The electric reflectors of solar panels have become, for me at least, the battle flag of sustainable energy. You can even buy solar-powered clothes now. If a team of Michigan State University researchers have anything to say about it, the next step in sustainability is in any old window.
Previous attempts to create a solar-paneled window have been hurt because of the way that solar energy gets power from light. The electrical reaction between the light and a solar panel made it impossible for any solar-powered window to be completely transparent.
The researchers developed a way that concentrates light rather than refracting it by using an organic salt that reacts by glowing invisibly. If you've ever seen the chemistry experiment where a teacher sets different gases on fire that burn at different colors, then this research will make more sense.
The salts react to light invisibly, so future solar panels can look just like regular windows. While the prototype transparent luminescent solar concentrator that the researchers developed only operates at 1 percent efficiency, the top-end opaque solar panels max out at 7 percent.
Luckily, the researchers are confident that they'll be able to optimize the technology while also making it affordable. Take a look at the images, you won't believe your eyes!
All images courtesy of Extreme Tech and Michigan State University. Click for a larger image.