Are you a fan of solar energy?
Are you already actively using it?
Or do you think it is great – but please not where I can see it?
Since some years I live in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. And if there is one thing we have more than enough – next to oil, sand, luxury on display and crazy buildings – it is sun!
The CO2-neutral Masdar City
That’s why Abu Dhabi is building a CO2-neutral city. And of course solar energy plays an important role. They already used solar energy to build the city meaning they built a 10 Mega-watt solar field first and used the solar energy from it for the construction. That’s sustainability!
Masdar City solar panel field
The city is called Masdar City and the city’s university and student’s dorms are already finished. The dorms are fully sustainable and computer controlled. One student told me that if you open your balcony door while you have the A/C on the A/C switches off automatically. And sometimes a window closes by itself like moved by a magic hand.
Masdar City student’s dorms
There are no cars in the city so it’s quite enjoyable to hop over and sit in one of the coffee shops. Believe me! I’ve done it. But first you have to park your car and take one of the personal rapid transport magnetic cars into the city. It’s a little a bit like taking a flat elevator; just fancier.
Personal rapid transport magnetic cars
Some years ago using solar energy was a big problem even in this sunny country. The humidity and the sand stopped the solar panels from working. But technology improved. And it still does.
Just look at this new solar panel that was just developed by Michigan State researchers. It’s fully transparent. So technology advanced in this field as well.
How does a transparent solar panel work?
The usual solar panels that we all know make energy by absorbing sunlight (photons) and converting them into electricity (electrons). If a material is transparent by definition it means that all of the light passes through the medium.
But the Michigan State researchers use a slightly different technique to collect sunlight. They collect it in a wave-range we can’t see, the UV and the infrared range. Emitted infrared light is guided to the edge of plastic, where thin strips of conventional photovoltaic solar cell convert it into electricity.
Isn’t that transparent?
transparent solar panel; courtesy: www.collective-evolution.com
So, instead of trying to create a transparent photovoltaic cell (which is impossible), they created a so called transparent luminescent solar concentrator, short TLSC. The TLSC consists of organic salts that absorb the non-visible wavelengths of UV and infrared light, which they then luminesce (glow) at another wavelength of infrared light (also non-visible).
Check out the full research paper if interested: ‘Near-Infrared Harvesting Transparent Luminescent Solar Concentrators’
Like invisible elves
These transparent solar panels are just amazing! Imagine how much is going on inside these transparent solar panels? We just can’t see it. It all happens in the invisible light range. It’s like having invisible magic elves. They are constantly working but you can’t see them.
The Michigan State researchers are still working to increase the efficiency of the transparent solar panels. And of course they are confident they will. And they are confident that these transparent solar panels will be affordable.
A beautiful future
I want to believe them because it would be a wonderful step forward in the field of solar energy to have beautiful, practical and efficient solar panels.
And one day I want to look out of my transparent energy producing solar panel window and imagine all my invisible hard working magic elves.