Transparent Photovoltaic Solar Cells: The Future of Solar?

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In the earlier days of solar energy, companies used silicon solar cells to convert the photons of sunlight into electricity. However, the use of silicon solar cells had several drawbacks. Today, high-quality solar energy panels are often made with the use of organic photovoltaic cells. These cells are a huge step in revolutionizing the solar power industry, and this is why.

Increased Visual Appeal

One reason that homeowners often overlook solar energy despite its many benefits is that they associate solar energy systems with bulky equipment and unattractive panels. With the use of transparent photovoltaic cells, however, this unattractive appearance of solar energy panels will become a thing of the past. It is expected that this new technology will make windows that generate energy as sun shines into your home a reality very soon.

Increased Efficiency

In 2013, the University of California in Los Angeles managed to create a new type of transparent solar film- one that uses two separate layers of transparent photovoltaic film. This will revolutionize the use of solar energy because it increases efficiency by an impressive 7.3%. These double-layer photovoltaic cells are also believed to provide twice the capacity for harvesting energy than the cells that were developed in the year 2012. While a single-layered cell can collect 40% of infrared light, this newer development collects 80%.

Decreased Costs

The conventional silicon solar technology is also much more costly than the new solar energy options that are becoming available as the result of photovoltaic cells. Organic photovoltaic solar cells are made from a combination of polymers, which are inexpensive plastic materials. This can be manufactured as a liquid form and then rolled, or sprayed onto solar panel material. The easier application and cheap manufacturing of these types of solar cells make it a much more affordable and practical solution, especially for residential customers.

Pricing Stability

A huge disadvantage of silicon-based solar panels is that the cost fluctuates with the cost of silicon in the current market. Silicon is a material that is purchased from an open market, meaning that prices can fluctuate constantly For example, China shut down one-third of its polysilicon facilities in 2012 because the price of silicon dropped by 60%. This was quickly followed by a jump in the price of silicon because of a lower supply. The materials used to create organic photovoltaic cells, however, has a price that is significantly more stable.

Improved Availability in Colder, Cloudier Environments

A huge disadvantage of the tradition silicon-based solar energy systems is the need for sun rays at a 90 degree angle or greater before the panels can effectively generate electricity. Photovoltaic cells, on the other hand, can be painted/sprayed cheaply across large areas, increasing its ability to collect the sun’s rays. It can also be used in 3D applications. This technology uses the science that even on cloudy days, some sun rays will hit the earth. They are just hitting the earth at a lesser angle than is required for silicon applications. Photovoltaic solar applications, on the other hand, are able to catch the rays when they come in at these lesser angles and convert it into solar energy. This makes solar energy a possibility for more cloudy, colder environments.

Greater Range of Applications

The transparency that is provided by solar film made of photovoltaic cells also allows for a greater range of applications that traditional solar energy systems. The same institute in California responsible for the development of double-layered transparent cells studied its effectiveness in several environments. It is proven effective for use on smartphones, sun panels, windows, and more, all while maintaining its transparency.

This article was composed by Kassie Berger.  Kassie is currently studying Electrical Engineering at University of Colorado in Denver.  When Kassie isn’t nose deep in her physics and math books, she enjoys researching new innovations in the green tech industry and contributing this information to Ablaze Energy LLC.

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