Glazing can be a desirable surface for solar collection as in the case of tall buildings with curtain-wall envelopes. However, the application of conventional silicon photovoltaic (PV) and thin-film technologies to glazing has been problematic because the addition of dark or colored bands to windows can obstruct views.
A team of researchers at Michigan State University recently unveiled a potential solution: a transparent solar-concentrating film. The cleverly designed luminescent solar concentrator works where others have failed because it translates and redirects the energy to the film’s edges—where PV cells harvest the power—rather than capturing it as it passes through the surface. The transparent polymer contains organic molecules that absorb near-infrared and ultraviolet light, converting it to the infrared spectrum. The light is then guided to PV cells along the concentrator’s edge.