Let’s start this post with two questions: What do we mean exactly with the adjective transparent? And what color usually are solar cells?
Transparent usually defines something that is so fine in texture that can be seen through, we also use this word for a material that allows the uninterrupted passage of light. Then, answering the second question, I would say that solar cells are usually of a color between gray and blue (I might be color-blind, but that is not the topic today).
Well, if you think I said it right, both of us will be wrong pretty soon thanks to the incredible researchers of MIT. Oops, they did it again! Last year a group of researchers of the University was able to create something which seemed impossible before: a transparent solar cell. Without entering too much in technical details, let’s just say that if normal photovoltaic cells produce energy capturing the sunlight and transforming it into energy, these cells harvest only a part of the solar spectrum – the one that is not visible to the human eye – letting the other part passing through. To be more precise, they are solar concentrators that if placed over transparent surfaces produce energy but also allow to see through.
So now we can finally start dreaming about clean energy taking power. Just imagine the unlimited possibilities that this idea will open up. Producing energy from a transparent surface means these cells can be used for houses and tall buildings windows or for mobile devices.
I know that especially if you have an iPhone in your pocket, as I do, you have already started dreaming about an always-charged smartphone. Unfortunately these cells will not completely solve your mobile problems but may offer a couple of hours more of life to your battery. Something very useful when you have an emergency call and your mobile just turned off.
For the moment the cells have only an efficiency of 1% but the researchers are confident that they will reach 5%. It is true these are not high percentages but thanks to the aesthetic characteristics of these cells, it will be possible to use them on a large scale, compensating these figures.
The product is now commercialized by Ubiquitous Energy, a MIT startup based in Silicon Valley. So pay attention, a revolution is coming and you will not see it, it is a transparent revolution!