Colorful Dyes Can Turn Regular Windows Into Solar Panels

By Eliza Strickland | July 10, 2008 5:06 pm

colored dyed glass solar powerCoating an ordinary sheet of glass with dye could be the key to cheaper, more efficient solar panels, according to a new study. Researchers say the dye absorbs visible light and transmits it to the edges of the glass sheet, where strips of photovoltaic cells convert the light into electricity.

Current solar panels are made entirely of the expensive photovoltaic cells. The team, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), claims the technology could slash the cost of generating electricity from sunlight, making it more competitive with standard grid power [The Guardian]. Although this technique is highly experimental, researchers say that eventually the collectors might double as windows… or could be used in place of standard solar panels [New Scientist].

Researchers explain that the dyed glass absorbs light and traps it inside the glass pane. With the help of a scientific principal called “internal refraction,” which is the same principal that keeps light trapped in optical fibers, the light bounces to the edges of the glass [GreenTech Media], which is where the photovoltaic cells take over.

The new invention, which is described in the journal Science, offers a contrasting approach to the other big idea in solar power: Solar concentrators that use mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays onto a panel. Concentrators can generate a lot of power, but rely on expensive sun-tracking mirrors [Wired News], and aren’t yet feasible in a residential setting.

Lead researcher Marc Baldo thinks that the [dyed-window] system will be easy to commercialize. “It looks very practical to make,” he says [Nature News], while other members of his team added that the technology could reach the market within three years. However, the MIT team has formed a company, Covalent Solar, to develop the technology, so their opinions may not be entirely objective.

Image: Donna Coveney, MIT

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • jumbie

    Yay! Bring on the cheap solar panels! Imagine if the solution to our energy crisis was in the sky all along…

  • Alex O’Neal

    Imagine how great this would be on all those glass-covered office buildings. Plus, the die helps make the window seem less like an open sky when reflecting, so it saves a few birds from cofenestrating.

  • steinmentz1

    I can remember when it was said that nuclear power would be
    too cheap to meter.

  • steinmentz1

    Discover once had an article titled ‘Anything into Oil’
    Do a search for that article in the Discover Archives.

  • billy

    Have you ever seen the solar light
    that you can put in your garden? They are super cute

  • Pingback: Learn how to build your own solar panel()

  • Charles

    No one ever said solar will be “too cheep” but it’s sure nice to see some ideas for keeping the price down.

  • Learn Internet Business

    It’s nice to definitely find out a web site where the blogger is clever. Thanks for creating your blog.

  • Pingback: Overcoming Solar’s Challenges with a New Technology : Wildlife Promise()


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