Researchers have created solar lites that include colorful hues that produce energy nearly as efficiently as traditional solar lites.

Though the idea of colored solar lites seems inconsequential, the ability to adorn a facade with different hues is a huge leap forward for photovoltaic technologies. Solar lites are typically black. This is because a solar lite’s job is to absorb light and black is naturally a more absorbent color.

Most previous attempts to give solar lites color ended with a decrease in their ability to absorb light and generate power. One alternative is to use structural sources of color that take advantage of microscopic shapes to only reflect a narrow, selective portion of light. However, previous technologies that tried to incorporate structural color gave solar lites an undesirable iridescence or were expensive to implement at a large scale.

Researchers reporting in American Chemical Society (ACS) Nano, a monthly, peer-reviewed, scientific journal, state that they developed a way to give solar lites color using a structural material that is easy and cheap to apply, all the while maintaining the ability to produce energy efficiently.

The study, titled High-Efficiency, Mass-Producible, and Colored Solar Photovoltaics Enabled by Self-Assembled Photonic Glass, described how the researchers applied the color to the lites. The process began by spraying a thin layer of photonic glass on the surface of the solar lites.

The photonic glass is made of a thin, disorderly layer of dielectric microscopic zinc sulfide spheres that allow selective colors to reflect on the spheres as light passes through. This allowed researchers the ability to create blue, green and purple solar lites while only dropping the efficiency of energy generation from 22.6% to 21.5%.

The team found that the color and performance of these solar lites were maintained during standard durability tests. Thanks to the success of the study, the researchers aim to find more ways to make colors saturated to achieve more range of colors.