Print 21 comment(s) - last by Mint.. on Nov 8 at 5:41 AM

Thin, transparent material makes a film capable of absorbing light and generating electricity

The U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory researchers have created transparent films that can absorb light and generate electricity over large areas, which could be used to design transparent solar panels. 

Mircea Cotlet, leader of the study and a physical chemist at Brookhaven's Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), and Hsing-Lin Wang, co-author of the study and a researcher in the Chemistry Division at Los Alamos, have fabricated these new thin, transparent films in an effort to improve the use of solar panels. 

These new transparent films are semiconducting polymers "spiked" with fullerenes, which are round, cage-like molecules that consist of 60 carbon atoms. Researchers created a a flow of water droplets across a layer of polymer-fullerene solution. When the water evaporated, the materials then self-assembled into micron-sized hexagonal-shaped cells. The film ends up looking like a honeycomb, and researchers were able to develop reproducible films that spanned several square millimeters of area. 

"Though such honeycomb-patterned thin films have previously been made using conventional polymers like polystyrene, this is the first report of such a material that blends semiconductors and fullerenes to absorb light and efficiently generate charge and charge separation," said Cotlet. 

The films are transparent because the edges of the hexagons contain polymer chains that are packed together tightly while the center of these hexagons have thin and loosely packed polymer chains. The closely packed edges are capable of absorbing light and generating electricity. 

"Potentially, with future refinement of this technology, windows in a home or office could generate solar power," said Wang. 

Researchers hope to use these transparent films to create brand-new types of optical displays, energy-generating solar panels for windows and other large-scale applications. 

"Imagine a house made with windows made of this kind of material, which, combined with a solar roof, would cut its electricity costs significantly," said Cotlet. "This is pretty exciting."

This study was published in Chemistry of Materials on November 1.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Another big meh
By KIAman on 11/4/2010 1:01:07 PM , Rating: 5
I see so many of these articles of new and upcoming solar and green technologies and I can't help but just go meh.

I have yet to see solar (or any green tech for that matter) that has broken the cost effective barrier for normal consumer entry.

I mean, seriously? Imagine a house made of this stuff. WOW, but at 6x the cost! It will pay itself off in 300 years! WOW!

RE: Another big meh
By CharonPDX on 11/4/2010 1:28:18 PM , Rating: 1
Right now, personal home solar is about making a statement, not about saving money.

That statement is "I actually care about the environment, and am willing to spur job growth in a new sector by spending extra money to help our planet."

Although there are some solar panel systems that actually CAN save money, albeit not much over the 30-year lifetime of the panels. The only way they become cost-effective on a personal level is with government subsidies.

Personally, I wish I could afford solar. Partly for the environmental benefit, partly for the economic benefit. My state (Oregon,) is home to one of the largest solar panel producers in the world, so more solar panels sold means more local jobs.

RE: Another big meh
By BastiWebMaster on 11/4/2010 2:15:39 PM , Rating: 2
I consider these financial sacrifices quite small compared to the importance to having one's economy independent from resource monoliths(USA - Middle East oil and Europe - Russian methane).

RE: Another big meh
By knutjb on 11/5/2010 1:24:33 AM , Rating: 2
So instead of using more domestic resources of energy or producing anything ourselves we buy solar panels from China. What's the difference?

RE: Another big meh
By kingius on 11/5/2010 7:47:24 AM , Rating: 1
The difference is, you only buy the panel /once/.

RE: Another big meh
By seamonkey79 on 11/5/2010 6:39:38 PM , Rating: 2

Until it breaks.

Or you build a new house.

Or any number of other natural situations happen.

You replace one dependence with another, and you're just as addicted, just to someone else.

RE: Another big meh
By HotPlasma on 11/4/2010 2:25:54 PM , Rating: 5
Think about it in another way. Everyday you see an article about real progress being made in solar technology. With every bit of technological advancement that you read about, we are one step closer to having free, clean and abundant power.

RE: Another big meh
By quiksilvr on 11/4/2010 3:55:27 PM , Rating: 5
Another way to think about it is the market solar power is for: Middle-class american homes with two parents and some kids. They have a 30 year mortgage and aren't going anywhere.

Right now, you can invest $30,000 on a solar panel set up and receive the money back you paid for it within 10 years. Sounds like a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, $3000 a year ($250 a month) isn't bad for replacing your electricity costs.

Location is another factor. Living in the South, Southwest or West Coast is probably ideal for solar power homes.

So, in short, it isn't for everyone, but that doesn't mean it's for no one.

