What if our smartphone screens could produce solar energy?

·1-min read
Further research is needed to confirm the efficiency of transparent solar panels, but the method opens an interesting perspective in the deployment of solar energy.

At a time when the solar energy sector is booming, Korean scientists are working on the creation of transparent solar panels, which could be deployed on a large scale and integrated into everyday materials.

As citizens are increasingly encouraged to experiment with self-consumption (producing their own energy), the idea is quite appealing. To study the effectiveness of this technique, Korean researchers used two semiconductor materials: titanium dioxide (TiO2) and nickel oxide (NiO). Both materials have the advantage of being available in abundance in the earth and absorbing UV light.

The scientists developed a solar cell from a glass substrate and a metal oxide electrode, on which they deposited thin layers of TiO2, then NiO, before adding a coating of silver nanowires.

The cell was highly reactive and operated in low-light conditions. In addition, more than 57% of the visible light was transmitted through the layers of the cell, giving it a transparent appearance, say the research authors.

"While this innovative solar cell is still in its infancy, our results suggest that it is possible to further improve transparent photovoltaics by optimizing the cell's optical and electrical properties," said Professor Joondong Kim of the Department of Electrical Engineering at Incheon National University, who led the research.

The idea of transparent solar panels is indeed not new. American scientists at the University of Michigan have recently developed solar panels on building and car windows. Their work, published last August in the journal PNAS, mentions the use of an organic polymer.

Despite these initial experiments, further research is needed to confirm the efficiency of transparent solar panels, but the method opens an interesting perspective in the deployment of solar energy, especially for domestic use.