New Technique Could Turn Windows into Transparent Power
An international team of scientists and industrialists is working at the
University of Leicester to develop a new technique for harnessing the
EnSol AS in Norway has patented a thin film solar cell technology that
it seeks to develop commercially by 2016. The company is now working with
experts in the University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy
to develop the new type of solar cell material that could be coated as
a thin film on, for example, windows in buildings to produce power on
a large scale.
Chris Binns, professor of Nanotechnology at the University of Leicester,
says the collaboration offers a tremendous opportunity to develop a new
method for harnessing solar energy. “The material has been designed by
EnSol AS and is based on nanoparticles that can be synthesized in Leicester.
In fact, following some initial investment by the company, the equipment
we have here at the University of Leicester is uniquely suited in the
world to produce small amounts of the material for prototypes.”
Binns adds, “The work is important since the solar cells are based on
a new operating principle and different to Si solar cells. One of the
key advantages is that it is a transparent thin film that can be coated
onto window glass so that windows in buildings can also become power generators.
Obviously some light has to be absorbed in order to generate power, but
the windows would just have a slight tinting (though a transmission of
only 8 to 10 percent is commonplace for windows in the ‘sun belt’ areas
of the world). Conversely, the structural material of the building can
also be coated with a higher degree of absorption. This could be side
panels of the building itself, or even in the form of ‘clip-together’
solar roof tiles.
“Also, since it is a thin film that can be
coated onto large areas, it could become very much cheaper than conventional
The material is composed of metal nanoparticles (diameters ~ 10
nm) embedded in a transparent composite matrix.
A spokesperson for EnSol AS stated in a company news release: “The basic
cell concept has been demonstrated, and it will be the objective of this
research and development project to systematically refine this PV cell
technology to achieve a cell efficiency of 20-percent or greater.”
The two organizations will collaborate to design and construct a thin
film deposition system with nanoparticle source for fabricating prototype
cells based on this design. The experimental facility will be designed
to produce PV cells with an active area in excess of 40- by 40-mm deposited
onto standard glass substrates. These prototype cells will then be characterized
and tested by the partners.
The EnSol spokesperson added, “EnSol’s next generation PV cell technology
has tremendous potential for industrial scale, low environmental impact,
cost-effective production via standard ‘spray on’ techniques.”
EcoGuard® Outperforms Standard
Solar Mirrors, Study Says
Guardian Industries in Auburn Hills, Mich., has announced the results
of a performance study that shows EcoGuard Solar Boost-LP, its laminated
parabolic mirror for concentrated solar power (CSP) applications, features
a solar reflectance better than standard 4-mm monolithic mirrors currently
used in most large solar fields. Tests conducted by the National Renewable
Energy Laboratory (NREL) showed that EcoGuard Solar Boost-LP has a solar
reflectance of 96.75, better than any measured 4-mm monolithic mirror.
NREL reported Guardian’s laminated glass reflector has an initial solar-weighted
hemispherical (SWV) reflectance of 96.75 ± 0.09. It has an initial
specular reflectance of 95.86 ± 0.08 into a 25-mrad cone angle
and 7-mrad of 94.93 ± 0.97. NREL is testing the product’s long-term
durability as well.
“The CSP industry needs mirrors that will remain highly reflective for
30-plus years with little to no degradation and will help lower the cost
of electricity generated by CSP to be competitive with natural gas,” says
NREL senior scientist Cheryl Kennedy.
PPG Introduces Solarphire NaB Glass for PV Aplications
Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries has introduced Solarphire NaB glass for
solar applications where sodium leaching can adversely affect the performance
of solar panels, reflectors, water heaters and other devices. The glass
is formulated with a transparent barrier coating that retards the migration
of sodium (Na) and other alkalis to the surface during high-temperature
processing or long-term field exposure.
Solarphire NaB glass is temperable and highly durable, and suits virtually
any solar application because the coating can be used on the first or
second surface as needed. The glass is approved for concentrating photovoltaic
and concentrating solar power applications where high in-use temperatures
may be encountered.
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