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Transparent Solar Panels Can Turn Windows Into Powerplants

Transparent Solar Panels Can Turn Windows Into Powerplants
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Unlike traditional panels, these sheets are scavengers for sunlight

Leo Lutero
  • 19 april 2016

Traditional solar panels are a bit picky. They have to be hit directly by the sun’s rays for them to work. This greatly limits installable areas to the roof of buildings. Cambridge-based startup Polysolar is going beyond this by creating panels that can scavenge electricity from flat surfaces on the side of buildings and in poor angles. They’re even developing transparent photovoltaic cells that can replace windows, Wired reports.

Joanna Slota-Newson, the chief technology officer of Polystar, tells Wired: “We’re just planning to cover as much of the building as possible with photovoltaics.”

This thin-film PV technology relies on novel manufacturing methods. To make the materials, the active material that converts sun rays to power is deposited in a thin, naturally translucent layer on a conductive glass substrate. This layer is then covered by another layer of glass. These translucent sheets of photovoltaic material operate even under only 10 percent of sunlight, allowing the sheets to harvest the sun’s powers over longer periods of time compared to traditional cells. The sheets also help in maintaining interior temperatures of buildings, another energy-saving feature.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.11.49 PM.jpg
Their other, less translucent product is the crystalline silicon PV glass. Instead of the usually bulky solar panels that require specific angling, Polystar’s PV Glass is thin and can be installed on flat roofs, curtain walling and façades. A 20.5kg panel that is 1.67 meters on the longest side has a rated power of 250W, with a conversion rate of up to 15 percent. Polysolar also sells opaque sheets for curtain walling and faćades.

Polysolar’s research efforts have resulted in a perfectly clear organic PV glazing at a small scale with full production in two years time.

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