Nanoparticle-Embedded Glass Redirects Scattered Light to Solar Cells Within Window Frames that Produce Electricity
These sunlight-harvesting windows embedded with metal nanoparticles and framed with photovoltaic cells produce four times as much power as other solar windows. In 2014, the United States installed enough solar photovoltaics to power 4 million homes. The growing solar industry now employs nearly 175,000 workers, more than Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter combined. For more than a decade, scientists have worked to create solar panels that allow light to pass through a pane of glass, as it would allow the use of ordinary domestic windows to generate electricity without major structural alterations. University of Florida researchers have created transparent laminated windows that use inorganic nanoparticles co-extruded with transparent polymers to feed scattered light to commercial solar cells hidden in the window frames. The window can remain highly transparent through control of the size, shape, and density of the nanoparticles. To increase the harvesting of infrared light without sacrificing transparency, scientists use metal nanoparticles to scatter a wider spectrum of light and concentrate more radiant energy to the solar cells.
Sunlight harvesting windows and laminates generate electricity with minimal structural changes
- Co-extrudes transparent inorganic nanoparticles with transparent polymers, scattering incoming sunlight laterally toward solar cells
- Uses metal nanocrystals to scatter infrared light, greatly increasing electrical power output
- Allows use of existing window structures, minimizing alterations and costs
- Employs transparent nanoparticles and polymers, keeping windows transparent
These windows and laminates embed or decorate the surface of one or more layers of a transparent polymer with metal nanocrystals and nanoparticles to direct incoming sunlight to the edges of the glass, where it is collected by commercial solar cells. The nanoparticles themselves can vary in size, shape, and composition, which affect the wavelengths of light it will scatter, thus its transparency and electricity generation. Due to the mixed composition, a broad portion of the near ultraviolent and near-infrared spectrum that enters the polymer can be directed to the edge of the window and collected at a solar cell within the window frame. The surface area collecting the sunlight radiation is dramatically larger than the surface of the solar cell, significantly increasing the electrical output of the solar cells.