Michigan university researchers announce breakthrough in ‘stealth solar’

Researchers at Michigan State University have developed a kind of stealth solar panel that can be used for unobtrusive energy generation. 

Richard Lunt, a researcher at the university’s College of Engineering, said the aim of the  "transparent luminescent solar concentrator", as the panels are called, is to "deploy solar energy in a non-intrusive way".  

He said: "They can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader. Ultimately the concentrators could be used on buildings, windows, smartphone screens and other clear surfaces. We want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there."

The transparent luminescent solar concentrator (G.L. Kohuth)

The concentrators are made from organic salts. Lunt said: "We can tune these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near infrared wavelengths that then ‘glow’ at another wavelength in the infrared. 

"Because the materials do not absorb or emit light in the visible spectrum, they look exceptionally transparent to the human eye." 

The infrared radiation is converted to electricity by photovoltaic solar cells at the edge of the concentrator. 

The researchers believe that the panels can be scaled at an affordable rate; work is now progressing on ways to optimise their efficiency. 

Image: The transparent luminescent solar concentrator (Yimu Zhao)

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