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Transparent Solar Cells

Transparent Solar Cell

A research and design team at UCLA has developed a new transparent solar cell with the potential to give windows in buildings the ability to generate electricity while still allowing people to see through them. The team has designed a new kind of polymer solar cell, one that absorbs mainly infrared light, as opposed to solar, making the cells nearly 70% transparent to the human eye.

The cells are made from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light to electric current. By using the plastic-like materials, the cells are lightweight and flexible, and can also be produced in high volume at low costs. In an attempt to solve previous issues with transparent PSCs, the team at UCLA incorporated a near-infrared light-sensitive polymer and used silver nanowire composite films for the top transparent electrode. The near-infrared polymer absorbs more infrared light but is less sensitive to visible light which helps to balance the cell’s performance and transparency. Another breakthrough includes the transparent conductor, a mixture of silver nanowire and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, replacing the previously used opaque metal electrode. The new electrode allows the solar cells to be fabricated economically and has achieved 4% power-conversion efficiency for solution-processed and visibly transparent polymer solar cells. 

"These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications," said study leader Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering, who also is director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI).

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