When we think of solar panels, we often picture large metal structures, either mounted on our roofs or in solar panel farms in the countryside, with the sun shining on their blue-black surfaces. However, a new piece of research being conducted by a top research team at Michigan State University could be about to totally reinvent everything we think we know about solar panels.
Over the past couple of years, lots of scientists, research teams, and renewable energy corporations have been stating that they have successfully produced the first completely transparent solar panel, but these claims are misleading. Often what they mean to say is that they are partially translucent, and slightly tinted. However, the researchers at Michigan State University now believe they have actually made the first totally translucent solar panel. This has been achieved using lots of new, innovative scientific methods, and the outcome is truly extraordinary. So how does it work?
For a material to be fully translucent, light passing through it must be able to meet the eye without any obstacles. Solar panels work by absorbing light and transforming it into energy – so how could this work? In order to achieve what seemed impossible, the team went about creating what they call a transparent luminescent solar concentrator, which only absorbs beams of light that are not visible to the human eye, leaving those that are visible to pass through and meet our eyes. This means that the solar panel can at once be fully translucent and still work as a properly functioning solar panel.
When will this new panel hit the market?
For everyone reading this getting excited about the prospect of having their windows changed for transparent solar panels, you may be jumping the gun slightly. Although this new technology is incredibly exciting, it’s still only in the first stages of research, and it’s very likely that it won’t be available on the general market for some time. However, it does show that over the coming years, solar panel technology is going to advance rapidly, changing the way that we think about solar and renewable energy forever.