UCLA researchers have doubled the efficiency of a see-through solar film that someday could be placed on windows and smartphones to harvest energy from the sun.
The technology is still in its nascent stage. And the conversion rates are far below the efficiency rates of conventional solar cells, which hover around 20 percent.
Still, researchers have made remarkable progress in just a year’s time. Researchers have developed transparent photovoltaic cells that convert about 7.3 percent of the energy received from the sun into electric power — nearly twice the energy harvesting capacity of cells created in 2012.
The cells can be processed to be transparent or in shades ranging from light green to brown and eventually could be used to make windows on buildings, smartphone screens, car sunroofs and other surfaces into sources of energy.
There are other technologies, in various stages of development, seeking the same endgame: finding efficient ways to harvest energy.
For example, startup New Energy Technologies, which debuted its “SolarWindow” technology in 2010, said earlier this year it has made a significant advancement toward large-scale production of “spray on” solar power-generating windows.
The technology, if it ever become commercially viable, could have a dramatic impact on how skyscrapers or even housing developments generate electricity. It could also reshape the increasingly solar-panel laden view of many cities and towns.