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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Windows that are also Solar Panels

MIT researches may have figured out a cost friendly and fashionable alternative to regular solar panels. The secret is dye colored glass.

The MIT method uses a solar concentrator. Which can collect and send light at longer distances. In this case, across a window to solar cells on the windows edge.

"Once the light is trapped inside, a major loss mechanism is that it can be reabsorbed by another dye molecule on its way out," MIT researcher Jon Mapel -- one of the study's authors -- told TechNewsWorld. "Every time that happens, there's a chance that it can get lost. It ends up going through a loss-absorption-reemission cycle, and eventually you lose too many of them and not enough get to the edges," he explained.

That problem has led to major research, and now a solution.

The mixture of two or more dyes is used, versus just one, and it is then painted onto a pane of glass or plastic. Different dyes absorb different wavelengths of light, and also re-emit it at different wave lengths.

The solar concentrator produces 10 times more energy than that of the current systems, so hypothetically, they can be sold for a fraction of the price. "Since you're using a lot less solar cells, you can potentially reduce the cost of solar electricity," Mapel said.

This new system also holds greater potential for the homeowners market. No one wants large, unsightly, and expensive solar panels on their home. However, if your windows could secretly be solar panels, why not get them? However, if you don't mind the regular old solar panel, using both could increase the amount of energy efficiency by a big margin.

This is because solar panels are better at absorbing infrared light than visible light, and these new concentrators get more power from visible light. However if they are combined they could be up to 50 percent high in conversion efficiency.

The MIT team estimates the products could become readily available within the next three years.

However, MIT are not the only ones who have figured it out. In another part of the world members of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE are built a prototype that combined nanoparticles and organic dyes to create solar panels that could eventually be any color, or even feature decorative images or text.

Their use of the dyes, also apply to window solar panels, versus rooftop panels, like MIT.

They presented their prototype in February at the Nanotech 2008 conference in Tokyo.

Original here

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