floating Gym Concept In Paris Is Powered By Your Workout

The proposed design from Carlo Ratti Associati lets passengers ride a stationary bike as they travel through Paris along the Seine River

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Retail 2017
Transformation Strategies For Customer-First Business
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Customer Service Expert: Why Offline Retail Has Better Data Than Online Retail

Healey Cypher, Founder and CEO of Oak Labs, shares why we should be thinking about the physical store as an e-commerce site

PSFK Labs december 1, 2016

Retail Spotlight: Home Depot Reimagines How Employees Conduct Tasks

The home improvement retailer puts the customer first by initiating local fulfillment centers and simplifying freight-to-shelf inventory management

Syndicated Yesterday

What Does The Future Of Android Look Like In A World With The Pixel?

Google’s decision to make its own phone might have looked like a blow to the likes of Samsung but the reality is much more interesting

Fashion Yesterday

Alexander McQueen Designs A 3D-Printed Umbrella

3D-printed fashion arrives in time for the winter season

Work Yesterday

Why Training Associates To Be Advocates Is Key To Retail Success

In our Future of Retail 2017 report, PSFK Labs discusses strategies to prioritize customer service, which begins with associate advocates

Media & Publishing Yesterday

Netflix Creates Binge Candle To Celebrate A New Season Of Gilmore Girls

The streaming service developed a special layered candle that creates candle with episode-specific smells

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

Automotive Yesterday

Audi And LEGO Exhibit Autonomous Vehicle Installation

The installation at Design Miami explores the 25th hour, which represents bonus productive work or play time

Gaming & Play Yesterday

This Game Lets You Be A Pilot In The Drone Racing League

DRL Racing Simulator recreates actual courses in a virtual environment

Travel december 1, 2016

Hotel Chain Is Giving Away Its Not-So-Super Hotel Art At Art Basel

A lesson in how to advertise a kitschy-to-cool redesign in the middle of Miami Art Week

No search results found.