Clear glass solar panels ‘could charge mobile phones and electric cars’
A new type of window glass that is effectively a transparent solar panel could be used to charge mobile phones, electric cars and power homes, scientists say.
A working model of the glass has been created to show the viability of the process, but it now needs to be refined, made more efficient and brought to market.
Researchers at the University of the Free State (UFS) in South Africa, and Ghent University in Belgium, hope to achieve this within a decade.
They say the product will have the capacity to revolutionise the generation of power cheaply from the sun to power homes, factories and cities in a new clean way.
Professor Hendrik Swart, senior professor in the department of physics at UFS, said: “The idea is to develop glass that is transparent to visible light, just like the glass you find in the windows of buildings, motor vehicles and mobile electronic devices.
“However, by incorporating the right phosphor materials inside the glass, the light from the sun that is invisible to the human eye – ultraviolet and infrared light – can be collected, converted and concentrated to the sides of the glass panel where solar panels can be mounted.
“This invisible light can then be used to generate electricity to power buildings, vehicles and electronic devices. The invention is therefore a type of transparent solar panel.”
He added that the technology could be used on mobile phones where the sun or ambient light could be used to power a device without altering its appearance.
Another possible application is electric cars, where the windows could be used to power the vehicle.
Lucas Erasmus, who is working with Professor Swart, added: “We are also looking at implementing this idea into hard, durable plastics that can act as a replacement for zinc roofs.
“This will allow visible light to enter housing and the invisible light can then be used to generate electricity.”
The study is currently on-going, and UFS is experimenting and testing different materials in order to optimise the device in the laboratory.
It then needs to be upscaled in order to test it in the field.