Last year, we reported that UCLA researchers had created transparent thin film solar panels that reached 4% efficiency when converting sunlight into electricity. That’s quite a lot less than the standard 15-20% efficiency levels reached by standard solar panels, but the gap between the two numbers just got smaller. The researchers have now created a transparent solar strip that converts 7.3% of solar energy into electricity. That’s a 3.3% increase in just one year.
There wasn’t anything miraculous involved in achieving the boost, either. Two layers of cells were simply layered together, bumping it from 40% absorption of infrared light to 80% absorption. It also incorporates a “layer of novel materials between the two cells to reduce energy loss,” according to the UCLA release.
“Using two solar cells with the new interfacial materials in between produces close to two times the energy we originally observed,” said Yang Yang, team leader and director of Nano Renewable Energy Center at the UCLA California NanoSystems Institute. “We anticipate this device will offer new directions for solar cells, including the creation of solar windows on homes and office buildings.”
The cells work by absorbing as much light as possible outside of the visible spectrum. Right now, the biggest potential for these thin films is to create a product that attaches to phone and computer screens to help boost battery life. Eventually, houses and buildings may be able to cut down on solar panels and replace them with thin film window applications.
Pretty impressive work, isn’t it? How much longer do you think it will take a product like this to make it into the market?