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

culture
Trending

How Indiegogo Is Becoming An Adult Product Destination

Retail
Home september 23, 2016

Watch This Fire Pit Dance Along To Your Favorite Song

Music City Fire is a system that is designed to flicker in time to ambient music

Automotive september 23, 2016

Slick GPS Navigator Gives Directions To Moped Riders

This small, round device attaches to a sideview mirror to display maps for safer traveling

Trending

Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Home september 23, 2016

A Clock That Beautifully Manages Your Information Overload

The wall-mounted timekeeper is made to help people maintain focus and stay up to date with their appointments

Arts & Culture september 23, 2016

Performance Piece Blends Dancers Into Folds Of Light

The work provides commentary on the increasing connection between programmed and analog dimensions

Design & Architecture september 23, 2016

Design Firm Adapts Childhood Homes For Unemployed Young Adults

The studio has unveiled three prototypes of transformed living spaces for people forced to move back in with their families

Health september 23, 2016

These Chocolate Squares Claim To Reverse The Aging Process

A group of researchers from Cambridge University have developed a candy bar that promises to give you a youthful glow

Cities september 23, 2016

Food-Producing Architecture Competition Seeks To Better Feed Cities

A design challenge in Copenhagen highlights the need and beauty of urban farming

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed september 21, 2016

Creative Agency Founder: Using VR As A Race Relationship Tool

Maurice Bernstein, CEO and Founder of Giant Step, explores the value in transforming headsets from high-tech entertainment tools into empathy machines

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Health september 23, 2016

Wearable Monitors Sun Exposure To Prevent Sunburn

The clip monitors UV rays to make sure you're not receiving too much sunlight

Op-Ed september 23, 2016

Productivity Expert: The Magic Of The Five-Hour Workday

Stephan Aarstol, Founder of Tower Paddle Boards, explains why the modern notion of office hours needs to evolve

Culture september 23, 2016

This Exhibition’s Crowning Jewel Is An 18k Gold-Plated Toilet

The piece, titled 'America,' is meant to raise questions about the country's wealth inequality

Culture september 23, 2016

Match Up With Dates On Tinder Based On Your Music Preferences

A new partnership with Spotify lets people pair up based on shared tastes in artists

Entertainment september 23, 2016

Capture, Cut Up, And Configure Your World In 360 Degrees

To meet a booming 360 and VR video-capturing industry, a multimedia software company bolstered its media editing suite for 360-video creation

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

Advertising september 23, 2016

These Trucks Drove Around In Circles For 24 Hours To Keep Time

The giant ticking clock was created by 14 Scania vehicles in a deserted airfield

Advertising september 23, 2016

Buy Movie Tickets Directly From Your Facebook Profile

The new feature is part of a campaign from Fandango to further imbed social media into the ticket vendor's digital presence

Asia september 23, 2016

Co-Working Space Brings The Calming Atmosphere Of Nature Indoors

An architectural firm in China has designed a new type of shared office that prioritizes the natural environment

No search results found.