RE: Another big meh
By FITCamaro on 11/4/2010 11:41:23 PM , Rating: 1
Yes with government subsidies.

Why should I pay for YOUR solar panels though? If it's so great, let it compete on its own two feet.

The only thing holding nuclear back is the EPA and hippies who think its dangerous. It doesn't need government guaranteed loans but for the fact that the government is in the way of building the plants so no one wants to put up the capitol without guarantees first.

RE: Another big meh
By wushuktl on 11/5/2010 7:34:01 AM , Rating: 2
So that people can actually start buying it and there can be more research and development in getting the prices down so even more consumers can afford it. That's why. Otherwise there are too many people like yourself who would never make the investment until all the R&D is already done but then it would never happen. Kind of chicken and egg scenario there. That's why.

RE: Another big meh
By FITCamaro on 11/5/2010 12:59:21 PM , Rating: 1
Hi I've got a proposal to build a warp drive. I'll sell you a picture of one for now and the government can give you money so you can afford my picture. Eventually I'll have a working one but who knows how long it'll take.

This is what your argument is to me.

RE: Another big meh
By quiksilvr on 11/5/2010 3:54:12 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Another big meh
By Mint on 11/8/2010 5:35:09 AM , Rating: 2
There is a hidden subsidy of solar, wind, and other unpredictable generation technologies.

If you put up solar panels to save on electricity, then your kWh usage goes down, but the peak usage of a community does not, because you can't rely on it. We'll still demand companies to provide the same capacity, but we'll pay for fewer average kWh.

Those companies can only reduce fuel costs. Construction amortization, operation, maintenance, distribution, etc will all be costs that are spread among fewer kWh, so prices will go up.

RE: Another big meh
By FITCamaro on 11/4/2010 11:38:28 PM , Rating: 2
Kind of like health care right?

We have clean, abundant power in nuclear. Like solar, it isn't free though. But its a hell of a lot cheaper than solar and its here now.

RE: Another big meh
By Mint on 11/8/2010 5:41:51 AM , Rating: 2
The sad thing is that if environuts had their head screwed on right, we'd all be on the same page here. Nuclear is the solution to GHG, air pollution, fuel supply, long term cost reduction, technology leadership, etc.

RE: Another big meh
By menace on 11/4/2010 2:58:09 PM , Rating: 2
"Imagine a house made with windows made of this kind of material, which, combined with a solar roof, would cut its electricity costs significantly," said Cotlet. "This is pretty exciting."

I can "imagine" almost anything you can write on paper but I can't imaging this technology being a path to get there if they can't even make a statement like "early test show 5mW/cm2 and with another five years research expect to show potential to increase to as much as 30w/cm2". Not to mention if you can create a window that can generate 100W across a square meter how that is all that "significant" if the sun only significantly shines on it for two hours on a sunny day.

RE: Another big meh
By GuinnessKMF on 11/4/2010 3:12:26 PM , Rating: 2
Windows seem like a poor choice until other surfaces are covered in solar panels. If efficiency is less on a window, and cost of installation is higher, it's just a waste. I think energy savings on well insulated windows would be a better use of resources when it comes to the windows.

RE: Another big meh
By kingius on 11/5/2010 7:50:29 AM , Rating: 2
100 watt for a square metre is significant. That's well above what your big screen TV uses, in other words, you can run it for free, from just one metre square.

RE: Another big meh
By spamreader1 on 11/4/2010 3:16:00 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, imo the focus on the technology should be using inexpensive materials and simplifying production for cost effectiveness. It's nice to advance the tech, especially in a way that is productive, instead of experimenting with rare/expensive materials, and looking for complex production methods that will be simply wasteful of grant resource funds.

RE: Another big meh
By Shig on 11/4/2010 4:26:28 PM , Rating: 2
I think this article should have been geared more towards giant government offices and skyscrapers. The US government and big corporations have access to the capital they need for large efficiency improvements and are able to finance it over 20+ years with little risk and a solid ROI. Obviously with current solar economics there aren't that many places where it would work, but like someone said before, right now it is cost viable in some places.

By 7Enigma on 11/5/2010 7:10:02 AM , Rating: 2
I just can't get excited until we have a scale (and process) that shows this can be produced at a much larger size (and quickly). There's a reason we aren't fabricating microprocessors on football field-sized wafers, and while this tech is interesting proof of concept does not equal proof of practicality .

I'm all for new tech and investing in the new tech, but like the original comment posted I just don't have the yippee! emotion anymore.

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner
Related Articles

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki