New windows generating solar electricity and thermal insulation
Photo: Igor Palamarchuk /Shutterstock

Windows in many vehicles and buildings typically have a protective film on them that blocks sunlight, an energy efficiency measure that helps us lower heating and cooling costs. Other types of more “ecological” solar windows incorporate a transparent solar coating to be able to produce electricity. But you’ll have problems if you want to find windows that can do both, insulate and generate electricity at the same time.

Chinese scientists have developed a new material capable of blocking the sun and producing energy. According to them, windows fitted with this new product could cut household electricity bills by half or more.

The material is similar to the pigment used in newspaper printing or used to darken car windows, but more functional.

We have successfully combined solar power generation and thermal insulation in one film“Said Hin-Lap (Angus) Yip, professor of materials science and engineering at South China University of Technology.”Our energy efficiency for homes is twofold: energy production and energy savings.

Photo: servickuz /Shutterstock

In order to generate electricity and block it at the same time, they mixed and matched a wide variety of materials and chemical compounds until they found exactly the right combination.

In this way, they have designed a product that lets visible parts of sunlight pass through, but does not pass infrared light, which is “one of the main causes of overheatingSaid Yip. The researchers then transformed the near infrared region into an electric current.

The main material we use to convert sunlight into electricity is a polymer semiconductorSaid Yip. “We can design the chemical structure and refine its absorption property. This organic material has a unique absorption property, which can selectively absorb near infrared light, but allows a large portion of visible light to pass through it, making it a perfect material for application in photovoltaic windows. (PV) semi-transparent.“.

The current technology of solar cells made of silicon and other inorganic semiconductors is not suitable for application in photovoltaic windows “since they are opaqueHe added. “Instead, we can turn organic PV into lightweight, colorful, semi-transparent films, perfect for turning windows into electrical generators and thermal insulators.

It can be designed for flexible surfaces just like we print newspapers. Compared to the production process of silicon solar cells, the production of polymer solar cells consumes less energy, with a lower carbon footprint.

Its practical application can be multiple, from architecture, to greenhouses for agriculture, including the automobile.

Yip noted that the researchers did not even use “the best organic photovoltaic systems that exist in this field. Its efficiency is improving rapidly and we look forward to continuously improving the performance of this solar cell window film. Manufacture of semi-transparent and multifunctional polymeric solar cells with thermal insulation is just the beginning of exploring new applications of organic photovoltaics“.

Yip said it would be easy to evolve the product for widespread use, although it may be an expensive product initially.

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