Invisible Solar Panels: How future Windows can produce electricity

How to render a completely transparent solar cell is seen in a new analysis headed by researchers from the Incheon National University in Korea. In a new research which was published in the Journal of Power Sources, the very first transparent solar cell which was demonstrated by a global team of scientists led by Professor Joondong Kim. Their revolutionary approach is based on a different solar cell part; the heterojunction consists of short films of light-absorbing materials. The scientists were able to produce a powerful, transparent solar cell by incorporating the special features of nickel oxide and titanium dioxide semiconductors.

All eyes are on the global success on the path to a carbon-free economy five years since the Paris climate agreement. The power change from fossil fuels towards renewable energies, such as solar, water, wave, and tidal energy, is a vital aspect of this objective. Among others, as the most secure and plentiful energy source on Earth, solar power has always retained the greatest hope in the science community. Solar cells are becoming cheaper, more effective, and environmentally sustainable in recent decades. However, present solar cells appear to be invisible, restricting their broader usage and incorporation into daily materials, restricting themselves to being directly connected on roofs as well as in the remote solar farms.

But what if it were possible to embed the next-generation solar panels into walls, homes, or even cell phone screens? That is Prof. Joondong Kim’s dream from Incheon National University’s Department of Electrical Engineering, Korea. Together with his collaborators, they outlined their new discovery in a new paper that was published in the Journal of Power Sources: a completely transparent solar cell. “Advanced technologies in human technology can have the distinctive properties of clear photovoltaic cells,” says Professor Kim. The idea of clear solar cells has been well known. However, a key recent breakthrough is this vibrant application in which researchers have interpreted this idea into reality.

Currently, the semiconductor layers, those liable for absorbing light and converting it into the electrical current, are the components which make the solar cell invisible. Therefore, Professor Kim and his collaborators looked at two possible semiconductor components, known for their attractive properties, in the past study. Titanium dioxide (TiO2), a very well-known semiconductor now commonly used to build solar cells, is the first one. TiO2 is indeed environmentally friendly as well as non-substance on top of its outstanding electrical properties. UV light is reflected by this substance (a portion of the light spectrum inaccessible to the naked eye) while allowing much of the visible light field to pass through.

Nickel oxide (NiO), some other semiconductor also considered to have high optical clarity, became the second substrate tested for producing this junction. Since nickel has become one of Earth’s plentiful mist components, and its oxide could be easily processed at the low industrial temperatures, NiO is indeed a great material for eco-friendly cells to be made.

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